Wednesday, January 9, 2013


May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

Bob Dylan
On the ferry to Ometepe, Nicaragua (Dec 2009)
Today is Matthew's birthday. 1-9-89. I always thought that was such a great birthday to have. Matthew would have been 24 today. Twenty-four years old. It's such a pivotal age for a young adult. It's the age when many of his friends are navigating their first jobs after college, or trying out their first serious relationships, or establishing themselves in a new city, or traveling the world. All of them are just beginning to figure out who they are. And he's not here. It doesn't seem fair.

Two years ago, when we had to navigate his birthday for the first time, we went away. His birthday fell on a Sunday and we all went north to Vancouver. It was clear and cold and far enough from our home to feel just right. Just before we left I had coffee with a woman who has since become a good friend. She had lost her son twenty years earlier. So when I told her what we were doing to mark Matthew's birthday (I remember those are the words I used), she said she always tries to do something special to celebrate her son's birthday. I remember being somewhat taken aback by the use of the word "celebrate." It just didn't feel right. At least then it didn't. Now however, two years later, I think I can use the word celebrate. For January 9th will always be a special day to us and I want to celebrate the day that Matthew was born.  
So here are some things that come to mind when I celebrate and remember Matthew (in no particular order):

his contagious belly laugh;
his crooked smile;
his deep brown eyes;
his enduring love of history (especially Ancient Roman and the Civil War);
his tenacity and ability to master things that didn't come easily to him;
his discipline with his studies;
his curiosity about the world;
his love of baseball;
his love of the outdoors and of hiking;
his ability to develop deep friendships with a few friends;
his love of movies (all Martin Scorsese films, plus The Departed, Gladiator, Fight Club)
his love of books (Chuck Palahniuk novels, Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Brothers K)
the way he relished  being "non-pc;"
his love of politics;
his ability to mimic accents;
how he was looking more and more like a young Robert DeNiro (he could mimic him really well too);
his love of words and his unique ability to create new ones;
his knack of creating nicknames for everyone;
and most of all the powerful love he had for his family.

That's just a little bit about Matthew. It's just the tip of the iceberg really. As the years go by, I realize he will remain forever young. Even as we get older and celebrate the passage of time, he will always be twenty-one (or younger) in our minds. No, it's not even remotely fair. But life's not always fair, is it? We just have to be grateful for the memories we have, and for the 21 years we had him.

Besides, love lives forever.


  1. Thank you for sharing that wonderful picture of Matthew. It helped me to know him in a different way. I also appreciated your list of what you love about Matthew. All the different aspects of who he is will continue to come back to you at different times of the year and in different experiences. I think this is a list that could be repeated from time to time. It helps to capture the multi layered person that Matthew is. And I do say "is" intentionally. Because Matthew still is with you and will always be. His presence is different but no less real. Thank you for sharing these moments with us in your blog. They are gifts to me.

  2. Robin, I love this so captures a moment of humor ready in my memory.
    your willingness and ability to share your thoughts about Matthew on his birthday are so appreciated.
    love bobbie

  3. As I grow older, I realize again and again how my griefs have so much to do with missing how loved ones lived in me and I lived in them. How life was shared and held in common within and between us. Because in very particular ways I came to know myself through the loved one now gone, it feels like I've lost part of myself. I no longer see and am seen through their eyes and their heart.

    But this birthday post celebrating so many of Matthews gifts and qualities reminds me how much love continues to live within the loss. It's like the list of Matthew's qualities gently reminds me not only about his kind life, but also about how I want to walk while still in this world.

    While always missing the physical seeing and being seen, touching and being touched, such remembrance and celebration sustains the reasured qualities discovered in relationship. May they long continue.

    Thank you Robin!

  4. I love your list of Matthew's special quirks and qualities. He sounds interesting and fun to be with. My son's 24th birthday is also approaching quickly - on the 24th of January. It will be the first one with him gone. I've been dreading it, just thinking about it makes me cry. I'm not sure if we'll do anything, but we're definitely too sad to celebrate yet. It's good to know that someday I'll probably be ready to recognize his birthday with gratitude (in addition to grief).

    1. I will be thinking about you on the 24th and hoping for a day filled with good memories. Yes, it probably feels too early to "celebrate" but you will get through it. I'll light a candle for him...

    2. Thank you for doing that. I, too, will be lighting a candle, but it should have been 24 +1 candles. My mother's jahrzeit candle is burning today (4 years today) and my father's jahrzeit was January 3rd.

    3. May your parents' memories be a blessing, and may you get through your son's birthday with a smile on your face (despite the tears).

  5. Katie's birthdays are hard for us, since some of us want to celebrate her life, and some of us do not feel like celebrating without her. You're so right; it isn't fair - and it can be hard to find the right balance on such a day.

    I wish I had got to meet and know Matthew, Robin - but I love learning about him through your words. Happy Birthday to Matthew - and especially to you, the woman who gave him birth!

  6. I like even more coming to your blog now that we have met, Robin. I have celebrated Sarah's birthday with joy for the past five years. I can't imagine the 17th of August any other way. It is life giving! Happy belated birthday of Matthew. Be well.