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.

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)”

“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.

What Comes Next?

“I hope
you can find
peace
while
breathing
deep
without
knowing
what
comes
next.”
– Morgan Harper Nichols

What I know for certain is that life is uncertain. Making decisions about the future is tough sometimes. As I apply for jobs in California and various other locations around the country, the unknowns are mounting. What I don’t know, far outweighs what I do know. The challenge in moments like these is to keep my eyes fixed on God. My goal throughout this journey is being at peace with whatever comes my way.

I’m always up for an adventure. It has been awhile since I’ve had one, however. I think I’m due for one. So while I don’t know where the path is leading, I’m at peace.

Counting Down to Vacation

When I leave work on Friday, I will be on vacay until May 2nd. I cannot wait. I am counting down to vacation.

I’m on my back patio as I write this. It’s 7:10 and I should be starting my Sunday evening routine. But I am not ready for Monday and so I’m sitting here as the wind blows through the trees and as my playlist , plays – pretending it’s not time for me to wind down. The good news is, when I get home from work in the early evening and it’s still light out – I will make my way back out there.

So what happens on vacation? Rest. Projects at home. Writing. And the Beaufort Wine & Food Festival . This year, I’ve only bought tickets to one event. I’ll be volunteering at three others. I’m excited for that this year as something different.

Abby approves of the patio.

Speaking of wine – I’ve been making more deliberate choices when it comes to wine. I am choosing specific wines I’ve learned about through a variety of podcasts or on SOMM TV (yes, I subscribe to a streaming service about wine). Food & wine people are my favorite. Wine people more specifically. I adore them. When I used to attend wine dinners or wine tastings regularly, one thing I loved was how you could be with the most random people – from all walks of life – and have the best time even though you might initially think you don’t have anything in common. There is always, always something to find in common with folks.

Anyway…I’m working on being more deliberate in my choices when it comes to wine. But recently, I decided that I’d try a wine that I was drawn to only for it’s name. Hampton Water. I mean, weird. It’s a French rosé.

Hampton Water & its annoying glass “cork.”

Here’s the thing, it has a glass cork. I’ve never seen this before. I literally had to watch a video to learn how to open the wine. But I didn’t just have to watch a video, after the second time trying to open it (took me a half hour), I left it open on the counter – refusing to cork it again. Lol. “Vivino” – an app I use – decided that I would like this bottle and expected me to rate it 4.0 stars. I did not rate it 4 stars. I rated it 3. But now that I’m several days from trying it, I’m not sure if I rated it 3 because it wasn’t great or because I was so annoyed at how hard it was to open. I’m leaning toward the latter. I may try it again (if someone else opens it).

This guy is not bad. It’s on the cheaper end of what I’ve buying lately. But I have been enjoying it more than the more expensive Hampton Water. I love the stories that accompany the wines I’ve been choosing. And though I didn’t choose this Bordeaux wine for its story, choosing a wine with a high price point or its bottle or name is pretty pointless. I’d much rather drink a “cheaper” bottle over a trendier wine, at a higher price point – if I don’t enjoy it. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But people are out there doing that and it seems pointless.

Instead, move to where you want to live, do what you want to do, start what you want to start, and create the life you want to live today.

Dale Partridge

As I head into my last five days before a break of nine days, I am determined – more now than ever before – to create a life that I don’t feel a desperate need to get away from. It’s a phrase used frequently. I think it’s probably seen as cliché-ish, but as with many things that get overused – there’s still some truth to it.

My goal in the coming weeks and moths is to do just that.

P.S. Another 50 by 50 goal – learn how to make my own wine!