Guest Column: Epiphany at “Our Town”

I never felt that I’d experienced an epiphany until Sunday, Nov. 14. 

The story began three-and-a-half years ago when I had an assignment to write a story for the Pulse about two young boys. One of those was Ben Martin, 10, who had been cast in a role in Northern Sky Theater’s production of Boxcar.

Forward to this fall, when I received a Pulse story assignment about a family described as “modern-day homesteaders”. This turned out to be Ben Martin’s family.

At first, in a phone conversation with Ben’s dad, Russell Martin, he said he didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading about their family because there wasn’t anything really unusual about them. A few days later, my husband, Howard, and I ran into the Martins at a meeting of the Jacksonport Historical Society. They realized that I was the one who wrote the story about Ben three-and-a-half years earlier and said they’d be happy to be interviewed. 

Over Miriam Martin’s lemonade and homemade cookies, we became well acquainted. Ben mentioned that he was in rehearsal for Our Town, to be presented at Sevastopol in November, but he wasn’t sure of the date. I told him we’d plan to attend.

Later, I discovered that Amy Ensign, an old friend from Door Shakespeare, was directing Our Town, and Isaiah Spetz  – who was with Northern Sky in high school, went away to New York for a degree in theater and, when COVID-19 hit, came back to Door County – would be playing the lead role. So – three reasons calling us to the show. 

We had breakfast after church at Mike’s Port Pub in Jacksonport, finished about noon, then drove down to Sevastopol to wait until time to go in for the play. I immediately went to sleep and Howard got absorbed in a book and forgot to wake me up until 20 minutes before showtime. I expected we wouldn’t find a good place to sit, but the first person I saw when we walked into the new elementary gym was . . . Miriam Martin, Ben’s mother, who said she had seats reserved on the front row, if we’d like to have them. Of course, we appreciated that.

We enjoyed Acts One and Two, sitting between Russell, Ben’s dad, and Cylus, Ben’s younger brother. During the intermission before Act Three, Russell said that he and Cylus would be trading places with Ben’s grandparents, who had driven up from Chicago on Saturday to see the show. However, the sound system failed during Act Three, so they stayed over to see it again on Sunday. We offered to move, but Russell insisted we stay where we were. Soon Grandpa Martin sat down next to Howard, and Grandma Martin next to me.

I introduced myself and said I’d enjoyed getting to know her son’s family, and she said she was Marilyn Martin. For some reason, I told her I was familiar with the play and knew that Act Three would be hard for me to watch. She asked why. I told her Act Three ended with a young woman’s early death and funeral and we’d learned just two days earlier that our son was ill. 

Marilyn said that she was sorry and asked what was wrong. I told her he’d been diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and is on the list for a transplant. And Marilyn Martin, a woman I’d known for five minutes, said, “Oh, our former pastor had that surgery this week and is home and doing fine.” 

The stone that had filled my heart for two days was immediately gone. I had been fearful of the present; here was hope for the future. If/when a transplant becomes necessary, we’ll pray for its very likely success.

How could this have happened? Everything that followed from that first story with Ben, down to the failed sound system the night before, seemed designed to put Marilyn Martin in a seat next to me on that day – a woman who was probably the only person in that auditorium who could say what I needed to hear.

I truly believe that God works in mysterious ways and in his own time. He knew when I met Ben Martin three-and-a-half years ago that I’d be in need of encouragement and hope on Nov. 14, 2021. It just took him a while to get to the point. I’m a believer!