Reflection on Martin Gilman

Marilyn Lund offered this reflection at Martin Gilman's funeral on Tuesday, March 3, 2009.

Martin and Mildred have been our friends for over 60 years. That friendship has deepened in the last 25 or 30 years because of our Bible Study Group. Until a few months ago we have met every two weeks, winter and summer, spring and fall. Recently we changed that to meet about once a month. Together we have studied many parts of the Bible AND interpretations of many theologians.

Martin has been a member of this group throughout those years—quiet, thoughtful, and provocative. He has been a person who was ALWAYS alert in the company of people. He read widely and with a mind that questioned. He came to the Bible Study every time prepared and ready to participate. Sometimes he and I had a little pre-view talk in the back seat of the car on the way out to Littleton or Harvard or wherever we were going. During the evening, he kept his Bible Dictionary handy and USED IT. In any Bible Study, and in church, there are many words that we just let slide past us. Sometimes Martin would pipe up with, “Ja, and what does THAT MEAN?” And then he would read for us a definition of that word, or he would clarify who was that unfamiliar Biblical character or where was that place in Jesus’s territory that we skipped over. He was never asleep in those evening session even when the hours crept up on us—even as we all have grown older.

Anyone who has known Martin knows that quirky sense of humor. And I think we all know he lived with a healthy SKEPTICISM. Now put HUMOR and SKEPTICISM together. All the Bible Studies in the intellectual environment of Cambridge NEED a MARTIN. We have had the original.

Here’s the scene:

  1. The give and take in a lengthy discussion, with the familiar situation that at least ONE person presumes that he/she is the expert.
  2. Martin listening and thinking. The rest of us talking.
  3. Martin’s quiet and then, “Ja? Well?” Enough to throw an element of doubt into the scene.
  4. Very helpful to keeping us on track.

Another scene:

There were those nights when, as a group, we kind of felt that we were progressing along with some confidence. The tone of the group was that we underSTOOD what was under discussion. We sort of had it all figured out.

Martin has been quiet and thinking. Now he speaks up, “So what do we get from THAT?” (with a familiar MARTIN SHRUG)

I always laughed. He was so right. There is a mystery and an unknown that remains. We did not have it figured out.

And I suppose that is part of what has kept us going.

Martin Gilman:

We will be expecting his prompting at the Bible Study. He won’t be far away.

Back to In Memory of Martin Gilman.