Not goodbye. Just see you later.

peter pan

 

 

Yesterday was one of THE hardest days in my life. I had to say “see you later” to one of the greatest people I have ever known. (Our story is here: https://stephssoapbox.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/matt-my-friend-my-love-my-heartbreak-my-inspiration/ ) I choose to say “see you later” rather than goodbye because I hold tight to the thought that I will be reunited with Matt, my mother I lost in 2005, my baby girl Dara I lost in 1997, and so many other friends and family that have passed on from this Earth. It is what keeps me sane on days like these past few.

The service for my Matty was so beautiful. Anyone who knew Matt could tell that he had a hand in what was done. He was there in the room with us. I got chills followed by a warm feeling multiple times as I was sitting and watching it all unfold. At one point, I felt a gentle touch on my leg even though there was no one sitting next to me. I knew that touch. Some will totally get that, some will say I’m crazy. I don’t care. I know it was him comforting me and letting me know he was there. Others that were in that church have said similar things. Matt was one to give a comforting touch or lend a shoulder to cry on to anyone who needed it. I think he wanted each and every person who loved him to know that he was now happy and out of pain. He was letting us know it was OK to morn, but that he would always be with all of us forever.

I will forever remember the words that were spoken, the songs that were sung (especially the one his step-brother sang http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz1N8W8phec ), the tears that flowed from every eye, and all the hands that reached out to embrace the family and friends that were in need.

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The military salute and the presentation of American flags to Matt’s parents was the one thing that made me beam with pride. Matt was a man that took pride in his country. He rarely spoke of his days in the service with me, but when he did, he spoke with admiration and pride. He was a great soldier. He loved his country and his fellow man. I believe his stint in the military was one of the things that shaped him into the man he became.

dad

When his young, but incredibly strong, teenage daughter read a letter to her father there wasn’t a dry eye left in the room. She spoke from her heart about how great a father he was to her and her younger brother. I was in my early 30’s when I lost my mother and that was hard enough. I can’t imagine going through it at 16. Matt had fought so hard to get custody of his children after his first bout with Leukemia. I am so grateful that he was able to win and for the precious time he got to spend with those kids. They still need their father. They still have so many more memories to make together as a family. I know he will be watching over them and guiding them along life’s path. I am thankful that they have an amazing family that they can lean on for support in the next few incredibly difficult days, weeks, and months to come.

Two images will remain in my memory of his children yesterday. His son was given Matt’s military jacket. His son put it on and looked so handsome and so much like his father in it. I was brought to my knees by a flood of memories of Matt from his Navy days. I decided it was time to leave after that and started towards the exit. I took one last look into the sanctuary where Matt’s funeral service had been held. I was again heartbroken by the image I saw. His daughter was sitting in a chair in the front row staring at the spot where Matt’s casket had been just a short few moments before. She was wearing a baseball cap (something that for years her father was never without) and a single beam of sunshine shined in through a window and touched the top of the cap. I know that was Matt shining down on her saying he would be with her forever.

The heartbreaking memories will stay with me forever, but I gained so much from the past few days. I saw how one man could touch so many lives in just a short 40 years. I saw how people I hadn’t seen in years and people I was just getting to know comforted me and each other in this time of need and remembrance. I saw how two young lives were touched deeply by their father. I felt sorrow. I felt love. I felt comfort. I gathered with those that loved Matt the most and shared memories of the past and hopes for the future. I felt Matt’s hand guiding me towards his friends to help me get through. I hope to keep these new friends in my life for a long time. These are people that love Matt as much as I do. We will be able to share memories and laughs for years to come.

Matt will always remain a major piece of my heart. My life would not have been the same without him. I treasure each and every moment I was blessed to share with such an amazing man.

As you once told me in a letter (and I repeated to you yesterday as I gave you one final rose),

“I will love you forever. I will for always. I will love upside down and sideways. No matter how close or how far apart, you will always remain a piece of my heart.”

See you later my Matty.

