matthew's fiat


The Thoughts Warrior Life's Lessons, Random Thoughts

In the summer of 1990, my brother-in-law, Matthew came to stay at his parents house for what he knew would be his final summer. Matthew had been battling AIDS, then so new, and with so much stigma back then. He had missed our wedding the summer before with "food poisoning", but he wanted to be home that summer. He had the hope of hanging on to see the new baby due in September.

The house was one of my favorite places in the world. It was nestled on a ridge, Birch Ridge, as we called it, on a dirt road in the town of Hancock. Matt was staying in the room that had belonged to my husband in high school. The room, like the entire house, was hard wood, ceiling to floor. There was a small built in desk under book shelves, a door that led out to the roof of the sun room, sloped ceiling over the bed. The summer was hot and beautiful. As if God himself wanted to give Matt one last summer. Many weekend nights, my husband and I would go over and he would take his parents out and I would care for Matthew.

One night in August, I was sitting with Matt in the room. He was very thin and pale. He was weak, but his spirit was still fighting. Matt was telling me about their time overseas as children, how he always felt different and didn't fit in. He told me about what it was like to have to hide who he really was from everyone, he talked of his students, Matt was a teacher at an all black private school in DC. He taught classics. After awhile Matt drifted off while I was holding his hand. I remember feeling overcome with sadness. Here was a wonderful, caring gentle soul who wanted so much to see his niece or nephew, and though we didn't say it, we knew he would not live long enough. I sat for awhile in the silent, dark bedroom. Finally I let go of his hand and started to stand. Everyone would be back soon. Matt sat himself up quickly with all the strength he could muster and grabbed my arm. He looked me in the eyes, i could see them in the darkness as he said, "You'll take good care of him, I know. I will watch him grow." He lay back down and fell back to sleep.

At the end of August, Matt wanted to go home to DC. My in-laws drove him down and stayed. I went into labor on September 12th and Brendan Padraic was born the next day. Matthew was overjoyed to share his middle name. I spent 5 days in the hospital battling an infection and a sense that something was going to happen. When we arrived home the night of the 18th, Sean received a phone call to get to DC. My mom quickly ran to a 1 hr photo while Sean packed. He brought a stack of photos with him as he departed for DC. Over the next several weeks Sean was back and forth to DC. Finally on October 8th, Sean came home. His parents told him to stay at home now.

The apartment we lived in was in an old mill housing building. You entered into a large kitchen with master bedroom and a bathroom off it. From there you entered what may have been a dinning area we used as a nursery, off from that a living room where mom was staying. The door to the bedroom and the threshold of the nursery was literally 4 inches apart. The nursery was lit with an old college desk lamp on the changing table, a humidifier was going. The dog, had taken up residence under the crib.


I was awoken by the sound of someone speaking. A man's voice. It was familiar but not ckear enough to make it out. Sean was sound asleep. I could see the glow of the desk lamp from my bed, but it was much brighter. Something told me to get up. I walked across the room, i could see the clock but not make out time. As ingot to the threshold of the bedroom door, i could not cross it. I stood looking into the nursery. A man was standing there, looking down and talking to Brendan, but i felt calm. Brendan, just 4 weeks old, was awake and looking at him. The dog did not stir. The man turned and smiled. It was Matthew, but Matt when he was vibrant and well. I was filled with the feeling that everything would be ok. He disapeared then. I was able to cross into the nursery. I lifted my boy out and rocked him the rest of the night while telling him about his uncle. The next morning we recieved a phone call.

30 years have passed. The memory is as clear as the night it happened. In so many ways both boys take after their uncle. Their passion for classics, reading and academics. Sometimes ne of them will turn quickly and I will catch a flicker of their Uncle. Spreading his love and protection throughout time.

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