I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. I never thought that feeling of shocked numbness would ever hit me again like it did after hearing those two words, “Matt’s Dead”. We’ve all heard that saying how one phone call can change the course of your life. Once again knocking you off balance and forcing you to navigate your life on shaky, unrecognizable ground.
I remember those early days after your death. Walking around numb. Feeling like my insides were jelly. Constantly shaking. Walking through the days going through the motions of living, but really not living. I remember the feeling of nothingness. Of denying this was my new reality. Of feeling foolish for sweating the meaningless small stuff that life constantly throws your way. I now knew that life was too fragile to sweat over issues that in reality really didn’t matter. Your death was a lesson in my life.
Foolishly, I believed that after 4 long years, I was back in control of my life. My advocacy work allowed me to channel my grief into helping others. I finally felt a purpose. I still grieve you everyday, but felt like as long as I had my advocacy your death would always have meaning.
I’m still trying to understand where I am today. Whether it was a God intervention or a Matt intervention. I remember the day perfectly. Reliving every step I took. Every thought I had exactly the same as I experienced upon hearing you were gone.
A beautiful day, June 22nd. The humidity finally broke and all I wanted was to fill the house with the cleansing breeze of fresh air. You remember how I always hated having the house closed up. We used to laugh as I would only put the air on when the dogs were getting too hot. I needed to hear the songs of my garden birds. Needed to hear the soothing sounds of the waterfall in the garden beneath the kitchen window.
I lifted the window. It stuck. Instead of giving up, I continued to push as hard as I could. The pain was excruciating. I felt like my back and leg had been stripped of muscle. I remember my nursing instincts kicking in as I hobbled to the freezer. Ice now. I grabbed the bottle of Motrin swallowed quickly and hobbling to the couch. I sat in shock. Looking at the window with such contempt. If I could have I would have grabbed a hammer and beat the crap out of that piece of glass.
Weeks passed. The pain remained. Fueling my hate for that window. In my mind it had ruined my summer. No more biking, hiking, dog walking, yoga, gardening. Everything I loved gone in a split second. All my self care practices that kept me sane on those dark days now out of my physical capacity.
After two months of continued pain an MRI was ordered. I was expecting a herniated disc. I was fully prepared to inform which ever neurosurgeon I would see that surgery would be my last resort. After watching how your surgery did nothing for your back except lead you to the road that finally took your life I was perfecting my speech.
Never in a million years did I see what was coming. You always laughed at me being the health nut. Skipping cake, not eating red meat. I can hear your words so clearly now..”Mom, life”s too short, eat the cake.”
Although the two words were different, their impact on my life was the same. Fracture. Tumor. I remember that familiar feeling after hearing those other two words, “Matt’s Dead.” The feeling of leaving my body as my brain went searching for that protective cocoon it once wrapped me in after I learned of your death.
Today, I am fighting another reality I never imagined. The reality that I will now be fighting for my life as I fought for yours. I lie awake in the dark praying for peace as I did many nights after your death. I wake breathless and shaky. This reality hits just as the reality of your death did. New every morning. Today I am once again going through the motions numb to where this journey will lead me.
Looking back, that sticking window was a gift. A divine intervention. My doctor calls this an incidental finding. I have no symptoms of cancer. I feel fine. If not for the back injury I would be biking, gardening and living life unaware of whatever was happening inside of me.
Today, I see the light shining through that window. I hear the birds singing and the sounds of soothing water. I watch the dogs chase each other through the gardens.
I look at that window seeing your beautiful smile. I know you and God worked together for whatever reason to bring this to my attention as early as possible. Perhaps my advocacy work is not over. I promised as long as I lived, you would continue to live.
Its almost ironic. I’ve always told everyone that losing you was the worst, most devastating event in my life. Surviving your death has taught me that I can survive whatever life chooses to throw my way. Your death was my lesson in how to live.
Matt, Walk with me on this new journey. Let me feel you by my side through the biopsies and treatments. Give me signs that you are near. Please thank God for me.
Believe me, I will be eating the cake. I’ll take that burger. I’ll remember how you lived and mimic your absolute love for life. I remember you telling me, “Mom, I don’t have to worry, you worry enough for us both.” Lesson learned my beautiful boy Four years and Seven months later your death continues to teach me about life………