Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Namesake takes on new meaning

It's been almost three weeks since I last posted, which I think is the longest I've gone without a post. It's not for lack of having anything to say, but rather for a lack of time and feeling at a loss of words to express what I'm thinking and feeling.  Our family suffered a terrible tragedy when my little brother Matt, only 26, was killed in a car accident near where he lived on the big island of Hawaii on April 6th.  We are all shocked and incredibly sad about this terrible loss.  I've been struggling not just with my personal loss, but also the huge loss to the triplets who won't know their dear Uncle Matt.

We found out on the evening of the 6th and immediately began intense planning to be able to make the trip to Hawaii to be with my family.  We flew out early Tuesday morning and arrived late Tuesday night almost 24 hours after leaving our house.  (I'll write another post about the traveling and lessons we learned on the trip.)  It was very good to be with the whole family as we all processed this terrible loss.  Being all together meant we were able to fall apart & cry together and also to hold each other up as the intensity of the grief hit us each at different times.  We spent a lot of time quickly planning a memorial for Matt, which was held on Saturday the 12th down at Laupahoehoe Point, about a mile from my parents' house.  The memorial was "very Matt" and a perfect send off for the lively and loving young man that he was.  We created a memorial website for Matt that has links to pictures and the video from the memorial in Hawaii.  Matt was loved by so many in so many places that there are also memorials in Seattle, NYC, and WI that have either already happened or are being planned for May and pictures & videos from those events will be added to this page.

It was a tough decision to pack up three babies and bring them all the way to Hawaii, but I'm so glad we did.  They provided many desperately needed smiles and snuggles in that difficult week (and continue to do so every day).  It was fun to be in Hawaii where they could just be in onesies or even just in their diapers and not have to deal with pants, socks, etc.  We were pleasantly surprised that they all (even Avery) did very well with so many different people holding them and playing with them.
The triplets in their coordinating outfits for Uncle Matt's memorial
with three of the many friends who held them
I'm so thankful that my brother was able to come visit us in January and meet the triplets.  He sure did love being an uncle and many friends at the memorial came up to me and told me that Matt showed them lots of pictures and videos of the babies. One of my biggest regrets is that we didn't take more pictures or any videos of Matt with the babies while he was here.  He was so good with them and loved to stand them up and make them dance.  It was so cute and I so wish I'd captured it on film for them.  We did get some pictures from Matt's computer that he'd taken with his iPhone during his visit and I'm thankful for that.  I'm also very thankful that we decided to name Isaiah after his two uncle Matts (Michelle's brother is also named Matt).  It makes me cry a mix of happy and sad tears every time I think about Isaiah being Matt's namesake and already I can see Matt's joyful spirit shining through his nephew.  It makes me smile to see Isaiah do his little Irish jig style happy dance when he sees me because his Uncle Matt sure did love to dance. =)
Isaiah with his namesake
 I miss Matt so much and am so incredibly sad that he won't get to see the triplets grow up and that they won't get to really know what a wonderful guy he was.  As a family, we decided that a portion of the memorial donations for Matt will be placed into an "Uncle Matt" fund that will be split equally between his nieces and nephew so that when they graduate highschool a chunk of their college money will be a gift from their Uncle Matt. I think that will be so meaningful for Isaiah, Avery, Ellie and their big cousin Abigail, all of whom were dearly loved by their Uncle Matt. 

Now that we are home and all spread out around the country again grieving feels harder.  The demands of every day life require energy I sometimes don't feel like I have.  And it feels odd to just keep doing all the "normal" things when things feel far from normal inside.  The intense waves of grief hit at random times, often when I'm alone driving in the car and have time to think.  The best bit of counsel our family received in the days following Matt's death was the metaphor comparing the grief of losing a loved one to a rock.  It starts out as a boulder that you have to carry, that doesn't fit in your pocket, and that can knock you down at times.  But over time that boulder gets worn down and eventually becomes a nice smooth pebble that you carry in your pocket and you find comfort and joy in the memories as you rub your fingers against it from time to time.  We're definitely still in "boulder mode" around here but even in these darkest of days we still find joy in the memories of all the good times with Matt that we will forever treasure.  As the triplets get older we will be intentional about sharing those memories with them.  Thank you to everyone who has supported our family in these difficult times.
Matt & his sleepy little nephew

Uncle Matt making Avery dance on his knees

Uncle Matt snuggling little Ellie


  1. Oh, I am so so so very sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my loving thoughts. What a terrible tragedy.

    Jill Aul

  2. Love to you all. Always. Again. Always.

  3. Mari, we've never met (I went to high school with Michelle) but I've become an avid follower of your blog. Reading your thoughts makes me feel like I know a piece of you and I just want you to know that my heart is breaking for you. I represent the people you've never met, nor even realized existed, who are wishing you peace and strength.
    ~ Amy (Clark) Winning

  4. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt and beautifully written dedication to your brother. I didn't know Matt, but have been overwhelmed by all the stories about how much he touched everyone he met. Such amazing stories that have made me feel like I did know him. It breaks my heart for your entire family. I am so glad you intend to keep his memory alive for your beautiful children. Please know there are more people than you can even imagine thinking about you all during this difficult time. Bonnie Nygard

  5. Being sorry for your loss just doesn't seem to convey enough feeling. Your blog is a loving, beautiful testament to your wonderful brother's life. While it is sad the nieces and nephews won't get to spend enough time with Matt, his happy face will always be there through your pictures. Please know we are thinking of you and your entire family at this davastating time. I'm just a phone call away of it would help. Hugs to Michelle and the babies, too.


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