Last week we got the impossibly sad news that Tony’s close friend, Matt, had died. It was a freak accident, and it still doesn’t make any sense.
This winter, Matt helped us move a used stackable washer and dryer into our house. We had to pick it up from this guy’s basement. The basement stairs were steep, and the washer/dryer was heavy and unwieldy. Tony and the guy who sold it to us pushed from the bottom, while Matt lifted the dolly from the top. Because of the way the machine was weighted, Matt ended up doing nearly all of the work. He was drenched in sweat by the time we got it loaded onto the truck, while Tony and the guy looked like they’d just woken up from a refreshing nap.
We sold that stackable washer and dryer for a side by side when we found out I was pregnant. The person who bought it from us on Craigslist told us that his wife was going to use the stackable for her new pet grooming business.
There are a lot of things in our house that would be different if it weren’t for Matt.
This spring, Matt was part of the crew of family and friends that helped us demolish our back porch. It was an all day project, and Matt was a huge help. I know he was a huge help because, when I told my incredibly hard-working grandpa about Matt’s death, the first thing he said was, “He was the one who worked really hard with us on your back porch.”
The point of demolishing our back porch was to make room for a new laundry room/mudroom/bathroom addition, which will look something like this when finished:
We have a contractor for the project, and he’s already done a lot of the framing. It’s taking shape, and we’re hoping we can get it all done before the baby arrives.
There’s an easy metaphor about Matt in our house. The metaphor says something about demolition and construction. It talks about death and new life and explains how something so sad could happen in the midst of something happy. I don’t know what that metaphor is, but I believe it exists. It’s important for me to believe that it exists.
Matt was also in our wedding as Tony’s best man.
I was annoyed with Matt throughout a lot of the wedding planning. I was annoyed with Matt beyond wedding planning, actually. One of my most terrible traits is my ability to write people off. Do something that I dislike and I will remember it for months or years. I have a small social circle and a hideous ability to not care if it gets smaller.
Matt struggled with addiction, which sometimes made him self-centered and unpredictable. He also lost both of his parents unexpectedly and tragically within the last four years. I didn’t cut him nearly enough slack. I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to be empathetic. Or I did, sometimes, but it wasn’t often and it wasn’t enough. There were many times when I was frustrated with Matt.
And then he’d do something, like work all day demolishing our back porch, and I’d have to admit even in my own small, weak, and stupid heart that Matt was a good friend. Matt was a complicated person, but there isn’t anything—shouldn’t be anything—complicated about loving someone who cares enough to help all day tearing down your back porch.
I would give a lot to be able to tell Matt what his friendship meant to me, even when I wasn’t good at showing it.
Tony says that Matt and I are alike. He says this about the way we relate to people, our senses of humor, our ability to like things that are uncool wholeheartedly and thus, through the transitive properties of sincerity, make them cool. Tony says that we are alike in that we always believed in him, more than he believes in himself. How absolutely terrible for Tony, to have lost a friend who always believed in him. That is a loss that I know Tony will always feel.
It isn’t hyperbole to say that Matt’s death is a tragedy. I know it is a tragedy for Tony, and for me, and for our baby who will never get to meet the funny, smart, caring, and complex person that was Matt. It’s a tragedy for anyone who knew Matt, or would have known Matt.
After we loaded the stackable washer and dryer into our house, Matt, Tony, and I went and had breakfast. I don’t remember what we talked about, or what we ordered, or what I did later that day. I do remember that we had a good conversation, and a really good morning. I am so glad I have that memory of Matt. I’m glad that this memory is tied to our house, and that there are many things in our house that remind us of Matt. We don’t need the reminders, but we can find comfort in them.