Dear Matto

Matt & Tim, January 2019

Matto, the first time we met you wore a bright orange shirt. You had heard I hated the color of construction cone orange and had worn it on purpose. When I joked that that must have been why you wore it and you very seriously said “yes,” I felt speechless. I didn’t know what to do. I hardly knew you but you were already giving me a hard time, right from the start.

But that’s just you. You were a firecracker.

You were the only man that ever called me sis besides my true brother, Sean. I’ll miss that. 

It’s been probably 16 or 17 years since we first met and you’ve never lost that spunk. When you had conversations with people, you started them and ended them. You spent the first 10, 20, sometimes 30 minutes telling a story. Sometimes there were no pauses. You had to get it all out, all at once. I never minded. I liked listening to them. Sometimes I wondered if they were 100% true, but they made me smile nonetheless. When my time did come to speak, you listened. You made me feel heard. And then the back and forth would begin. 

You took photos at our wedding in Mexico. When the hairstylist asked you to stop taking photos while she was working, you ignored her and gave me a nod, like we were in cahoots. We pretended we didn’t understand Spanish and just carried on. Later, after she left, you said it wasn’t her call to make, that is was my wedding day and that you weren’t going to stop taking photos just because she didn’t feel like being in them. I realized at that moment that you were protecting me, just like a brother.

You also took the cute waitress home that night. We all (discretely) cheered for you the next morning at breakfast. When guests bring up our wedding now, even though it was 14-some years ago, they still remember her name was Rosie.

I know you battled demons. You spoke of hard times. I think there were a lot of emotions happening all at once swirling about like a tornado inside you and you didn’t know how to handle that at first, at least when you were young, or so I’m told by the endless stories you were center stage of. But then you learned how to manage the chaos, the pain, the dark nights and controlled it, manipulated it, shifted it to use it to your advantage. I admired that. Sometimes I could see glimpses of myself in you. You captured the sadness, beauty and irony of the world through your camera lens. We are so lucky to have snapshots of how you perceived life around you.

Twice, I almost embraced you from behind, thinking you were Tim. Both times I noticed a split second before that it was you. Thank God that never happened because you never would have let me forget that. Like ever.

The last time I saw you was the week of your father’s funeral. We spent a lot of time together. You brought the kids to our hotel to swim. You told me you were doing so well, that you still had work to do but things were “so, so, so, so, so, so, so much better.” You told me how you were writing three(!) books, counseling men through journeys, still photographing and also working on a potential movie. I thought, Of course you are. You’re Matt.

You also laughed—during that last time we were together after your dad died—at how you told your kids how you couldn’t wait until you died so you could come back and haunt them. We laughed at how mean that was, but it was also just so damn funny that no one could stay mad at you.

And that, I think, was your trick. You knew you could stir the pot, push our buttons for your own pleasure, piss us off, light the world fire with one strike of a match (if you were in the mood) but then you could make us laugh so hard we’d cry and then that was the end of it. 

Now as we pick up the pieces with you and I help walk my husband through the loss of a brother, and my daughter through the loss of a fun uncle, I’m not sure how to handle the next step. All I can do is be here in the present. But I know I’ll figure it out. You had an army of friends. We’ll help each other out. We will keep your memory alive for your kids. Promise.

Matto, you were loud and bright and as colorful and messy as a Jackson Pollock painting—a (somewhat) contained chaos. You were passionate and creative and as much as it hurts to have you gone, I am so glad to have met you. You left us while doing something you loved, while you felt on top of the world. Age aside, I’m not sure anyone could ask for anything more. I think I speak for us all when I say we’ll miss you and that damn smirk.

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September 18, 2019 at 12:46 am

Love this. I miss him so much already!! You were so lucky to have him for a “brother” and he to have you as his “sis” xoxo

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