To Matt, from Wales with Love

In the weeks leading up to Matt’s death in August, he was desperate to go home to England. He wanted so badly to take our daughter to all of the places we are taking her now without him. He wasn’t physically able to make the trip, but that didn’t stop him from looking at flights and trying to get himself back to the places he loved and the people he loved. Telling him he couldn’t go was heartbreaking, but I truly think he would’ve died on the plane.

Matt had very specific requests for where he would like his ashes spread, but the most important place was in Wales where he vacationed his whole life. He spoke so fondly of his time in Wales and I knew if he was telling me a story about his time there, it was going to be a good one.

Wales is every bit as dreamy as I imagined from his stories. Our first night, friends that are like family to him welcomed us with a beautiful dinner party. We met people who we had previously only known through stories Matt told about them. We hugged and wiped away tears and felt so loved by the people that loved Matt so much. That has been the theme for the weekend, because yesterday as I met his closest group of friends, I fought hard to choke back the tears.

The love and laughter they shared with Matt was so important to him that he made me promise to bring him here and make it one of his final resting places. So yesterday at noon while the tide was out, we gathered in front of the holiday chalets he spoke often about. I could almost see him at different stages of his life, running back and forth with his friends. Seeing our daughter run around on the same ground he did was magical. She was full of excitement.

Quinn at Daddy’s favorite place in the world

She found a shovel and, unprompted by any of us, began drawing in the sand.

She wrote “I love you”. It took my breath away thinking about her leaving messages in the sand to her dad.

Leading up to this day, I worried about how she would handle it. The day we flew to England, I had to explain to her what cremated remains were. It was the week before Christmas, and there was no way I was carrying a box through the airport without her curious little 6 year old mind wanting to see what was inside. I gently explained to her that morning before we left for the airport and, in true Matt’s-child-fashion, she shrugged and said “That’s creepy” and moved on about her day. Her honest opinion of everything gives me so much life. That day of travel with her provided me much me needed comic relief when she would loudly say “Mama, don’t forget Daddy in the box!” every time we moved from one area of the airport to another. Never a dull moment.

When it was time to spread the ashes, we all gathered around her drawing. We had no real plans of how to do any of this, so the fact that it just organically happened made it all the more beautiful. She continued to add to her drawing. She drew our little family of three and then she wrote “I love my dad”.

I said a few words. I didn’t prepare them ahead of time and I’m glad I didn’t, because I focused on what he wanted me to tell the people he loved the most. He wanted them all to know how much he loved them and how special they were to him. I kept it simple.

He did want me to play a song, Better Man by Robbie Williams, Live at Knebworth. He must have listened to that version of that song a million times over the course of the 7 years I knew him, right up until the day he died. He loved it.

I played it on my phone as the small ceramic jar that held him was passed from person to person. Everyone gently sprinkled him over the “I love you” that Quinn had drawn in the sand.

Original artwork by Quinn Smith

A bottle of champagne was popped and poured and eventually, just passed around and swigged out of. There was also a flask of honey rum from Spain, which I thought was a beautiful touch because Matt also loved Tenerife. Just like he wanted, it was a celebration. He was always the life of the party.

When the tide comes in, it will wash over her drawing and take him out into the sea he loved in a place he loved. We will always be able to come back here and know that part of him will never leave.

Matt, we love you. Hearing the stories yesterday about running from cows and vodka slushies and all the trouble you got yourself in and out of through the years was good for my heart. I promised you I’d bring you here. You must have known how much we needed to meet your people and how loved we would be by them in this moment. You loved Wales, and Wales loved you right back. Still does and always will. It was a part of you and you’ll forever be a part of it now.

Send someone to love me
I need to rest in arms
Keep me safe from harm
In pouring rain

Give me endless summer
Lord I fear the cold
Feel I’m getting old
Before my time

As my soul heals the shame
I will grow through this pain
Lord I’m doing all I can
To be a better man

Go easy on my conscience
‘Cause it’s not my fault
I know I’ve been taught
To take the blame

Rest assured my angels
Will catch my tears
Walk me out of here
I’m in pain

As my soul heals the shame
I will grow through this pain
Lord I’m doing all I can
To be a better man

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