Posts Tagged ‘matthew aydelott’

Matt was my big brother. But he was so much more than that to me. He was my best friend, my idol, my hero. We talked and emailed every day, and even though we lived halfway across the country from one another, we saw each other five, six, seven times a year – sometimes more. And that was my brother’s doing – he’d fly out to Chicago on a moment’s notice – when there was a good show in town, for a party, or, more often than not, for no reason at all. And I looked forward to those trips like nothing else, and he never disappointed. We’d have more fun than most people ever allow themselves to have. He was the king of having a good time.

Now, Matt was five years older than me, and because of that our relationship had a bit of a rocky start. Apparently when I was born he was pretty upset that I didn’t pop out a fully-formed five-year-old ready to play with him. As we grew up together, Matt began to appreciate his role in our relationship, forcing me to do his bidding, usually with a good punch in the shoulder for kicks. But of course he was a good big brother. Pop music plays an embarrassingly important role in my life, and I have Matt to thank for that. I was listening to AC/DC when I was 6. And because of Matt I was a true fan. We’re talking Bon Scott-era AC/DC here. But the life-changing moment came in 1984, when I was 9. On a Saturday morning, I was sleeping in (I’ve never been a morning person), and a song, played loudly on my brother’s stereo, passing through our shared wall, seeped into my dreams, honestly providing a soundtrack to a Scooby-Doo cartoon in my mind. I woke up, ran into Matt’s room, where he proudly told me we were listening to “Pretty Persuasion”, a song off of his new R.E.M. record, Reckoning. From that moment on, I was a different person, thanks to my big brother.

Our relationship changed from a sibling bond to a true friendship after I went away to College. Matt drove out to upstate New York from Minneapolis to bring me home at the end of my freshman year. We partied for a couple of days, and then we made the trek to the Midwest, via Canada. As road trips tend to do, it gave us a chance to get to know each other as near-adults, and we discovered that we had a ton in common, and that we actually really, really liked one another.

After I graduated, we took another road trip – through the South with my dear cousins Emily and Jenny. That was an epic trip – one for the books. Little Rock, Graceland, Tupelo, Natches, Memphis. Matt and I laughed so hard at everything – Elvis, our cousins, ourselves. We all bonded quite a bit on that trip. And again Matt and I realized how much we liked each other, how well we got along. It was really then that we realized we were each other’s best friends.

When I married Deb, Matt was my best man. Many of you were there to see his toast – really quite possibly the best toast ever given. Ever. Matt was an incredible speaker – a skill he learned here at Cuesta – and when he took the microphone he dramatically ripped up the speech he had written and did it off-the-cuff. And he let it all out, saying the nicest things anyone could ever say about anybody. It was so touching, so moving, and it’s a memory that will last with me forever.

Like all of you here, I’ve been thinking about Matt constantly these last two weeks. I feel fortunate that I got to have a great weekend with him in Chicago just a few weeks back, another in Maine just before that, and an unforgettable one in Vegas just before that. Over those three weekends, Matt was such a joy to be around, as he always was. He was so smart, so compassionate, and so, so funny. He was easy to talk to, to laugh with – to laugh at – and everywhere we went together, he made things so easy for me. He could engage anyone in a meaningful conversation, and he’d always keep an eye on me, drawing me into his good times. He was so great, yet so modest; he enriched my life beyond words every moment we spent together.

Matt, my best friend, I’m going to miss you so, so much. To quote the Boss, and I truly mean this, “When they made you brother, they broke the mold.”

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I have spent these last few weeks trying to make sense of what happened to my cousin Matt. In fact – like so many of us here in this room – I have hardly thought about anything else. It is inconceivable that someone I loved so much, for so much of my life, could be gone in an instant. In the days after he died, I thought about that moment: the moment that marked the boundary between a time when Matt was still with us, here, in the present, and when, in a fraction of a second, he crossed over into the past. I thought about where I was and what I was doing at that moment, and was shocked to discover that it had been an ordinary stretch of time, like any other. I felt outraged that there had been no sign, no cataclysmic event, to indicate that the world had changed in such a profound and violent way: a clap of thunder would have been appropriate, or, even better, an earthquake; a shifting of the foundations, the ground under my feet, that had once felt stable and secure. I thought, Anything can happen now; anything is possible, now that this impossible thing has happened.

And yet, as difficult as it has been to confront this instantaneous and irrevocable loss, the greater challenge – the real puzzle in all of this, for me – is how to reconcile the Matt I knew with the person who, before dawn on a late summer morning, made a choice that he couldn’t take back. This is the mystery that has preoccupied me every minute since that day, and has left me searching through the details of his life for an explanation; because nothing I knew about him could possibly offer one.

The Matt I knew could see the humor in any situation. In fact, he was the funniest person I have ever known. He could turn the most uncomfortable or painful moment around by calling attention to the awkwardness and absurdity of it through his dry, irreverent wit. If he were here today, he would find a way to laugh. He would use his exceptional talents as a public speaker to say something hilarious and uplifting to us all, and leave us with a reassuring message of hope. Then, afterwards, he would join us at the bar for a beer. Matt knew how to enjoy himself, and took obvious pleasure in the time he spent with the people he cared about. To me, he was the unique and indescribable combination of family member and friend, and every minute I spent with him was cause for celebration.