 

 

Matt: My friend, my love, my heartbreak, my inspiration

Hi. I honestly did not know if I would ever use this blog again. I did enjoy getting to know my followers and sharing a little bit about myself. It was not an easy step to take starting this blog, nor was it easy to stop posting. I am not sure the exact reason why I stopped. Real life, I guess. The reason I came back today is to share a story. This is about a wonderful man who helped guide my life to where it is today. This is the story of our short time together here on Earth. Warning, this is the whole story and I am holding NOTHING back. Parts of this may not be for everyone. But, this is our story. This is our truth.

Once upon a time, waaaay back in 1989, a boy named Matt Patton joined a show choir I was a part of. He had come in from a rival school/show choir in our district and wasn’t exactly welcome with open arms in the beginning. He took a bit of ridicule and hazing at first, but as people started to see what a good person he was, most welcomed him in to our little family. I took to Matt right away. There was something about him that made me feel happy and warm. No matter what adversity he was facing, he seemed to stay positive. We became friends, but I could feel he was keeping his distance from me. He would be snarky towards me at times and make fun of my relationship with my then boyfriend. I was quite oblivious to the fact that he was jealous. It wasn’t until the next year that we would grow much closer.

In 1990, Matt became my dance partner in our show choir. It was a hilarious match up. Matt measured in at 6′ 1″, at least, and I was 5’7″ on a good day. My dance shoes helped, but he still seemed to tower over me. At first, we were rather awkward together. I could sense some trepidation on his part, and I was just as nervous. But, within a few weeks we became one. He was a great dancer and made me feel quite at ease. I loved the way he would pick me up and twirl me around with ease. It felt natural. It felt right. It felt like nothing I had felt before. I knew right then that this was a person I wanted in my life forever.

There were so many humorous moments that come to mind when I look back, but one sticks out the most. Matt was standing behind me while we were singing this one song. (I can’t for the life of me remember what song today.) I was struggling to hit a note that was towards the top of my range. Hearing this Matt, in all his prankster hilarity, came up with a plan. Our next run through, as soon as the note came, he pinched my butt. He pinched my butt hard! I squealed loud enough for all around me to turn around and stare. I turned around just in time to see Matt hit the floor because he was laughing so hard. Our director settled everyone down and we started again. As soon as the note came, PINCH! But, this time, I hit the note perfectly. From then on, every time we sang that song, PINCH. Every time I hit the note. To this day, I still laugh thinking about how his mind came up with that plan.

As the months went on, we grew closer. I came to really know Matt. We talked about our hopes and dreams. We laughed hard at each others silly jokes. If I ever needed someone to talk to, he was there. Wherever we were, his “office door” (as we came to refer to it) was always open.  I was going through a lot of transitions in my relationship with my on again off again high school boyfriend that year and Matt was always there to listen or to give me a shoulder to cry on. I wasn’t naive. I knew by that time he had strong feelings for me, but he never acted on them. He respected me too much. As an adult looking back on this time, I admire that so much. I don’t know, if the roles were reversed, if I would have had the same strength and resolve.

In the Spring of 1991, I had my final break up with boyfriend. I was devastated. Matt was there to help pick up the pieces. There were times that all he had to do was smile or give me a warm hug and I felt like I was able to go on again. Matt started to drive me home from practices here and there. He had this old style yellow VW bug. (To this day, I smile every time I see one on the road.) We would jump in and he would immediately ask me how I was doing. That car became our special place where I could talk to Matt about anything. That 20 minute drive home became my sanctuary. I got to the point where I trusted him with everything. I told him my darkest secrets and fears. I talked about my future and how I had no clue what I wanted to do in a few short months when I graduated high school. Every time I got out of that car I was given a gentle touch or a warm hug that let me know he cared. Then one day, as  I was exiting the car, he stopped me and pulled me back in. “Thanks Steph.”, he said as his arm draped around my shoulder. I was confused and just stared at him. He continued by saying, “Thanks for letting me in. Letting me get to know the real you.” I just blushed. I thought the whole time I was just rambling on for my own sanity, that I was only helping myself feel better. I had no idea he was feeling that way. I smiled and he pulled me close for what I thought was to be a hug, but he gently pressed his lips to my cheek and sighed. I knew he wanted to kiss me, but I just wasn’t ready yet. I pulled away and left the car and went in my house.

