Saying Goodbye

Melrose Abbey Memorial Park, Matt Avalos

I wrote a eulogy for my brother’s memorial service (held yesterday). Here is what I wrote. I missed sharing a few things as I was standing in that chapel. The emotion took over and I was shaking. I couldn’t read my notes. But I got through most of it. The photo above was where the service was held. We had to add chairs because there were so many people the wooden pews were full.

Matt Avalos ~ June 8, 2022

There’s a quote from a football movie, Rudy, that Matt & I loved growing up. The priest in the movie says to Rudy, “Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.” I feel like I know slightly more than two things – but not much more. I don’t understand why this happened. I may never understand. The day I found out about my brother’s death was the worst day of my life.

But what I do know for sure is that Matthew is the happiest he’s ever been. He is the healthiest he has ever been. He knows no more pain. He is at perfect peace. I’m sure the first thing he did was find all four of our grandparents. He loved them so much. They were four of the most important people in his life. While I grieve the loss of my only sibling and my parents grieve the loss of their only son, I also know that he knows total joy and happiness and that comforts me some.

Matt was a special kid and grew to be a loving, caring friend and man. When he was a kid, he was a daredevil and rode a “Big Wheel” like a big kid, before he was even out of a diaper. When he was about five, he jumped off a booth at church, fell flat on the concrete, knocking out his front teeth. Why? Because it looked fun, I’m sure. In the slideshow, you can see his school picture – the one where he looks mad and he’s not smiling – it’s because he was hiding a toothless grin.

He loved a good adventure and was always up for leading some mischief with our apartment complex friends. He was always making friends and always finding fun. He was the extrovert – I was the introvert. He made friends everywhere – he reminded me of my Grandpa Avalos in that way. When we moved into a bigger apartment, with our own rooms, he was so excited. To top it off, he had his cousins and apartment friends there the day we moved in. He headed toward the sliding glass door that led out to our patio. His toy guns were out there and he was in another world – excited to have so many people to play with. He literally ran straight through the sliding glass door. He ended up with some stiches in his hand and near his forehead. But he came through otherwise unscathed. But something about that is so Matt to me because he was too excited and happy to notice anything around him – including the closed door.

When we were kids, Matt and I played a ton of video games together – but Super Mario Bros was our favorite. We watched movies together and when we were with my dad, spent a lot of time mini-golfing at Camelot. I live across the country and hadn’t been in SoCal for a while. I was surprised to see it was still there. We watched a lot of movies with my dad too – some of our favorites where Ghostbusters, Strange Brew, and Stakeout. I’m sure my mom wasn’t too thrilled with some of those movies especially when Strange Brew had us walking around saying, “Hey Hoser,” to each other.

During summer football practice (my dad was a coach) and during the season, we would be walked down to the high school (it was at the end of my grandparent’s street), by our Aunt Diane or Grandpa. We’d hang out there in the coach’s office while they were watching game day tape or we’d go play “tennis” on the tennis court, or hang out with the football players in the weight room. I’ve always believed those years were formative and impacted Matt and his interest and skill in coaching, later.

Matt as an adult was a loyal and caring friend. He loved his people and that is obvious from what we’ve seen and heard from his friends since May 27th. Matt took good care of the people in his life. He was a good caretaker for my dad and he was a loving son.

On my birthday, just shy of a month before he passed away, he sent me a birthday message that made me cry – it was so sweet. It meant the world to me. One of the things he said was that we should take a trip for our birthdays in 2023 – we are both April babies. I loved the idea and began wondering what we could to do. I’m still going to do that trip – maybe camping – since we loved it so much. I will take that trip in his honor.

Here’s a quick note to add: One thing that has become clear to me since May 27th, is that I won’t – absolutely will not – waste anymore time. Our time is too precious & we just don’t know how much of it we have. I’m also determined as never before, to be honest with those that I love (about how I feel about them) and to never regret being myself, sharing my heart, and sharing it openly. I was regretting some of that over the last year – particularly sharing my heart with someone I never heard from again. But, I won’t regret being honest about how I feel, ever again. Losing my brother has reminded me of how quickly life changes. And I just refuse to live with regret any longer.

My Brother’s Memorial Service

It has felt like a lifetime since we learned that my brother passed away. At this time, the preliminary cause of death is hypertension and an enlarged heart. My brother was younger than me by two years. We have heart issues – including congestive heart failure on both sides of our family. It has awakened this determination in me to get healthier. Matt was on that journey too. He’d lost 40 pounds by his birthday in April and was still working on it. I was proud of him for focusing on his health & well-being.

Matt Avalos, abby the wonder dog
My very scared of men, dog – meeting my brother for the first time (2011). He crawled to meet her since that was about all she could muster – a small crawl over to him. He was very patient with her.

Something about that has made this harder to take in a way. He was young – too young to die because of a heart issue and high blood pressure. It’s sobering. And mixed in with the grief is a building determination to reduce my own risk factors.

Matt Avalos, Elaina Avalos

We are working our way through our to-do lists so we can focus on my brother, seeing our families, and for me – trying to figure out what my Dad may need, that I can help with.

The memorial is not an expected expense any parent plans on. It’s not something you prepare for – to bury your youngest child – regardless of their age. I created a GoFundMe for my parents to help with the costs. We have about a 6,300.00 need and we’re about halfway there between the GoFundMe and private donations. Another thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 40s – purchasing some additional life insurance to cover burial costs. But I absolutely will be doing that for my mom and me both, as soon as I can. These are things you just don’t think about. It’s overwhelming:

matt avalos, cindy avalos, elaina avalos

We are heading to California and in spite of the circumstances, it’s the first time I’ve been home in far too long. The last long trip was 2014. In 2015 I was there but I think it was only to pick up my mom (who was moving to NC). I am looking forward to seeing my family, being in SoCal, eating real Mexican food :), and being “at home.” I also have a mission to complete on my brother’s behalf. I’ll share that later.

