This past eight months my life, and the lives of my husband and youngest daughter, has turned a full 360, then a 180, managed a few cartwheels and even a couple of back handsprings. The changes have mainly been good, and now we are adding a new home to the mix. We take possession June 23rd, and we are counting the days while we box up our belongings. I am an anxious home buyer. The regulations for borrowing money were tightened by the Federal government last fall and the number of documents required has been a bit staggering, but what can you do? You sigh and go back to the bank one more time; they are getting to know us there. I know I won't quite relax until we are actually moving in because I have been swinging from fear of the ball dropping and everything falling apart to elation at each little victory along the way. I felt elation once again this week when I realized we'd done it: we had managed to find a place we liked a lot in an extremely competitive market, for a price we could afford - as well as make a decision in about an hour, which is what had to happen - no small feat and with many thanks to our real estate agent. I also credit my husband for keeping me from completely freaking out at times. He keeps telling me to 'trust the process', which honestly can be difficult for someone who likes her ducks in a neat, disciplined row, doing what they're told.
The other morning, I woke up too early. I could not go back to sleep - always so much to think about, and try not to stress out about, these days - so I got up by six. I went through my usual morning routine - a giant mug of coffee, some reading, some perusing of Facebook. I came across a post by the son of a childhood neighbour of mine, announcing the passing of his dad. Now, I knew this news was coming. Matt had cancer and was in the late stages of his disease, but 'where there is life, there is hope,' right? Death, on the other hand, is final and never comes without some level of shock. I quickly wrote a first reaction comment. I then posted a simple message of love for Matt and for his whole family on my own wall. I sent a message to Matt's sister, Molly, my friend since we were ten when her family moved into the house next door to ours, and to a mutual childhood friend. I wanted to keep writing messages, but I made myself turn off my phone and do some necessary tasks such as prepare supper for my daughter and me since I would be working a later shift that day. I had planned to spend some time writing as well, but now I was unsure I could accomplish anything. The news of Matt's death hit me like a cold wave. I had not seen Matt in a long time. We had not been in contact until last year sometime when he sent me a friend request on Facebook. I was honoured by that gesture because Molly had written to me some time before and told me about her brother's devastating diagnosis. To be included in his circle of love and friendship humbled me because I was not sure I deserved to part of it. I kept an active eye on his page and watched for signs of changes in his condition. What struck me the most was the ongoing, outpouring of affection from his friends, his son and his family. Molly regularly posted about her frequent visits to our hometown to spend time with him and with other family members, as much time as humanly possible. Through her posts I learned more about Matt and his unbridled enthusiasm for life. I learned he had grown up from the quiet, unassuming boy I had known as my vivacious friend's sweet little brother into a shining beacon of light in the lives of his many friends and acquaintances. His life, though shortened by cancer, was lived to the fullest and with a generous heart wide open to the world. How many of us can claim a similar value on this planet?
Matt's exit from this world brought into sharp focus the important things in life. Material victories like buying a new home or vehicle are well and good. Often we need those things to progress, to be safe and comfortable in life, but by themselves they can never be enough to satisfy the needs of our hearts and souls. Perhaps something to temper their shiny glow is also well and good. We need constant reminders of the more important values of human connection, of spiritual connection, and of the work we need to do daily to keep on building the world around us into a more beautiful, joyful, and kind place to inhabit. As writer Anne Lamott says, "We are all just walking each other home."
Rest well, Matthew, and thank you for making this world a better place. This song has been playing in my head since you left us.