After Matt went on hospice we had to come to terms with some harsh realities. We spent a lot of time talking about final plans, what he wanted, what we could do to make him comfortable. It was impossibly hard. We all cried, sometimes tears fell despite our best efforts to stop them.
Some really amazing things happened. His favorite British shop in Atlanta actually drove over some British food he really wanted to have again before he died. Friends came to surround him with love. He spent a lot of time holding our friend’s sweet baby. He was a sucker for a baby. He would geek out and get all weird until someone just handed him the baby and let him do his thing. He was so wonderful with kids. He wanted a house full of babies, and even though we weren’t able to have more than one, he never passed up an opportunity to make a silly face or hold a baby.
He reached out and told people how much he loved them. He gave his famous hugs freely. He loved. In life, and in death, he loved. And we loved him in those final weeks as much as we could.
When my friend Whitney contacted me and asked if she could come take final family pictures for us, I said yes. None of us looked our best. We were dying with him at that point. He wasn’t comfortable in actual clothes anymore so we found the softest blanket we could and decided it was ok if we just wrapped up in it with him.
When Whitney suggested lifestyle pictures, it really resonated with me. I wanted the last pictures we had together to not be posed and perfect, because that wasn’t our reality on a good day and it sure wasn’t then. He was adamant he put on a “proper shirt” and that he not wear his oxygen during the pictures. I wore yoga clothes, because let’s face it- that’s what I’m in 99.9% of the time. Quinn had multiple outfit changes because she’s extra. My hair was haphazardly thrown up in a messy bun. And not a “oh how cute I look!” messy bun. But an actual hot mess. It was our reality. And it was perfect.
Matt loved to read to Quinn. I cherish these shots so much.
He was so proud of that book. He found it for her on Amazon and loved so much that it covered their favorite things, Quinn and superheroes.
While he was reading his parents and I were choking back tears. Everyone in the house was, but Whitney caught these shots. They show the raw emotion and the magnitude of what we were watching happen. It was the last time he would ever read her a book. Seeing our faces in the photos makes me sob still.
She birthed him. They raised him. Loved him. He was everything in the world he was because of them. And he was so good. He was as close to perfect as a man can possibly be. And he was ours. How lucky were we all to have someone so amazing, even if for a brief moment in time?
His once strong shoulders were frail and you could feel every bone in his body where cancer had not swollen him, but we carefully loved on him.
When I was with both of them, everything was right in my world and in my head. I walk through the days lost now. I wake up and sometimes forget he’s not here. I reach for him in bed every morning and hit an empty pillow.
I never want to forget the way she looked at him. He was her hero and will always be. A little girl shouldn’t have to grow up without her daddy. He loved being her dad more than anything in the world. She was his dream come true. I see so much of him in her. We talk about him daily so she’ll always remember. The saddest thing is that she has no memory of him before cancer. He was the most fun dad, always chasing her around the house or yelling “milkshake time!” and loading her up in pajamas way past her bedtime to sugar her up. Nothing made him smile like she did.
She was his world. And he was hers.
And his parents. My heart breaks daily over their loss. Losing him has taken me out at the core. But had I lost my child I would need a padded room. They are incredibly strong for just making it through every day now.
The next ones really represent the daily crazy in our house. Me with my tea, him with his Red Bull , our little monster. Pinkies up. Silly faces.
And the dogs. He loved them so much. I know he’s laughing at every crazy thing they’ve done since he died. I’ll admit to talking out loud to him when I come home from work and they’ve destroyed something else. He wanted a house full of dogs and kids. I tried my best to make that happen for him.
And he got to see Quinn in the dress she would wear to his memorial service, a very special dress by Placard Originals. Natalie, I will forever love you for sending it to us early so we could have it just in case. Dumbo was their ride at Disney World. Her first ride ever, and always theirs together. He didn’t want us to wear all black. He thought it would scare her. I’m so grateful that, looking out the day of his funeral, I saw color. Because to him that meant a celebration. His whole life was one big celebration.
And then he did what he had done hundreds of times throughout our relationship. From our tiny apartment in Atlanta, to the top of the Empire State Building, parks, hotels, gas stations, hospitals, the kitchen and living room in every house we ever lived in together, too many places to name- we danced.
We danced when we were happy. We danced when we were sad. Daily dance parties. But throughout our relationship when he saw me melting down, he would grab me and yell to Alexa to play one of his go-to songs and we would slow dance and everything else in the world didn’t exist.
This was our last dance.
I never want to forget the way his arms felt around me. I never want to forget the way he smelled, how soft his skin was, and how his eyes sparkled when he looked at me, and his million dollar smile. I don’t know much. But I know I will never be loved again like he loved me. I used to tell people that other people may say they love their husbands, but I LOVED my husband. With all of our faults, with everything wrong with both of us- he was my person. He could disarm me with a look. He could calm me with a few words. I feel like most days I’m spiraling without him. The loss is raw and real and huge.
He left us with so many Matt-isms. One of my favorite things he used to say to me was “You and me, baby, til the wheels fall off”. I feel like the wheels fell off on August 10th and we’ve just been hitchhiking through life since then.
I would give anything in the world to live the life we lived together over one more time. Exactly as it was- messy, crazy, the good stuff and the bad stuff. I would take the pain of loss of babies, the moves, the heartache and the celebrations, the pain of his diagnosis- all of it. Because the good stuff was so good. And it far outweighed the bad.
Whitney gave our family a gift we didn’t know we needed. I’m so grateful for these pictures.
I hope that as Quinn grows up she can look back on these and remember life as normal as it could be that day. I hope she never forgets that sparkle in his eyes and how his arms felt around her and I hope it carries her. I saved his shirt in hopes that someday it can be her “something blue” when she gets married.
One of his favorite songs to direct Alexa to play for us to dance to was “Shelter” by Ray LaMontagne. He would mouth the words to me and kiss me right after his favorite line-
“Listen when all of this around us will fall over
I tell you what we’re gonna do
You will shelter me, my love
And I, I will shelter you”
I’d give anything to dance with him just one more time.