My mom & I returned from California about a week ago. I pulled into my driveway about midnight last Monday. I wasn’t prepared to return. I didn’t want to return. I went back to work on Wednesday and by the afternoon, I had a fever and joint/muscle aches. I’ve been down for the count ever since.
Our bodies are funny. My body was obviously trying to tell me it had, had enough. The last few weeks have been terribly stressful and difficult – mixed in with the grief. There’s not a whole lot I know right now. But I know that the lifestyle changes I’ve wanted for so long are absolute necessities now. Being sick this week just drives that point home even more clearly than before.
I don’t know what the future holds for me. I am praying about that though. I have two more days at home before heading back to work on Tuesday. I will continue to rest as my body has demanded. I hope that in the coming weeks I’ll get into a better writing routine and updating here, as well.
All around, I’m not ready to be home – though I’ve been here for nearly a week. But I am ready to be feeling better and gaining clarity about what the future holds for me. In my gut I think I know the answer. I hope I have the patience to pull it off.
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.
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)”
“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.