Matt 3/28/75 – 8/18/05

This is a picture of my brother Matt and I his very last Christmas with us. He is smiling. For Matt, that was a smile.

There are things in life that we just can never fully understand. My brother took his life four years ago. He suffered from depression. It would be easier to take I suppose if he were to have died from cancer or by a car accident, but to know that it was his decision to leave was selfish, sad, and confusing. I am writing about him not to justify his decision, but to provide some understand about what happened and to truly celebrate all that he was as a person.

I remember almost every detail of the day I found out that I lost my brother from what I was wearing to the rush of emotions. I remember the details of the next few days following his death up until his burial. These are emotions that still pop up randomly. It is not easy to pick up the scattered pieces of thoughts of how to understand, how to comfort my family, or how to heal. 
Never once have I thought that anyone who takes their own life goes to hell. I think that sometimes there are people who are not strong enough for this world and God sometimes is better at taking care of them. This thought came to me before the first viewing. I had spent that morning at my mother’s house and had to go home to get ready to go to the funeral home.
I was emotionally drained. Having cried until exhaustion, I road in the truck emotionless like a zombie. I did not want to see Matt. I did not want to be an only child. How was I supposed to be the only one now to comfort our parents that he decided to leave? I sat there with these thoughts rolling through my head and just felt empty. Then I felt a warmth within me that I can only describe as God. It was the only thing that filled me and then the thought that came to me was the most comforting of all. It was this little thought that made so much sense. “I’ve got him and he is happy.” Hokey, I know. The whole they are better off with God thing… extremely cliche. However, I cannot explain the physical filling before the thought ever popped into my consciousness. 
This gave me the energy to go to the viewing. Yes, Matt did not mess up his face and I think it was so his mother could see him. I remember being the first person to see my brother. Him in a casket and me broken by the sight. This body that laid there was not Matt. It was an empty shell who once housed my brother. My brother was a big boy. He was six feet tall and just this stocky broad shouldered guy. He sometimes seemed awkward with his body and laying there his shoulders almost touching each side of the casket he still looked uncomfortable.
Shortly after some time had passed an old friend walked through the door. A girl that had been my best friend in 5th grade. Another friend, a guy who experienced much tragedy in high school losing his sister and girlfriend in auto accidents showed up shortly after. As time went by, the room filled with friends of Matt’s and mine most of which I had not seen since high school. It was hard to remain in my sorrow with so many people touching my heart with their love and support for Matt and my family. It was then that I realized how important it was to show up to these viewings. It was so comforting in a way that I could not describe. It made me so happy for Matt and sad all at one time. Happy that he was so loved and sad that it couldn’t keep him here. I felt guilty about smiling his friends and I felt more so like I needed to comfort them than the other way around. Just the presence of all those people meant more to me than anything. I don’t know how I found joy in such a heartbreaking moment, but again I think think this was God doing his work.
Matt always had the best sense of humor. We found a little bit of humor with all his friends and the ladies. Wow, my brother had more ex girlfriends than I cared to remember while he was living. It reminded my mother and I how much Matt could love… not just sexually. We found out all kinds of sweet things that he did for girls: singing to them, love letters, etc. A romanic, who knew he had it in him. 
Matt suffered from depression since he was about 15 years old and lived with severe suicidal thoughts for 15 years. From the onset of depression, he withdrew socially from his family. He was not the type of person you would assume would be consumed by these thoughts if you knew him as a friend, but he did not socialize with his family. It was painful to have a brother and not have a normal sibling type of relationship that I saw going to friend’s houses. It was even more painful to watch my parents struggle. I believe he hid his feelings extremely well from his friends. In high school, he was on the rowing team and won many regattas. He surprisingly had a leading role in a school play. He even lip-synced a la Ferris Bueller’s Danke Schoen during a pep rally. All of which shocked us, because we were used to him being extremely introverted.
I grew to understand his silence. He loved me, but always kept me at arms reach. Matter of fact, I think he allowed me to be the closest to him toward the end. It is my belief that if we grew close, he would tell me too much or it would make him too attached to do to himself what he wished to do. 
We would find out more and more stuff about Matt that really made us proud of him and sad that he never realized how much of a great guy he was and how much he had to offer life in general. Weeks after Matt’s death I went and visited some work colleagues. One lady had a really serious look on her face, “I need to tell you something about your brother.” Huh? How would she know Matt and how do I prevent myself from crying before she says what she needs to tell me. “I want to let you know that your brother saved my fathers life. My father was having dinner, he choked, and your brother was the only one who performed the Heimlich Maneuver on my father.” Usually, someone would be excited to save a life or talk later about the dramatic event. Matt hid any act that could possibly be a positive, but he was also extremely humble about what he did for other people. He had once taken the time to pick up this blind guy and take him across the highway to where he was going. 
Goodbyes have always been hard for me. I still find it extremely difficult to visit his grave. One, because I know he is not there and two, because I knew his final wishes before we found a note with his final burial wishes and he would be so pissed that he was in a graveyard. All I can think of is bringing a bottle of Crown, with the bag, and pouring some for my homey… I’m sure he would laugh. I know I will see my brother again. I see him in the good humor of my son as well as random thoughts and memories, but I will see him when I go. So, Matt this is not the end for us, but I will see you later. I celebrate your mean brotherly ways and forgive you for beating me up, your kindheartedness that you tried to hide, your great sense of humor which I miss dearly, and I’m sure I get some more stories from your friends who are now not scared to talk to me, because you can’t kick their asses. I love you and I’ll see your stupid ass later.
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One thought on “Matt 3/28/75 – 8/18/05

  1. Beautifully said Rachel! I lost my son this year as I have told your mom. I can imagine that the suicide issue definitely complicates the grief. But your family's great faith in God has been the sufficient guide for your journey to healing. I can see that clearly. I have never thought that any believer who commits suicide goes to hell. Trust me… if God can cover my sin and I know where I'm going, He can handle anything! I love how you said that some people are just better cared for by God since they have such a hard time here… I know that is the case with my son. He too had his struggles and it brings me great comfort to know what infinite joy he is experiencing now! I was wondering the other day if he remembered Matt… wonder if they've had any conversations…

    Take care of yourself and that new baby that's on the way. I am praying for you and your family today. My one year will be on 8/31…

    Shane (Campa) Sutherland

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