My life became a whirlwind the month leading up to my high school graduation. I was sad to leave my school and my friends I had drawn close to. I had decided to take a year off and that was freaking me out. I had to get a job. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I was still fighting and frustrated with my ex. It seemed like most of my friends had sided with him and they were all being extremely fake around me. I was at my limit. I couldn’t take much more.

The night of my high school graduation, I had a party. I really wanted to cancel it, but I decided it might lift my spirits. I was wrong. The friends that did show up were acting up and blaming me for the break up. My ex even went so far as to ask for his class ring back that night, right in front of everyone. It was all more then I could handle. I finally, told everyone to leave and started to shut the door. That was when I saw the little yellow bug drive up my driveway. Matt started towards the door and I was forced with the decision of letting him in or telling him to go away like I had told everyone else. I decided to let him in. I needed him. I needed his shoulder to cry on. We talked for what seemed like hours. I told him everything I was feeling and he sat and just listened. That was all I really needed in that moment. My spirits started to lift. Someone cared. Matt motioned for me to join him in my Dad’s LAZ-E Boy chair. I sat on his lap and he held me tight. Suddenly, this felt right. This felt wonderful. He took my head and gently tilted it towards his. His eyes stared into mine as our lips met for our first kiss. At that moment, I felt love. Real love. No words were needed. He held me for a good 1/2 hour in silence. This was all I needed in my life at that moment. This was happiness.

Eventually, my Mom came down the stairs and told Matt he needed to go home. I walked him out to that little car we had shared so many moments in. He gently kissed me goodnight, got in and drove off. I watched until I could no longer see his tail lights, then headed back in my house. I walked up to my bedroom and reached for a box I had hidden under my bed. I took that box into the bathroom and stared at the contents inside. It was a bottle of vodka and a mixture of sleeping and pain pills I had stolen from my Mom and various other sources. For a week, I had planned on committing suicide that night. Now I realized that I was still loved. That life was worth living. Matt had inadvertently saved my life. I dumped everything into the toilet and flushed it down. I looked in the mirror and smiled. The flush from our kissing was still on my cheeks. I knew I was going to be OK.

Over that summer and into the next year, Matt and I dated on and off. It was awkwardly wonderful. I knew I loved him and that he loved me, but things just didn’t progress into a full out relationship. He was still in high school and finding himself, and I was bumbling around trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I eventually decided that I would try college.

Matt graduated high school and went off into the Navy. I had decided on a small college and had packed up and moved out of state.  We kept contact the best we could with the occasional letter or phone call. But, it became harder and harder to stay close. From time to time, we were both back in town and would see each other. It was always wonderful to see his smile and to feel his arms around me. I had not found anyone else to date, but I had no clue if he had. He really never talked about the military when we would meet up. He always wanted to know about me. Looking back, I wish I would have asked him more. I was just a kid at that point who was excited to spend anytime I could with my friend.

One evening around Christmas time, Matt and I went together to see the IU Singing Hoosiers. Every year they put on a great Christmas show and we were both excited to see it. We held hands and sang through the entire concert. It was like old times. I was so happy to be there with such a wonderful guy. It had started to snow quite hard while we were inside, so Matt asked if I would like to stay at his Dad and step-Mom’s house, rather than risk driving back home in the storm. I was excited to spend more time with him, so I said yes. His parents left us alone in the living room and we watched TV on the couch for awhile. Everything was wonderful. I snuggled up against his shoulder and we began to kiss. At first, it was like we always had been. Sweet, innocent. No real urgency. Then things changed. His hand quickly reached up my skirt. Before I knew it I was naked and we were pawing at each other feverishly. I was nervous, but wanted this. I wanted him. Matt looked at me for reassurance and I nodded my head yes. He started to undress when we heard a noise. His Dad was walking into the adjoining kitchen. Matt quickly rolled me off of him and onto the floor with a THUMP. He threw a blanket at me just as his Dad walked into the living room. His Dad stared at both of us for a minute, realized the situation, then told Matt it was probably time for him to head up to his own room for bed. His Dad turned and left. We waited until we heard his footsteps on the stairs then we both burst out laughing! Just one more minute and his Dad really would have gotten an eyeful! Matt helped me up off of the floor and held me for a moment. We kissed goodnight and he headed up the stairs. I stayed up on his couch most of the rest of that night and thought about what had almost happened. I knew I wanted him to be my first.