Tonight, I’m working on a photo slide show for Matt’s service. I think I know what song/songs I want to use, but it’s going to be hard to tone down my photo choices. There are so many I love.

Grief is exhausting. But I’m thankful to be moving forward.

The Thing of it is…

The thing of it is…I feel this deep sorrow. There’s so much grief. And also, there is joy. I know in this whirlwind, He is here.

“You are all that I need…”

“Thirsty for the living well

Only You can satisfy

Sweetness at the mercy seat

Now I’ve tasted, it’s not hard to see

Only You can satisfy”

“It’s nothing short of a miracle, I’m here…”

“Like when You healed my mother (I can’t even, I can’t even count ’em all)
When You redeemed my father (I can’t even, I can’t even count ’em all)
Even in the death of my brother (I can’t even, I can’t even count ’em all)
You were closer than no other (one, two, three, four, I can’t even count ’em all)
Oh, You broke my chains (I can’t even)
You saved my life (I can’t even count ’em all)
You set me free (I can’t even)
You gave me victory (I can’t even count ’em all)
Oh, I can’t even count ’em all (I can’t even, I can’t even count ’em all)
You kept my mind, Lord (I can’t even, I can’t even count ’em all)”

Losing my Brother

I mean, we were cute.

I don’t know what other people do when their world is turned upside down, but I write. My “baby” brother passed away at his home, today. He lived in Southern California with my Dad. He was my dad’s primary caregiver. My dad had a heart attack and then later had a stroke. He took care of their home and my dad’s basic needs.

I am overwhelmed, shocked, and don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to grieve, help my parents – one of whom is thousands of miles away and can’t fully care for himself, or face a future without my only sibling. Losing my brother was not the thing I imagined happening next in our lives. I did dream and hope for a trip next year – that we’d chatted about briefly. This is not what I hoped for May 2022 – or any time for that matter.

It was only recently that we started talking again. It’s a long story. Earlier this year we started chatting again. But he has always been dearly loved by me. And I hoped that someday we would be close again. We started inching closer and then on my birthday I got the sweetest message from him. It is one I’ve waited for, for many years. I love him. I wanted what was best for him, always. And I hoped and prayed we had some good years ahead planning trips, hanging out, and enjoying some good chow and drinks together. The last message he sent me was earlier this month. It was a silly little “May the fourth be with you” kind of thing. It was from our favorite Mexican restaurant at home (Moreno’s).

Matt was younger than me by two years – our birthdays just 8 days apart. One never believes they will lose their younger brother in any scenario. As kids, we celebrated our birthdays together (see below). I was the well-behaved kid who never wanted to do anything wrong. He was a wild child, always getting into scrapes and crazy adventures. He did not care one bit about getting trouble. He lived for the thrill of mischief. Haha. He once jumped off a little booth thing at church and fell flat on the concrete knocking out his teeth. He also ran through our glass sliding glass door once, on the day we moved into our new apartment. When he was just a toddler, he closed our stroller on my toes and I had to go to the ER and get stitches. 🙂 The day he ran through the glass, he was so excited to be moving, playing with his friends – it was all an adventure with that one – he didn’t even know the door was closed. He ran straight through the glass. Needless to say, life with Matthew Philip was always a little wild.

Matt’s 3rd b-day, my 5th.

I love him dearly. My heart hurts. And I know I am only scratching the surface this evening as my mind fills with so many things. My main task in writing this, was to put it on “paper” – let the words flow through my fingers – to make it more real – because shock has been my primary “feeling” since I got the news. Shock and trying to figure out how to take care of my parents. I am heartbroken and I know this will be a long journey. I hurt for my parents. And I know there’s much to unpack. Tonight, my primary goal in filling this space with my words, is to think of that tenderhearted man and to feel. Feel the loss, but also the joy of memories.

Matt loved deeply. He was passionate about so many things, especially football. He was a great cook. He enjoyed it so much, I honestly always wished he would give a culinary career a shot. I think he missed a calling – in terms of his vocation. He would have been a kick ass chef. 😉 There are many more things to say. And maybe soon I’ll share some memories here. For now, I am not sure what to do next. All I can do for sure is make a promise to him that I won’t waste any more time.

I am devastated. My family is devastated. And I am not sure how to take the next step. All I know for sure is, I don’t want to do this alone.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

“I love you, whatever you do – But I got a life to live too…”

“I love you, whatever you do – But I got a life to live too…” – Brandi Carlile

As I wade through my options and look forward to the future – and to building the life I have waited so long for, there is one thing that feels . . . off. I guess it was bound to happen. It doesn’t surprise me that I’d get here – to the fork in the road and feel unsettled – in spite of knowing what I want and sensing the path I need to take to get there. As I hope & pray for a new opportunity – including one that may take me across the country, I know I’m taking more steps toward letting you go.

When I wrote “Wild Things” in August of 2020, I was already predicting this fate. It’s just really hard for me to give up and let go. I suck at it, to be honest. And so, as I throw my heart and soul into pursuing this life I’ve been waiting on, I do so knowing I’m also taking steps that seal my fate – settling into the cold, wild – alone.