Saturday, November 14

Matthew's Voice

Matthew By The Lake - (Photograph by John-Brian Paprock, Paprock Photography 2015)
Taken along the north shore of Lake Mendota across the water from Madison Wisconsin in 2014

My younger brother Matthew died on November 3rd, 2015 at the age of 49 years old. I was grateful he asked for the opportunity to see him at the hospital before he died. He had requested the doctors do everything to keep him going until my brother (August), my sister (Dara) and I could be there. He wanted to celebrate his 50th birthday, but that was not until January. So, we decided to have a 50th birthday cake and balloons and a card on November 1st. He also wanted to watch his Green Bay Packers play - they played that night.
Celebration of my brother's 50th birthday - half a century of life! Before the Packer game. Photograph by John Summers.

At my brother's bedside on November 1st. Photograph by August Roderick.


Saying good bye was difficult - both a very loving and a very sad time. We played cards a last time. We remembered. We joked. We laughed. We cried. We forgave everything, he and I, for brothers often have some baggage that weighs on their relationship. He was freed from such burdens. I told he would be missed. I found an old picture of him and me in Chicago, before our  youngest brother was born.

Matthew (5 years old) and John-Brian (10 years old) in Chicago.
The only time one would be twice as old as the other. 
This picture is symbolic of the bond with my brother that would last a lifetime.
This is the letter I read as eulogy at my brother's Ninth Day Memorial at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Madison, Wisconsin.
Dear Matthew,
I want to hear your voice again, dear brother Matthew; the caring loving familiar voice of  my younger brother; the voice that joked and played and  laughed and, yes, fought, as brothers can.


I want to hear your voice again, even if it means listening to profound fear seeping through the joy and love during your last days; or listening to the lamenting of lost love, or the ranting of frustration with a system that you could not fight any more. I hoped you would fight back as you always did and hold your ground, but you could not this time. You always wanted to stand tall without help from anyone, until pain curled your back and walking required a cane.


In our childhood, we played together as best friends, especially during the lonely years when we moved from place to place with a mother who was searching for her own salvation and sobriety. She found both when we came to Madison. And you, my dear brother, found your very own home-sweet-home. You got to grow up here, attending every school year in the same school system. You found in Madison, a safe home base and friends, lots and lots of friends, many you have had most of your life. It seems proper to have finished your life here in Madison.


Yet, I would hear your voice again. That voice that would reach across distances of miles and weeks just to say “hello.”  I will miss our card games and our discussions of the spiritual and the mundane. I will miss watching football with you.  I am filled with joyous memories of our life as family and friends. 


I will always be grateful for the opportunity you gave us at the end. Thank you for the love you shared during your last waking hours. Thank you for the hug as I kissed your hand. I held it as tight as I could.  Thank you the shared tears at “good bye” and “good journey.” Thank you for being my faithful brother and my dutiful friend. My dear brother, I wish I could hear your voice and see your smile one more time, but I cannot.  You passed away quietly and peacefully in the evening of November 3rd.  We are brothers forever and I will miss you the rest of my life.  Eternal memory, my dearest brother Matthew.
Ninth Day Memorial service at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Madison, Wisconsin. November 12, 2015. 
Fr. Michael Vanderhoef officiated. The church Philoptochos Society made traditional koliva for us. 
The cups on the table were left after koliva was served to the ~50 people that came to the memorial. A
 picnic celebration memorial of my brother's life is being planned for warmer months at his favorite Madison park.