Monday, April 9, 2012

Remembering Ruby Martin

The wonderful patriot and philanthropist Ruby Martin CD JP

I wrote this column for the Jamaica Observer in January 2006, a few months after Ruby Martin was diagnosed with breast cancer. She resumed her taxing posts as Chairman of the Maxfield Park Children's Home and The Ward Theatre Foundation, refusing to allow the disease to dominate her life. She made a near-miraculous recovery and continued to work for her beloved Jamaica. After a resurgence of cancer, she transited late Saturday night, April 7, the eve of the celebration of Christ's resurrection. With Him, we are confident that Ruby Martin is risen and enjoying her heavenly reward.

The Path to Peace
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

I interviewed Ruby Martin for this, my first column for 2006, because I wanted to write on the theme of faith and healing.

On April 4 last year, Ruby planned a fundraiser for her beloved Maxfield Park Children’s Home – it was an address by the famous physician and author, Deepak Chopra. Ruby bustled about the National Sports Centre in her fabulous designer heels, and I remarked to a friend on the energy and chic of this committed lady.

Just a week later, Ruby Martin was diagnosed with cancer and lay in a hospital bed recovering from a double-mastectomy. Two weeks afterwards, she was at a party to honour Chris Bovell – “I just had to be there for Chris,” said she. By the end of June, she was exuding her special charm at the Biltmore in Coral Gables, Florida, where we joined the American Friends of Jamaica to honour Monsignor Richard Albert.

Chemotherapy sessions notwithstanding, Ruby is now firmly back in the saddle as Executive Chairman of Maxfield Park Home. Her voice is filled with emotion, not when she talks about her journey of the past year, but when she describes the difficulties our children face in today’s society.

The widow of St Andrew Custos Dr John Martin, Ruby could have easily opted for the life of a noncommittal bon vivant. Instead, she has immersed herself in charitable projects for establishments located well below Cross Roads. The trained counsellor journeys down to her office on Maxfield Avenue daily, feeling no fear. “We should not be afraid to go anywhere in our own country,” says the Portland-born beauty. She has also been Vice Chairman of the Ward Theatre Foundation since 1986.

Ruby Martin wants the children at Maxfield to have the best life possible. The Home has a caring staff, and under her watch, they have established a special education unit for slow learners. A computer room should also be completed this year. To encourage self-reliance and cut costs, Ruby has spearheaded a chicken rearing project sponsored by the FAO.

I questioned her about recent media stories on children running away from homes like Maxfield. She explained that some of the residents come to the Home already street-smart, and opt to return to the street. “We are having challenges never before seen, as a result of poor parenting,” she says. “There has to be an emergency programme to encourage better family life.”

Ruby bewails the fact that some parents try to use the Home as a boarding school, even when they have the means to provide for them. Regularly, a mother will ask the Home to take a child, pleading scarce resources, and by the following year give birth to another. The National Family Planning Board clearly has its work cut out!

But back to our theme of faith and healing. Ruby’s reference to Deepak Chopra sent me scrambling for my notes taken at that mind-expanding presentation. Chopra’s words explained Ruby’s calm in the face of serious illness and societal challenges.

Chopra grabbed our attention when he reminded us that there was a rampant epidemic of consumerism and collective hypocrisy, “spending money you have not earned, to buy things you do not need, to impress people you do not like.” He told the professional gadget-loving audience, “the essential nature of the material world is not material.”

As a physician, Chopra declares addiction the number one disease, as human beings seek ecstasy in artificial forms. He considers this a damaging substitute for exaltation of the spirit, the physical, mythical, sacred ecstasy that will lift the individual, and influence the advancement of community, country and world.

And so, Chopra urges us to stay connected to our spirits, and to have “listening souls, an ever present witnessing awareness.” He believes we are living in a false world of sensory perception and he quotes one of my favourite poets, William Blake (“Tiger, tiger burning bright): “We are led to believe a lie.”

In this lively awareness, Chopra assures us of a new wisdom “where we feel no fear, not even fear of death.” Aha. This could be why Ruby Martin, given the news of a cancer that demanded immediate surgery could calmly drive home, call her friends and reassure them. This is why, even during the uncomfortable after-effect of chemotherapy last Wednesday, she was able to serenely take my telephone call.

“It is the remembrance of spirit that gives healing,” Chopra counsels, and reminds us of its surprising accessibility: “I have lived on the lip of insanity …knocking from the inside”!

“We do not exist in the world,” declares Chopra, “the world exists in us.” The accomplished doctor defines science as “God explaining God to man, using the human nervous system.”

The best part of his thesis is that these beliefs can bring peace not only to our lives, but to our planet. Chopra pinpoints the three major causes of suffering: “clinging to the material, clinging to ego, fear of death.”

Chopra wants us to understand the nature of evil: “It is the shadow of our spirit, the part that lives in separation.” This manifests itself in anonymity, poor leadership, degrading conditions, passive bystanders.

Chopra asks us to remember that “the world is myself”, so we can only have peace if we are peaceful. “A dream that I dream alone is just a dream,” he says, “ but a dream that we dream together is reality – and unstoppable.”

Ruby Martin and many like her are dreaming together for Jamaica’s healing. Their faithful spirits will save us, if we find the will to speak the language of peace at home, at school, at work, in parliament.


  1. We give God thanks for a life that was quintessentially selfless. May her life arrest our attention and make us uncomfortable until we are moved to leave the sideline to make our own contribution to the amelioration of conditions in this our beloved island.
    Journey well Ruby Martin.

  2. A fearless and wonderful woman who inspired many.