I spent most of my day is a surprisingly quiet house. Harper was at school and the dogs were still, perhaps due to the lack of foot traffic on the sidewalk in front of our house. Each on of them curled up on their individual couch cushion, ears occasionally perking at the sound of a police siren or a dog’s bark. It was overcast, the clouds bringing a strange heavy calmness.
I needed to be alone with my thoughts today. Last night I found out at a friend of mine from high school committed suicide. We were never very close but we operated in the same social circle. There are pictures of us together, somewhere, printed and in a book.There might even be one of us taped to the wall in my teenage bedroom right now, in a huddle of people with wide grins, sharing too little space. Some of his best friends from back then are still my best friends today. We spent a lot of time in the same company.
My two most vibrant memories of him are spread out by 10 years of time, which feels like a lot. It is in the span of a lifetime that lasted just barely a quarter of a century. The first and perhaps the strongest memory I have of Matt is from Halloween, maybe my sophomore year of high school? The farther I get from Paraclete, the harder it is to put events in chronological order. Anyway, he was dressed as Clark Kent and on my way into class he held the door for me. When I said “Thank you” his reply was “That’s what I’m here for” and pointed to the blue, red and gold S peeking out from in between the undone buttons of his dress shirt.
The other memory isn’t from that long ago. We hadn’t spoken much, outside of a couple of Facebook comments, since the summer after high school. I moved away from home to go to college, without the shared community, we didn’t have that much to say to each other. Then a few months ago, he texted me. He was in nursing school, and wanted to know how I had juggled grad school and a baby and being a person at the same time. We talked for hours, about how much had changed since high school. How stupid we had been when we younger. How being stupid had been fun and the feeling of invincibility had been both amazing and fleeting. How he had gotten off track for a while, falling out of touch with the majority of our shared friends, and just recently felt like he was back on the right path. Talking to him was cathartic and freeing. It had been so long since we had last spoken, it was almost like talking to a stranger with whom I couldn’t shake the feeling I had met somewhere before.
It makes me overwhelmingly sad to think of him without a shred of hope to keep him from taking his own life. I laid in bed late last night, the slow drip of tears and snot drying on my pillow, trying hard not to think of anything at all. Eventually, I crawled over Guy and went to sit on the floor next to Harper’s bed, leaning against a bookcase and I listened to her breathe; It is hard for me to to look at anything without the mom filter anymore. I prayed she will always know that each breath she takes has worth and weight in this world. I couldn’t sleep so I sat there for a long time, until every part of me began to ache. I laid in bed, starting at the pattern in the ceiling drywall. I texted a dear, dear friend in Japan, feeling very fragile in my humanity as can often be the case at 2:00 AM and then I closed my eyes.
Maybe I have no right to even write this, as I’ve said Matt and I weren’t that close. There are probably a hundred people who could write a better more inclusive memorial in his honor and I hope they do. I want to know him better now that it suddenly feel like I didn’t know him much at all. I struggled in high school. I don’t think its any stretch of the imagination to say there were days when I thought life would be easier if I wasn’t living it anymore. I will always remember Matt as a cute, friendly boy who was nice to me at a time in my life when a lot of people weren’t. It t meant a lot to me then; it still means a lot to me now.
One of our mutual friends has put together a memorial fund in his honor. All the money raised will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Please consider donating to this incredibly important cause in his honor. More information can be found here –> Matthew Leone Memorial Fundraiser on CrowdRise
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone. Please ask for help. There are people who love you. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
*The photo of Matt playing the air guitar isn’t mine. It was taken by a friend but he bust out in heart felt air guitar solos so often, any one of us might have taken this.
Written by Rachel Brandt