Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Saying Goodbye. "Love you bro"

It's strange - How quickly everything can change while nothing changes all at the same time.

Sunday, BJ and I went fishing. We found a small lake about an hour away. It's not as good as my favorite spot, but it's a lot closer. A day trip is much more doable without two hours on dirt roads.

We had a great time. BJ caught two fish on his fly rod at the same time. That doesn't happen very often, and has never happened to either one of us before. We talked about stopping to get a picture of the Nudist Camp that is at the mouth of the canyon. It is always "Closed for Mosquitoes", and I felt all of my friends on Facebook needed to see it.

We also talked about stopping for a chocolate malt at the little shop in town.

We didn't do any of that. And we completely forgot about all of the fish we caught.

Just before we got to the nudist camp, both of our phones started going nuts. I had six text messages, two voicemails, and a Facebook message. BJ's brother, two of his sisters, his nephew, his niece, and all of them said to call them as soon as we could. It was an emergency.

BJ called his younger brother. We thought for sure something had gone wrong with his parents... his mom had fallen. His dad had hurt himself and had to go back in for surgery... maybe even something had happened to his nephew's little boy. X was born very premature, and even though he is two now, he is still barely ten pounds and has a lot of complications...

The real emergency didn't cross either of our minds.

I read it on Facebook... just as his brother told him... Their oldest brother had passed away in his sleep. His wife woke up this morning, and he wouldn't move or wake up. She called the ambulance, but he was already dead when they got there.

He is only thirteen months older than BJ. As kids, they were both very close and fought all the time. For the past few years, they've been really good friends. Matt was a huge support to BJ as he was leaving the church. (Matt left years ago.) Matt was a huge support as BJ was going through trying to work things out with his ex (before he left her), and then to support him through divorce. We've been out to visit Matt a couple times, and he's been here and stayed with us a few times. With Matt's support, BJ felt less alone. BJ felt abandoned by a lot of his family because he no longer believed in the LDS church and stopped going. Matt was a lifeline for him.

(Things are much better with all of his family now. It just took time for them to adjust.)

Matt was just here a few weeks ago. When he heard his dad was going in for heart surgery, he jumped on a plane. He didn't tell anyone except BJ he was coming. We picked him up at the airport, went to the hospital to visit their dad, and then he stayed with us for a few days before he went home.

As we were all leaving the hospital to take him back to the airport, he asked me to take a picture: all of the boys. (Three brothers and their dad.) If I had known that was the last time I would see him, I would have taken so many more pictures.

We talked about when BJ and I would come out again. We talked about his garden. We talked about his grand kids. He adored those kids, and those kids adore him. They were the world to him. He was proud to tell us how his four year old granddaughter woke up crying and made her mom call "Papa". He loved being Papa. He had just built a swingset in the backyard for all of them to play on - himself included (of course).

When Matt came to visit for their dad's surgery a few weeks ago, none of us would have ever thought it would be the last time any of us in Utah would get to see him.
We didn't know it, but it was one last time to swap stories about Todd. One last time to talk about his gardens and his grand kids. One last time to talk about the trip to Portland Todd and I would make, so we could play more "combat croquet" with Matt and his family. If we had known - I would have taken so many more pictures. I'm glad he came. I'm glad he wanted a picture with all the boys before he left, so at least I had this one.
I don't have the words to express the sadness I feel for Matt's wife, kids, grand kids, (Those little grand kids were the world to him.), siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, and friends.
He gave us a hug goodbye - told each of us he loved us, and thanked me for being so kind to his brother. He said he was glad to see (BJ) finally had a friend and companion. I smiled. Now when I think about it, I cry.

BJ and I have very few pictures of Matt. Almost every one came about because he said, "We need a picture before we go." I'm glad he was thinking about it.

"We need a picture of the four of us before we go." Almost every picture we have of Matt, came because he told us we needed one. I'm sure glad he was thinking of it as much as he was


BJ's kids came up Sunday evening to spend time with him. We had been planning to babysit the grand kids Sunday night and Monday, because their mom was being induced Monday morning. They stayed with us. They were super sweet.

J is eight, and he is a "mini me" of BJ. He told BJ it was okay to cry, and just hugged him while he cried. Then he said, "I know you miss your brother, but there are still a lot of people here that really love you."

Ke is nine, and he came and told me that J needs some time alone to comfort grandpa, but in a minute we could all go hug him.

Ka is 7, and she asked Grandpa to dance with her, and just kept trying to make him laugh.

I am glad they were there. When we finally got them to bad at midnight, and went to bed ourselves, we both just cried.

Next week we are going to visit Matt's family. Matt won't be there, and that feels surreal. How can we go there without seeing him? All of the siblings will be there. It's pretty rare to get all of them together at the same time, but one will be missing.

This is the first death I have had to process since leaving the church. This is also the first death BJ has had to process without an LDS belief system. He says in some ways it's easier... just being grateful for everything they shared. Feeling sad. And angry. And scared. And sad. Without trying to convince yourself that it isn't a really sad thing.

Matt was not religious. His wife and children were not religious. His parents and most of his siblings were very religious. His wife has decided to have a "Celebration of Life" party instead of a funeral. That seems much more fitting.

And just for the record:
I don't want the LDS style funeral. When I die, celebrate that I lived. I don't want it to be used as a chance to preach or proselyte. Don't make my death a "missionary opportunity". I understand funerals are for the living, and I doubt I will care when I am dead... but just in case I do care, tell funny stories about me. Talk about the things I did that drove you crazy. Talk about the things that I did that made you love me. And please have really good food. Salmon tacos from Rubio's with extra lime juice.


  1. I'm sorry for your loss. I won't say that I know how you feel, because I always feel like that is a hollow thing to say to someone who is grieving. I don't know how you feel, but I will just say that it reminds me of the feelings I had when Heidi Worsley died. I got a phone call on a Sunday morning from a coworker, and at first I thought it was some kind of joke. I think it took me several hours of processing to actually realize it was true. It was so sudden and so unexpected.

    I've tried to be better at taking pictures. You never know when a moment with a loved one will be your last. I've also tried to be better at cherishing the moments that I have, rather than taking them for granted. It sounds like those are two things that Matt was good at.

  2. How tragic and unexpected. I am so so sorry. My thoughts are with you, BJ, and your family.

  3. I'm sorry, losing a friend like that is such a tragedy. Remember the good times.