Interview with Liz (Isalyn Brown) about Noël Martin
Isalyn Brown, who prefers to be called just Liz, got to know Noël Martin in 2012. In 2013, she started working for him as one of his carers and became the team leader of his carers later on. Over the years, Noël and Liz developed a deep understanding of each other and became very close friends. It was Liz who was with him in his last moments in hospital when he passed away on 14th July 2020. She lives in Birmingham with her family.
Opferperspektive: How would you describe Noël Martin as a person and your role in caring for him?
Liz: Noël was full of humour. He was very jovial and charismatic. He loved people as a whole and he loved children. When it comes to children he was very caring. He gave a 100% of love to kids. Working with Noël at times could be very challenging – challenging because of the stuff he wanted to do, but couldn’t do. Caring for people, you have to put yourself into their shoes at times. If you look back at his life – he was a very proud man doing what he was doing and then his former life just stopped at a very young age. He became dependent on others for things he used to be able to do for himself. I can’t say I understand how he felt because I am not him. But sometimes when he got frustrated I could see where it was coming from.
“To me it has always been important that people listen to him in a way that dignifies Noël as a person, treat him as a human being.”
Opferperspektive: According to you, how did Noël deal with his disability? What has been important to him in dealing with his disability?
Liz: There were times when he said: “Oh, sometimes I feel like I am not living, I am just existing”, because of his inability of doing some of the things that he would like to do. To me it has always been important that people listen to him in a way that dignifies Noël as a person, treat him as a human being. Because Noël was a very proud man. You don’t say to Noël that something cannot be done in a certain way. You try and do as much as you can do. He knew that some things could not be done 100% as he would have liked them, but as long as you met more than half of the criteria of what he had asked for, that made him very happy.
He loved the warm weather. But he was often locked inside and couldn’t get to see what’s left of the outside world. But he was a very happy man. You might come in with a grumpy face and he was the one who made you smile. You never had a dull day around him. He had a heart of gold – and he could make you laugh until you cried.
Opferperspektive: The two of you have developed a very special relationship over the years…
Liz: I especially remember one occasion when I was working for him. I was supposed to leave at ten but he was still talking to me at eleven. At one point he looked at me and said: “Are you not going home?” But how could I leave this person who was in this position, sharing something with me. “It is good to have someone who listens”, he said. This is when I became a listening ear to Noël and our relationship started to develop. And I realized that I was around this man for a purpose.
Since Noel has passed, I have never talked about him in this condition. It is the first time that I am becoming emotional about him. He sometimes told me what had happened to him earlier, what he had been through when growing up. I thought I would break him further when getting emotional, so I always tried to be strong for him.
Opferperspektive: What did he tell you about his time in Germany and the racist attack against him here?
Liz: Noël had a good life at this time. He had jobs upon jobs, he was earning well. Sometimes you will be at places where people will let you feel you are not welcome there. With him, that was to the extend of eventually being paralyzed. Sometimes he didn’t want to remember that day … A year after the accident, it was like he was a dead person. To deal with this situation, you have to be very strong – and he was a very strong man. After the attack, he still loved to see how far you can go to combat racism.
Opferperspektive: What were the aftereffects of the attack for his health condition – also regarding his premature death at the age of 60?
Liz: Noël has been on his path for 24 more years. There is not a lot of people who would survive for 24 years just lying in one place. He has been through a lot and he has come out of it. He could have passed away a few days or weeks after the attack but he stayed alive for 24 years – although he couldn’t move parts of his body, look after his health, eat right, exercise. He always said he wanted to die at home, but unfortunately he had to go to the hospital in the end. I think his body was tired and he knew his time had come.
Opferperspektive: What did he tell you about the commemoration activities in Germany?
Liz: The anniversary of the accident would bring tears to Noël – tears of joy, when he saw the crowd gathering. He was very proud of the German team when they were highlighting him as a person, highlighting what he had been through, and creating a space to combat racism. When someone from Germany visited Noël, he would tell his carers to put everything in order and how to treat the visitors. That is how he was. Very caring, he didn’t want anybody to be out of place.
“Er war sehr stolz, wenn ein Raum
geschaffen wurde, um gegen Rassismus zu kämpfen.”
Opferperspektive: Do you have any message for the people who take part in this year’s commemoration week?
Liz: Although Noël is gone now, I think he is there in spirit. I know he would be very proud that the people are still remembering him and what has happened to him – and that they wouldn’t wish it to happen to anybody else.
Opferperspektive: According to you, what were his achievements that he would like to be remembered by?
Liz: Noël loved life. He wanted to live. And I would say the biggest thing that Noël would want to be remembered by is the charity. The work that has been put into this charity to combat racism. Every time he spoke to the German team he said: “How far is racism now?”
Opferperspektive: Dear Liz, thank you so much for sharing your memories with us!
We also thank Carola Lotzenburger, a close friend of Noël Martin from Heidelberg, who made the interview possible and who contributed questions and thoughts to the talk.
The talk took place on 29th April 2021 online via Zoom. We are glad to publish some excerpts of it here.
Interview: Anne Grunwald