13 Thoughts about Matt

When I turned 40, my therapist urged me to have my wife ask friends and family for reflections on me—things they liked about me, fond memories, funny anecdotes. She did that, presenting me with a stack of loving thoughts that continues to nourish my soul. For my fiftieth birthday, she gave me a similar gift, posting kind words of friends around the room at the best party I’ve ever had. Since then it has occurred to me that too often we don’t express our loving thoughts and memories of the most important people in our lives until it’s too late and we’re left standing in front of fellow mourners at a funeral, regretting what we’ve left unsaid. So, when a friend mentioned that her brother has now been sober for 13 years and mused that “it could be sweet for a handful of those dear to him to each compile 13 words, thoughts, or memories that reflect how grateful we are that Matt is healthy, happy, and in our lives,” it was obvious to me that this is an opportunity I must not squander. With that, I present:

Thirteen thoughts about my friend Matt
in honor of his 13 years of sobriety

  1. When Matt was a teenager, I was struck by his charisma. Although I was a few years older and in college, I found myself wanting to be more like this high school student.
  2. Matt had an enviable social ease, coupled with a boundless curiosity and delight in others, that made people instantly fall in love with him and want to be his best friend. I suspect many people believed—and still believe—that he is their best friend. That’s impossible, of course, because he’s my best friend.
  3. Matt was one of the hippest kids I knew. I remember wanting to introduce him to new music from edgy “College wave” bands, only to find out he had already been listening to it well before it reached my ears.
  4. While Matt was wise and mature beyond his years, he also had a very silly side. One night during a retreat we attended, an adult informed us that it was time for “lights out.” What transpired next is fuzzy in my memory, but it ended up with Matt running around the room, bouncing on beds, and exclaiming, “I rebuke you! I rebuke you!”
  5. Matt and I fell out of touch for many years, but I never forgot him and often wondered where his life had taken him.
  6. I can’t recall who reached out to whom, but about five years ago we reconnected on Facebook. As much as I loathe Facebook, I am immeasurably grateful that it helped bring Matt back into my life.
  8. The first time I got to hang out with Matt as an adult, I was vacationing with my family in New York City. While the rest of the family went to see the musical “Come From Away,” I met up with Matt at a Manhattan restaurant for dinner. Seeing the musical was one of the highlights of my family’s year. Seeing Matt was the highlight of mine.
  9. While we caught each other up on where our lives had taken us, Matt spoke about his addiction with candor and grace. I was moved by his willingness to share such a painful period of his life with me. What impressed me the most, though, was his compassion for his “former self.” Compassion for others is one of the hallmarks of Matt’s character, and I believe it would not be nearly as profound if he weren’t able to turn that inward as well.
  10. I’ve had the great pleasure and honor of introducing Matt to a couple other friends of mine in NYC. They, too, have struggled with their own addictions, and Matt has been a source of wisdom and comfort to them both.
  11. Perhaps the fastest way to a parent’s heart is to show an interest in that parent’s children. Whenever we’ve gotten together with Matt, he has lavished attention on my kids. Whenever his name comes up in conversation, their reaction is always the same, “Oh, I love him. He is so nice!”
  12. Over the years I’ve noticed that the world is full of silent heroes—people who spread joy, kindness, and hope to others without any fanfare. As should be evident to all who have read this far, Matt is one of those heroes.
  13. I love you, Matt!
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