Bringing Matt Home
I believe you’ve felt it too – that warm rush of indescribable joy when something fully human we’ve dreamed about comes true in our lives; when we become aware that love is transforming us from just one self into something greater. Our hearts are so full and our words, never enough to fully express the wonder of that all-consuming feeling of utter thankfulness. We look at, listen to, touch, and wrap ourselves in what has come to us; we revel in its presence; we hold it close; we make plans to walk with it into our future. For sweetly incredible moments, we are held by perfection.
That is how it was for me when my son, Matt, was born. If you’ve read Letters for Grace, you have met him throughout its pages. To others, you may have simply heard me mention his name in our conversations. I’ve held him close to me because when my first dream-come-true died, I was compelled to somehow keep him safe. I know I’m not alone. There are many perfect dreams who are now beloved memories, tender and fragile. We who are left behind hold them in protected spaces. Though I’ve said his name and told you some memories I carry, I haven’t often shared my son freely. Not with those who are closest to me; nor with those who so generously told me the authentic stories of their own children – their lost, perfect dreams.
But things change and now it’s time to introduce you to my son, Matt, whose smiling face is the new banner of my author page. It is the last picture I have of him, taken some months before his death. My first-born child stretched my heart to overflowing; he was kind, big-hearted and gentle, an intellectual who loved philosophy, the humanities and science, who was genuine in every way, who volunteered to help protect the environment, who laughed often, who was a strong and creative writer, and who rarely let anyone know of the pain he probably felt most days of his adult life. I expected to be with him as he encountered and relished a full, long life but that was only my dream.
A dear friend and I were talking about my latest writing project where I’ve spent thirteen months interviewing bereaved parents and writing their stories about the incredible presence and untimely deaths of their children. We were discussing the impact of honestly sharing aloud the intimate story of dreams departed; how the re-telling of a forever love has the power to bring what is lost, closer to us. She said of my work: “It’s like you’re helping to bring them home.” Startled by this wonderful possibility, I felt my own tears start.
And it was then I most fully understood why I had to write Letters for Grace. I ached to talk honestly with my son who lived in a space too far from me, to consider more deeply his decisions and finally appreciate his choices. I wrote this story to bring Matt home. And by the grace of a love I barely understood, walking within an awful and awe-filled time and space, it worked.