Mellow Matt

It’s that time of year again. 

Ever since we were children, we’ve looked forward to the holidays as a joyful time of family, friends and celebration.   What I always forget, until it rears its ugly head every December, just like clockwork, is the sadness that so many people seem to experience during the holidays.  

I guess I am one of them.  If you read my previous post here, you know I lost my mother just before Christmas when I was a child.  I always remember, reflect, and still feel a little sad, even after all these years.

But I’m not the only one writing about things not so jolly.  I’ve read innumerable poems recently that resonate with sadness.   Some are writing about losing a family member or close friend, others about broken relationships.  I was even brought to tears by an eloquent and loving post about a dying pet.

What is it about the holidays? 

I know that experts and supporting statistics say that people are no more depressed during the holidays.  It’s a myth, they say.  Well, maybe so, but I’m not convinced. 

Something really sad happened today.  Like many others, I had the urge to write a poem about it.  And I tried, but I just couldn’t do it.   I need to say more.  So I’m going to say it, changing the names to protect the privacy of a friend.

Two years ago, I met a man named Matt.  He and his wife Susie are delightful, and I liked them instantly.  Did you ever wonder what happened to all those flower children of the 60s?  Well, Matt and Susie are two of them, now living the middle-class suburban life just like the rest of us.  But the past is still with them.  The walls of their home are covered with photographs.  There they are, young and idealistic and draped in tie-dye.  They lived in the Haight in the 60s and drove a psychedelic VW bus that was a real rat.  An iconic rat, but a rat nonetheless.

You would probably never guess that Matt and Susie were those hippies you’ve seen in the movies and, if you are old enough, on The Huntley-Brinkley Report nightly news.  They are over 70 now, gray-haired and wrinkled.  But if you talked to them, you would sense that there was something different about them.  The best word I can find to describe them is mellow.  Totally appropriate for old hippies, don’t you think?  Yes, mellow.

Matt and Susie live in Florida, and I haven’t seen them for several months.  But in my mind’s eye, they are down there, groovin’ beneath the palm trees.  Then yesterday I got an e-mail. 

There will be a memorial service for Matt Smith on Tuesday December 28, 2010 at 11:00AM at the Jones Funeral Home.

I was stunned.  An Internet search turned up an obituary in the Florida paper that said nothing other than to announce Matt’s death and give the name of the funeral home “handling arrangements.”  I sent an e-mail to a mutual friend, asking what had happened.  Matt was 73.  Heart attack, I thought, or maybe a stroke.

This morning that mutual friend called.  “I got the notice about Matt.  What happened???”

With incredible sadness in her voice, she said, “Patti, Matt shot himself.”

Apparently, Matt had had some “business setbacks.”  He took the trash and a gun, and went out to the condo dumpster area.  He didn’t come back.  To say I am shocked doesn’t begin to describe it.  Mellow Matt.  Business setbacks?  Maybe.

But it’s that time of year again.

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22 Responses to Mellow Matt

  1. Neva Flores says:

    So sad. This time of year is so hard for so many of us. Thank you for this wonderful post and I am so sorry for your loss.

    • PattiKen says:

      It really is. It’s hard to imagine how depressed someone must be to see no other way out of it.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting. I hope you will come again. Have a great holiday. No more sadness!

  2. souldipper says:

    T’is the “season of expectations”. Some of us have great expectations, some unrealistic expectations and some reasonable ones. But the worst expectations are the ones we place on ourselves – ones that we cannot hope to ever fulfill. If we have not learned to speak up, the shame is unspeakable. So often what we think people expect is not even real.

    Blessings to Matt and Susie.

    • PattiKen says:

      I think you are right, Amy. Much of the depression around the holidays has to do with expectations. I don’t think that was Matt’s problem. The man I knew had not a lot of use for “things.” But who can know?