That next summer we met up one evening for a movie. We made it half way through before neither of us could stand the tension anymore. We practically ran to his car and drove off to a secluded spot where we could be alone. We started to kiss frantically. He motioned for me to hop in the backseat. I did as he exited the drivers seat and met me in the back. We stared at each other for a moment not quite sure what to do next. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. “Hey. At least I have a condom tonight!” He said as he took it out of the wallet. That broke the tension. We both started to laugh. He pulled me on top of him as we quickly undressed. I will leave out the rest of the details, but I will say that it was the most beautiful, scariest, awkward thing I have ever experienced. It was incredible. Afterwards, we laid in each others arms in silence. No words were needed. I loved that guy. This was something I was happy to share with him. A girl only gets one first time and I had made the perfect choice. As he dropped me off that night he whispered, “I love you Steph.” in my ear as he hugged me goodnight. Those words were amazing to finally hear. I whispered back, “I love you too Matty.” I turned and walked away smiling from ear to ear.

We only made love a few times again after that night. But, each time was amazing. He was always a gentleman. I wanted this to be a real relationship. I wanted this to last. But, things didn’t work out that way. He continued his stint in the Navy and I eventually met someone and got married in 1994.

The next time we would see each other would be in 1998. I was working at our local Wal-Mart trying to make ends meet after a messy divorce and the death of my first child. I was dating a man who I am know married to and, unbeknownst to me at that moment, pregnant with my second daughter. I heard this booming voice yell my name, “Steph!” I knew instantly that it was Matt. I ran over and gave him a huge hug. We almost at the same time asked each other what we had been up to. I told him about what had been going on with me. He said he was sorry, but was happy that I was better. He showed me a picture of his baby daughter on his keyring. We had both moved on. It was sad, but inevitable. I was genuinely happy for him. He deserved happiness too. We quickly said goodbye because I had to get back to work. I wanted to stay and talk. I wanted to know everything about his life since I had last saw him. But, I couldn’t. I didn’t even get his phone number or anything.

Years would pass again. Luckily, social media had kicked into full swing. I finally got on the bandwagon and signed up for Facebook in 2009. It took me awhile, but I finally found Matt again. We chatted here and there, but never really found a time to get together until a few years later. We both had families and busy lives. He had recently recovered from an extreme fight with Leukemia and I was on the mend from my own health issues.

Eventually, after many attempts to get together, we finally met up for lunch. I was a nervous wreck. What would we say to each other? How would we act? Would we still have anything in common? Would he want to be my friend after all this time? My mind was swirling as we sat down at the bar. He just smiled at me like no time at all had passed. We both ordered a drink. Mine was to calm my nerves. We instantly started to talk about our kids, family’s, the choir we were in. Everything, but ourselves and our past. I realized that maybe that past should stay there and we should move forward as friends. I really wanted him back in my life. I needed my friend. As we were talking I noticed he was so positive. Much more then he had ever been in the past. This caught me by surprise considering everything he had been through with the Leukemia. He said something profound that sticks with me even today. “Everyday I wake up is a good day.” (I talked about this right after it happened here:  https://stephssoapbox.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/inspiration-what-is-yours/ ) Wow. Such small, yet profound words. Matt really made me think about my own life. To this day, everyday I wake up, I hear those words replay in my head. So incredible.

We met off and on a few more times. Every time, we would be more comfortable around each other. We always talked about our kids. He just gushed over his. He was a great Dad. After his bout with cancer, he fought hard to get custody of the kids from his ex. He won and was doing the single Dad thing. Working hard, two teenagers, being a great friend to so many people.

Then in September of 2013, Matt got the news he was dreading. His Leukemia was back. He had bravely kicked it’s ass once, but I knew the facts. I knew it wasn’t good news. I slowly started to see him getting worse. When we would meet for lunch, he would have to take a ton of medication. He was losing weight again. He was tired a lot. But, amazingly, he never lost his spirit and positivity. I admired that. I looked up to that as my example. Just amazing.

