Dying and Living

blood vessels within my heart
A visual inside my heart during a catheter procedure.

I am still in a danger zone, but resting with friends and family today, especially my Alison. 

Alison, my constant companion, reading to me.

Hospitals are certainly not perfect, but I would have died without one and without the actions of my wife and my cousin Mechell who acted so swiftly. So many important moments we never remember – but others do, because they acted when we could not. Our lives are not our own only. 

We live on to love and make art and ask great questions, even if only for a short time – and even the longest life is a mere half-half-breath of the universe. We perceive our realities through such feeble – yet remarkably robust – senses. That contradiction is what makes us know and dream of God, or find great joy in Keats, or learn to (start to) understand Nabokov, or sing in protest with Miss Nina Simone.

Living on means recognizing the value in every human life. It means rejecting the thinking that sees that sentiment as merely sentiment and not a life value. Living on means understanding privilege and working against it when it creates enclaves of inequality. Living on means looking for of gains for everyone – from the streets of Cidade de Deus to the house next door. And if you don’t believe that, maybe you’ve not lived and lived close enough to death. 

Untitled Work in progress, oil on panel, 24×24 inches.

Living on means paying attention. My students at all levels learn that my classes are about awareness and attention, far more than they are about specific skills.

Many thanks in these hours close to death goes to my wife, Alison, my cousins Chris and Sarah and Mechell, and my Aunt Beth, Aunt Cathy, Aunt Sue and Uncle Roger (who helped coordinate things and met Alison at the Hospital). 

Of course, my Mom and Pastor Dan have been there nonstop taking care of my three rambunctious kiddos. Couldn’t recuperate without that vital help.  

Also, the example of Jake and Ali Gonzalez of how to live honorably in proximity to death. And the dedication and passion of Deborah Huelsbergen, who has taught me to love me students more than grades or curricula.   

There are so many more I could shout out to, like my brothers Daniel (and fiancée  Sharon!) and David (that’s his knitting above) and my sisters Stacey and Denya… Denya knew how to live and love close to death most of her life. And when death took her last Sunday, it could not take the values she gave to her daughters, to me, or to my kids. 

We live close to death. Do we believe it? Do we seek to redeem the time? Let’s make the most of it. 

PS: it also helps to keep Mr C nearby with random hamburgers….

9 thoughts on “Dying and Living

  1. Matthew,
    So Big Guy! You live on……I did not even know there was a problem. I am certainly happy you pulled through.
    There are so many unbelievably beautiful things you have said that we haven’t even figured out yet. Like, who was that guy and what did he do? When? Who? We need you here as those truths filter out. It’s that old, ‘wheat from the chaff ‘ thing again, without you there is the danger of misinterpretation……. Mixing the A sees with the B sees, we can’t have that now.

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  3. Hello Matt,
    You don’t know me, and I haven’t seen you since you were a baby. I am your aunt, the crazy old Aunt Martha everyone is supposed to have. (Although I go by Marty these days.)
    I wanted to say a few things. First of all, my sympathy to all of you on Denya’s death, who I remember as a beautiful, loving and smart little girl. As you may know, I lost my lovely daughter Kate very unexpectedly in September. She was 35 and left a two-month old daughter. I understand what your family is going through. I am glad to know that you have faith to sustain you; I do not.
    Secondly, it was a shock to hear of your own brush with death. My sister Linda kept me updated on your progress (your dad will NEVER get a cell phone!!), and I am relieved to see that you are now recuperating at home. My wishes for your continued recovery and future good health!
    Lastly, I love your art work. I know you’ve heard all the superlatives, so I’ll skip it. The other day when I was looking at some of your stuff I came upon the painting of Marv. I cried. ‘Nuff said.
    Good luck, Matt. Please remember me to your mom. I always loved her so much!

    • Aunt Marty, thank you so much for writing! It has been a strange few weeks to say the least. I appreciate you reaching out. Thanks for the kind words on my work, too. Hoping for many more years of making it.

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