  3. penpusherpen says:

    I am so sorry, and it always seems so much worse at Christmas time, though I suppose if your worries are so burdensome they just drag you down no matter what the season. Such a tragedy, and my thoughts go out to Susie, who’s left to carry on alone. TO you too, for your loss now, and for all those years ago… xPenx

    • PattiKen says:

      That’s very nice of you. I feel really bad for Susie too. I’m sure Matt must have been in incredible pain to do something so drastic, but you are right, she is the one who’s left. Here’s this 70 year old woman (who was so young in spirit) left to go on alone. So sad.

  4. Titanium says:

    Oh, Patti. I’m so sorry. This hits me upside the head pretty hard. You see, the last week and a half have been really difficult in this corner. For similar reasons. I work with a very small, close-knit group of people (7); one of my co-workers just lost her son on Saturday. It’s just devastating. For so many reasons, I can’t write about it. I just have no words.

    My thoughts are with you. This time of year is not an easy one, on many counts.

    • PattiKen says:

      And my thoughts are with you and your friend. There cannot be anything worse than losing a child. And to have it happen right before the holidays… I cannot imagine the pain. My heart goes out to her.

  5. Blessings and strength to Susie as she struggles to cope and find meaning and not guilt. It reminds me of what someone said that each one we meet is fighting a great battle. So let us be kind.

  6. Baino says:

    Oh Patti that’s so sad. At his age as well you’d think life would have already thrown all it could in his direction. I think Christmas, because it’s largely a family time also makes all the stresses surface as much as it does the goodwill. Very sad indeed. I feel for his wife.

    • PattiKen says:

      I agree. I keep trying to come up with a reason why this laid-back guy would be so desperate as to end his life. The “business setbacks” thing just isn’t sitting right. I’m wondering if there could have been a health issue.

      Yes, my heart goes out to his wife too. The holidays will be a horrible anniversary for her from now on.

  7. Oh, Patti. So sad. And what of his poor wife? He must have really felt done in not to think about what this would do to her.

    I think our expectations are too high about so many thing – the realities of life and death, what our special holidays are like vs. what we think they should be like, what we should look like, how much money we should have, where we should live – we let the world dictate to us.

    Whatever joy is supposed to be implicit in a holiday, there’s still that big “supposed” – it’s just another day. Sometimes a good one. Sometimes not. And then, moving right along.

    And maybe this poor gentleman had some other things on his mind. Growing old is hard. We loose our ability to do and that feels like loosing our ability to be and do. It feels like loosing our identity. Who am I today? Who am I anymore? Am I still a someone? We’re not allowed in our culture to call it all to an end on our own with dignity and grace. Maybe we should be as we grow older.

    It’s good of you to bring up this – not the only dark side of the holiday season – but one of the more serious. I’m so sorry it happened though.

    Holding you in heart and prayer,

    • PattiKen says:

      Thanks, Jamie. If you read the previous comments and my replies, you can see I’m in a quandary about this. I didn’t know him all that well, but Matt seemed so laid back and mellow. And ending his life in this way is so unlike what I would have expected from him. I really have come around in my head to a suspicion that there was a major health issue on the horizon, and he saw his decision to check out as somehow protecting his wife from a terrible burden in the near future. Nothing else makes sense to me.

  8. Just got my a.m. coffee – my one precious cup a day – and had to come back and say: Here I live in a small city near a main drag (convenient for me) and all morning as I am reading posts the background noise is police cars and ambulances. It’s like that every year at this time and it will only get worse until after the first of January. I wonder what that says.

    • PattiKen says:

      Given the statistics and experts that say the holiday season is no worse than any other in terms of depression and suicide (which I’m not totally buying, but…), all I can think is that we pay attention to such things more during the holidays.

  9. 2zpoint says:

    A permanent solution to a temporary problem. Perhaps he had no way of coping but leaving his wife in such a terrible way…simply horrible to say the least. I’m sorry for your loss and Susie’s suffering may peace be with both of you, surrounded by love, take care.

  10. Tara R. says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Such a tragedy.

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