Although Matt was well-known for his humor, his wit sometimes served to conceal the depth of his feeling and the intensity of his intellect, which revealed themselves in glimpses, through the music he loved, in particular his preference for haunting, melancholy ballads; and the writers he admired and who influenced his own writing, such as Richard Ford, whose work is complex, challenging, and infused with longing. Matt was deeply and selflessly committed to helping others, and this was reflected in both his politics and his professional life. He was an outspoken and unapologetic liberal who believed in offering assistance to those in need, and he held to this belief in principle and in practice. He was passionate about developing educational and career opportunities for the young people of San Luis Obispo county, and although he accomplished a great deal on their behalf, he never spoke about his work in terms of his own achievements; his reward came from observing the success of those he advised and taught. He was motivated, above all, by kindness, compassion, and empathy for those around him.

Perhaps most importantly, the Matt I knew would have taken the advice he would have given to anyone in this room: to reach out, to share the burden, to seek help from those of us who were so willing to provide it. He would have known how much he meant to his family, his friends, and his community, and how much we all loved him. He would have known how much I loved him.

What sense, then, can I make of what happened to Matt? How can I put these facts together – the fact of who he was, and the fact of the choice he made? The answer, simply, is that he was in pain; for whatever reason, he was in more pain than any of us realized. And pain has a way of taking over; of taking possession of every thought; of making your choices for you; of drowning out the truth so that you can’t see the other parts of your life: your talents, your worth, and the people who love you unconditionally and would do anything to help you. Pain has its own voice, and it lies.

Matt’s pain is over now; but the person he was is still with us, in those of us who loved him. He will continue to inspire us, to remind us of the humor and absurdity of life, of how to give selflessly, how to enjoy ourselves, how to laugh, and how to appreciate the people we love. These are the qualities I admired most in the Matt I knew; and my memory of the person he was is true, and unalterable, and needs no explanation. This memory will always be with me, even if he can’t be.

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I want you to know about Matthew from a mother’s perspective and with my insight from having known and loved him dearly for nearly 39 years,. He was a beautiful and precocious child – I am certain that is no surprise to any of you.

He was graced with a gift for humor and wit (which I so envied) and an amazing capacity for story telling, which he could also put to paper with ease and fluidity.

He was well read beyond anyone I knew and we dueled often together over our knowledge and enjoyment of words and their meaning with the utmost respect and enjoyment. We regularly shared and discussed our favorite books – something I will miss greatly. I can recommend Peace Like a River by Leif Enger – a Minnesota author – from both of us.

He treasured his Richard Ford and Cormac McCarthy books – which may provide insight to another layer of who Matthew was.

He kept his personal pain inside, but he spread a very special – his own form – of joy to so many. He treasured his friends and his colleagues and the young people he worked with at Cuesta more than you can possibly know. And you all brought a special form of delight and reward to him that truly mattered. It was of the utmost importance to Matthew that he make a difference in the lives of others.

In spite of that, I don’t think there is anyone on the face of this earth that he loved more than his brother, Nathan. Together they demonstrate the meaning of love and devotion and were beyond entertaining to those around them.

I know that you all knew that Matthew was an amazingly caring soul. Through my own personal ordeal of the past two years – Matthew was there for me in every way possible – from figuring out how to not faint – his normal reaction – over some rather gory details – to making me laugh out loud when there was very little to laugh about.

I don’t need to tell you that a mother’s love for her children surpasses that of life itself. Matthew has surpassed that love as both a son and a friend. He was a very special child and adult, who has always had a sweet, giving and sensitive heart. In spite of his times of anguish, Matthew wanted to be what he viewed as perfect; as good as he thought he should be and sadly he could not see that to all of us he was.

Children are supposed to outlive their parents – my sorrow is beyond words – but I am blessed – as any of you who know me well know – to have had a closeness and special friendship with this dear man, my first-born son. I will miss him so much. He filled my life with love and I could not have loved him more.

Thank you on behalf of Matthew and his family for being here and for your gift of friendship and love.

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A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008, at the Cuesta College Conference Center.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Matthew Aydelott Endowment for Youth, Cuesta College Foundation, P.O. Box 8106, San Luis Obispo, CA 93403.

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Remembering Matt

Matt was born in September 1969 in Decatur, Ill., and spent his formative years in Minneapolis. He attended Breck School, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, and attained his bachelor of science degree from Excelsior College. 

Matt worked for Cuesta College in the Workforce Economic Development Department. He started as job developer for the CalWorks Program in February 2000 mentoring students on welfare as they transitioned back into the workplace. He had a knack for finding the right opportunity for people overcoming life obstacles.

In 2002, Matt initiated a workplace readiness class for underserved, high-risk students throughout the county. By 2007, this program had grown to serve more than 400 youth per year. Matt also directed the Summer Bridge to Success program for 25 graduates of the workplace readiness class.

In 2007, Matt became supervisor of the Independent Living Program, in conjunction with the Department of Social Services, which provides supportive services to foster youth in San Luis Obispo County. His vision was to see all foster youth acquire the skills and resources they need to succeed in life as they leave foster care at the age of 18. Matt had a unique ability to connect with youth, especially those struggling to find their way in life.

In his private life, Matt was passionate about music, politics, literature, and creative writing. Anyone who knew Matt knew how much he enjoyed listening to U2 and The Replacements; reading Harper Lee and Richard Ford; and voting Democratic. And Matt could not have been more articulate about these passions. 

Everyone who knew Matt valued his wit, intelligence and compassion. Above all else, Matt treasured his family and his many friends.

Matt will be deeply missed by his friends at Cuesta and DSS; his ILP staff; the many young people he helped through Cuesta; the countless friends he’s made in Minneapolis, Chicago, California and throughout the country; and his loving mother, brother, sister-in-law, father, maternal grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

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