April 27th will forever be a day of sorrow for me and my family. On my way home from a long Friday night at work I received a call from my sister. She obviously was crying and had a panic tone in her voice. She told me our brother was in critical condition in Boulder, Colorado and that our parents were frantically packing for a flight to Denver that was scheduled to leave in 4 hours.
My brother, Matthew, who I call Matty is 22 months older than me. He was my big brother and growing up I was sooo proud of it. He was one of the “popular” guys in high school. Everyone just loved him. He was a great athlete but always known for being a great basketball player. He played college basketball for a small college in Nashville. After completing college Matty became what I like to call an urban hippie. He was incredibly passionate about music. He was so passionate about it that he would drive all over the country to hear his beloved Wide Spread Panic play a show. He was such a happy guy and always laughing. He loved to tell stories and make everyone laugh. When my dad and my brother would start telling stories about the “old days” they would have us all rolling with laughter. Matty was my number one supporter when I came out almost 8 years ago. He never judged me or said one negative thing about it. He told me he loved me and that I needed to do what made me happy. He said if I was happy then he was happy for me. When I told him Leslie and I were getting married he told me he would be there for me without a doubt and he was. My brother made mistakes and had many flaws but that didn’t change the fact that he was a great guy. He battled his addiction to alcohol and drugs for many years with his own ups and downs. But the past 6 months he was doing so much better. He was actually planning a future with his girlfriend, Lauren. He had a new job lined up. And the day he left for Colorado he stopped by our house to borrow a suitcase. That day he seemed clear as ever and so excited about life. He hugged me and Noah, told me he loved me and would see me soon.
Matty left Nashville on Wed April 24 for Colorado. He was there for some concerts, visiting his girlfriend and to see friends for one last party weekend before starting his new job. Lauren had to work Friday night but they had plans to spend the day together on Saturday. When she got off work Friday night in Denver she decided to surprise Matt and go straight to Boulder to see him. Matty had been partying with his friends that night. We know he had been drinking and doing some other drugs as well. When his friends were loading up to go to a late night party Matt decided not to go. He went back to his hotel room we assume to go to bed. We think that he took something to help him go to sleep but aren’t positive of what exactly happened in the hotel room because when Lauren arrived at their hotel room in the early early morning hours Matty was laying on the floor, he was blue, and she couldn’t feel a pulse. She called 911 and started CPR. First responders didn’t get his heart beating again until they reached the hospital.
While my parents were preparing to leave the critical care doctor from the hospital called to talk to my dad about my brother’s condition. When he finished my dad handed me the phone and I had my chance to ask him some questions. After asking him a string of questions I knew it was very bad. I thanked the doctor for taking care of him and asked them to please do all that they could for him until my parents arrived. I began to sob as soon as I hung up. I said, “I just wish we could go with ya’ll”. My father said well how quick can ya’ll be ready? I said give me 30 mins. My sister and I both left immediately and went to pack.
Three and half hours later we were all boarding a flight to Denver. We were quite in the rental car on the way to Boulder. We arrived at the hospital and Lauren was waiting outside for us. We all went back to see him right away. It didn’t seem right seeing my brother laying in a hospital bed hooked up to all these machines. I’ve taken care of thousands of patients on the ventilator but looking at my big brother on a vent unable to breathe on his own seemed so unreal. This was MY brother the strong and handsome guy full of life. Why is this happening to him? WHy is this happening to our family?
My little sister Melody went straight to his side and said, We’re here Matthew and we love you.” I leaned over the bed rail kissing his head and telling him in his ear, “Its okay Matty, we’re here now.” I moved out of the way so my dad could get to him. He leaned over talking to Matt in his ear and when he leaned back a single tear rolled down Matt’s cheek. We knew that was a sign that he knew we were there. It only happened that one time. My sister said that Matt was waiting on my Dad to get there to let go. The doctor came in to talk to us. He told us that Matty had suffered an anoxic brain injury due to the lack of oxygen to his brain while he was down. Over the next few hours we filtered in and out of his room trying to process what was happening. Trying to come to the realization that Matty wasn’t going to over come this. When the representative from organ donor services came to talk with us and that’s when it really set in that my brother was going to die. At 7:30 pm we surrounded his bed and held him close as they withdrew the life support. We held his hands… Kissed his face… And kept telling him how much we all loved him and that it was okay to let go now. My mother laid her hand on his chest to feel his heart beating for the last few moments. We stayed with him until he passed. It was the most painful thing I have ever had to do. I can’t put into words how difficult it was to watch him slip away from us.
The next afternoon emotionally broken and so exhausted our family travelled home feeling very empty. My parents lost a son. My sister and I no longer had a brother. And we went from a family of five to a family of four. There was a huge hole in our hearts.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from friends and family. We had so many people turn out for the celebration of life service for him. Friends from all walks of life. We had them all there from the right wing conservatives to the hippies with dreads. we were told that there were 500 or more there to celebrate him. My father asked two of Matt’s good friends to share stories along with his college basketball coach. Then my dad did my brothers eulogy. He did such an amazing job and I couldn’t be more proud of him. The service had us laughing and in tears. It was wonderful and I can’t say thank you enough to all the people to were there to celebrate Matt and support us. Some days it still doesn’t seem real. Some days it feels like he’s still just gone on vacation and will be back soon.