One of the last times I saw Matt was ironically at a musical put on by our old show choir. I bought us tickets to see Les Mis. It was one of our favorites. We sat and watched together. Every now and then I would hear his sweet voice singing along ever so softly. It was nice to hear after so many years. I would smile at him and he would realize what he was doing and stop. At one point, I instinctively leaned over and put my head on his shoulder. Just for a moment until we both realized what I had done and I quickly sat back up. It just felt so good to be together again in that element. It felt like time hadn’t even moved a second. I will forever cherish that moment. It was like we had come full circle. Matt walked me out to my car and gave me one of his big hugs. I started to pull away, but he didn’t. He held me a few more moments and said goodbye. I started to unlock my car as he walked away. He quickly turned around and said, “Hey Steph. This was really nice. Thanks.” I smiled and thanked him for coming. We both drove off. That would be the last time I would see him outside of a hospital bed.

A few weeks ago on Valentines Day, Matt’s Mom was gracious enough to allow me to come visit Matt. He was staying with her and his step-Dad since he needed around the clock care. Hospice had been called in by this point and time was not on his side. I was nervous about seeing him so sick and weak, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go. I mustered up my courage and drove over to the house. Along the way, I decided to get flowers for him and his Mom. It just felt like something I could do for them. I walked into the house and waited as his Mom finished preparing him for my visit. I went into his bedroom and put the bouquet of yellow roses down where he could see them. I turned around and really looked at Matt. He was skin and bones. It took my breath away. I steadied myself for a minute and put on a smile. I sat down by his side and took his hand in mine. He smiled at me and said, “You know, guys are supposed to get girls flowers!” We both chuckled. His funny bone was obviously still intact. It broke the tension like he had broken the tension between us many times before. I sat and talked with Matt for as long as I could. He could barely keep his eyes open most of the time, but I could tell he was happy to have the company. At one point he even rolled over on his side, wincing in pain, just so he could see me better. “Now I can see you.” He said smiling. I sat with him as he attempted to eat some lunch, but he kept falling asleep like a toddler. At one point, I even removed the straw from his lips as he fell asleep drinking. I took that as my cue that it was time to leave. I took his hand once more and his eyes popped open. “Give me some sugar, please.” He said as he reached out his arms. I leaned in and gently started to hug him. He pulled me in tighter as if to say it was OK. He wasn’t going to break. I whispered into his ear, “I love you my dear Matty.” He whispered back, “I have always loved you, Steph.” I gently kissed his forehead and headed out of the room. I whispered, “Goodbye. Have a good trip home.” as a tear slid down my face. I knew that would be the last time I would see him here on Earth ever again.

Today, I am steadying myself to go to the viewing. Tomorrow is the funeral.  I know this will be one of the hardest things I have ever done. How do you see your best friend, love, and one of the most amazing people in the world like that? How do you say that final goodbye? I will put on that brave face once again. I will be positive. I will be strong. I will live my life always remembering the impact he had on me.

Matty, where ever you are, thank you. Thank you for the friendship and love. Thank you for helping me out of the darkest places I have ever been in. Thank you for showing me that life is worth living. I will live by your example. I will spread positivity and light. I know one day we will meet again and you will take me in your strong arms and swing me around like the old days. We will be together once more. Love you forever.

Image taken from Facebook

Image taken from Facebook

Triplesticks

Triplesticks

To Caitlyn on her 14th birthday

14th-Birthday-Party-IdeasI was going to write you a limerick

I was going to write you a song

I was going to write you a poem

But,  I was afraid they would come out all wrong

So here is what I want to say to you today my sweet, precious girl.

It’s been a joy to have you in my life these past 14 years. I cherish every day we have had together and only wish for many, many more. I know we don’t always see eye to eye, but I know you are coming into your own. I see you changing and growing up and know that one day soon you will be embarking on your own journey in this crazy, wonderful world. Just know, my amazing daughter, that I will always be here when you need me. Whether it be a shoulder to cry on or to share a laugh, I will be here. Always.

Happy Birthday!

I love you.

Mom