"They're over there," said Matz
"Who's over there?" I asked.
"It's Betsy and Mom. They're standing in the corner!" said Matz
I looked into his eyes and followed them to the corner of his hospital room. I didn't see Aunt Betsy. I didn't see Grandma Lilly. I just saw an empty corner.
Matz stared intently at the corner. He appeared to be listening to a conversation that I was not privy to. I played along with Matz. "That's wonderful. Why are they here?" I asked.
"They came here to get me!" said Matz. I could hear the excitement in his voice.
Matz was my uncle. When I was a child, my grandparents called him Matz, so I did too. At the time, I had no idea his real name was Burnette. To this day, I have no idea where his nickname, Matz, originated.
Matz was born with cerebral palsy. The story was that my Grandma Lilly had fallen down the steps when she was pregnant with him. Matz had always lived with my Grandparents. My grandparents had cared for and generously provided for him. As a result of their decisions, he had lived an intentionally sheltered life.
When I was a child, I thought everyone had a Matz. I loved spending time at Grandma and Grandpa, and Matz's house. I got to spend time with all of them. It was the best of times.
Matz's cerebral palsy worsened as he got older. When I was 10 years old his mobility worsened, and he needed to rely on a wheelchair. Unable to properly care for him, my Grandparents placed him in a nursing home.
My Mom worked at the hospital adjacent to Matz's nursing home, so after school, I walked to the hospital to visit Matz and then catch a ride home with her afterward.
"Hey Matz, Can I ask you some more questions?" He slowly nodded his head yes.
I was curious about my Dad's family. They were not keen on sharing their stories. They were a pretty buttoned-up group. Matz was more open. I believed he would 'spill the tea' and shine some light on their history.
I started interviewing Matz when he was healthy. A year later, during our last interview, I could tell he was beginning to transition into the non-physical. Before I could ask him a question, Matz said, "I always wanted to have a job and a family." His voice started to crack. "That's all I wanted, but they wouldn't let me!! Ardis, my sister, was the smart one. Mom and Dad sent her to school to become a teacher. Mavis had to stay home to help Dad in the field because I couldn't do it. And, Jule got to the farm. I wanted a job. I could have worked at the grocery store. I never got to have a job and family like they had!" Tears streamed down his face.
I grabbed his hand and held it. Tears started streaming down my face. "Geez, Matz, look what you did to me." I smiled at him and felt my heart break for him. He spent his life tucked away and living with his parents. He never had an opportunity to create a life of his own choosing. We both knew that we had never met our family's strange and often unspoken expectations of us. They were embarrassed by us. Perhaps, that was one of the reasons why we understood each other so well. We were kindred souls.
Our last interview ended 90 minutes later. Matz was neither here in this physicality nor there in the non-physical. I held Matz's hand. I knew this was the last time we would spend time alone together. I focused intently on being in the present moment while making a super-succulent mental list of things to do. Note to self: 1) are there any other questions I want to ask him now?, and 2) remember to tell him you love him before you leave tonight.
Matz's room was peaceful. Dimmed lights above Matz's bed softly glowed. A machine hummed and occasionally beeped in the background. "Matz, I love you." He replied with tears in his eyes, "I love you too."
We sat quietly. Matz stared at the corner again. Then he turned his head back towards me and closed his eyes. After a while, I left his room and swiftly watched out of the hospital.
Matz passed away soon after that.
Matz had a small funeral. After the ceremony, I talked to my cousin, Carrie, and explained that I had been interviewing and recording Matz before his death. I shared with her some of Matz's stories. Without going into too many details, his stories were a catalyst that provided us with valuable insights to help us better understand our parent's behavior.
Three weeks later.
Leaning against the cupboards in my kitchen was a tall, dark, handsome, blue-eyed, 30-year-old man dressed in a multi-colored polo shirt with a light yellow sweater wrapped around his shoulders, a pair of khakis pants and a pair of super shine-y brown loafers. He was a well-dressed man.
Oh my God, Matz! It's you. You're here!
I took a deep breath to calm down and ground myself.
Matz stopped by to let me know he was happy. He wanted me to see him as a vibrant young man versus 'the cripple'. If things had been different, this is how he would have liked to have shown up in this physicality.
I smiled at him. He thanked me. And, in the blink of an eye, he was gone but not forgotten.
There are many ways to process loss like me processing the loss of my uncle by sharing stories about my family that helped to increase our understanding of them. If you or someone you know is processing loss, consider a gift box filled with positive rituals, care, and love. Sometimes, the simple act of giving one of our gift boxes helps someone find a way of processing loss.
Thank you for reading,
Founder @ Robiins
Processing loss. One gift box at a time.™