It’s hard to believe that over a month has passed since we said goodbye to our dear Paula. I could write forever about how strange it is to live in the world without her — but she wanted this blog to be a place of learning and inspiration, not grief. Instead of telling you about the sorrow that has been so prevalent this past month, I will reflect on the comfort and strength that Paula continues to bring me even after her death.
The tagline of this website says it all: “Living with, and in spite of, metastatic breast cancer.” Paula never allowed her illness (or any of her struggles, for that matter) to stop her from living a life of purpose and fulfillment. Her primary goal in work and in life was to educate in the way of kindness and tolerance. Any misfortune she encountered along the way was, from her view, just another tool she could use to comfort others who might be going through the same thing.
My mother’s strength and resilience has informed the way that I live my own life. Mourning her loss has been the most difficult process I’ve ever endured — but I’ve found comfort in using that struggle to help others. After Paula passed, all of her leftover medical equipment was donated to hospitals and nursing homes in dire need of supplies due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Decades’ worth of clothing went to Heading Home, Boston’s leading shelter for mothers and families experiencing homelessness. Moreover, in just a few short weeks, the Paula Ford-Martin Memorial Scholarship Fund raised almost $7,000 to support post-secondary education for LGBTQ+ youth. With the Ford-Martin/Hemhauser family matching donations dollar-for-dollar, we’ve collected nearly $14,000 to ensure that this scholarship fund will be a self-sustaining resource for years to come.
It brings me tremendous comfort to know that this process of mourning can be transformed into a process of giving. It’s been an incredibly difficult month, but moments of reprieve come when I think about the positive impact that my mother’s gifts will make for so many families. I feel so blessed to be able to give in this way — and even more blessed to know that my mother’s wishes are being honored.
I recently updated and published the website for Wordcrafts: the writing/editing business that Paula established in 1997. We agreed toward the end of her life that I’d take on Wordcrafts for my own writing/editing services (although it’s impossible to fill the shoes she left — she was a giant among giants in the medical communications field). As I parsed through the hundreds of articles Paula had written for the site, I discovered what might be my favorite piece of her writing: “What Would Dickens Do?”. Paula loved Charles Dickens; there’s been a painting of him hanging in our living room for as long as I can remember. She took great inspiration from his life and career. The two primary lessons that she learned from him: “Capitalize on your struggles,” and “Use your powers for good”. I smile every time I read these principles, for I recognize them as the words she lived by — and raised her children by.
Paula’s body may be gone, but her spirit is alive and well. The family will always be at work on her behalf to impart kindness and generosity within our community. I will aim to update this blog monthly with information regarding Paula’s legacy. Great things are on the horizon, from the growth of the Paula Ford-Martin Memorial Fund to the compilation of a book based on this blog and Paula’s life. Stay tuned for another update in May — and as always, thank you for reading.
Wishing you good health,
Cas (Paula’s son)