Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Greatest romance of all time

This is the talk I gave at Mat's funeral. I'm glad I spoke, although I'm surprised I could get any words out.

* * * *

When I was 25, and he was 26, Mat and I attended the same singles congregation. Despite the fact that the congregation was not that big, it took us a few months to meet. I was dating a blot named Andrew at the time, so I was a little elusive at church, showing up late and leaving promptly at the end. Mat had noticed me, though, and he and his friends dubbed me “Tall Mysterious Kim” or TMK. (This was before he learned to call me Kimberly.)

The nickname distinguished me from the woman Mat was dating, whose name was Kim. She was 19, so she became “Teen Kim.” My alternate title was “Geriatric Kim.”

Mat and I finally did meet, and both Andrew and Teen Kim were quickly dispensed with.

Mat totally changed my life. He was tall, good looking, funny, smart, and deeply spiritual. Never in my wildest teenage dreams had I imagined someone as wonderful as Mat. At first I tried to hide all my flaws from him, but he was totally honest with me, and I quickly learned that I could be totally honest with him.

We were engaged four months after our first date, and married nine months after that. From the beginning, I felt that our relationship had a fairy tale quality to it, although we didn’t exactly get married and live happily ever after.

I think it’s fair to say that much of the last 13 years has been very, very stressful. There were months of full-time travel for Mat, job insecurity with the tech bubble burst, miscarriages, and, of course, nearly six years of cancer.

Despite these stresses, the last 13 years have been happy. Of course we fought sometimes, but Mat has been completely devoted to me, and I to him. We have loved being together, had fun together, and trusted each other. And even when chemotherapy and cancer made him miserable, Mat figured out how to be a good dad, and he has two beautiful boys who want to be just like him.

Despite all the hard things we faced together, I also knew from the beginning that God had a hand in our relationship, and that we really were meant to be together. One of our bishops said to us, “The Lord is pleased with your union.” I believe that is true, and that our relationship will go down in history as one of the great romances of all time.

Someone said, quite accurately, the problem with death is that the person is just so gone.

That resonates with me, and yet I sense that the leavening that Mat added to my life is not gone. A lot of this has to do with how Mat lived his life over the course of his illness, and especially at the end. He felt at peace, and he worked very hard to make his passing as gentle as possible for many of us, having dozens of conversations to say goodbye and comfort those of us who are heartbroken that he is gone. I think he also waited to leave – suffering many extra months – until I was as ready as I could be for his passing.

Mat believed, and I firmly believe, that we will see each other again, that we will be a family again. That can feel like cold comfort when I expect that reunion to be 40 or 50 years from now. But the miracle is that I feel the power of the plan of salvation right now. I feel a comfort and peace that I didn’t expect.

I don’t pretend that the weeks, months, and years ahead will not be very, very hard. I cannot do anything but take one day at a time or I might drown. But God is with us, His hand is still in our lives – maybe more now than ever – and over the last few weeks I have felt that every day.

Elder Uchtdorf said that ultimately every story has a happy ending. I believe that. In a very real way, Mat is not gone. Our fairy tale will have a happy ending.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

This is Not Over

This is not over. Far from it.

It's been 17 days.

People ask me how I am, and I have a hard time coming up with an answer. "I got out of bed this morning," I say sometimes.

I don't want to get out of bed. I'm fighting an overwhelming urge to stay there. I worried that I would not be able to revisit the place where Mat died, in bed, in the guest bedroom that we moved into when Mat could no longer climb stairs very well. Far from avoiding the room, I find that I feel the most peaceful there.

Part of it must be my craving to fill the void he's left. I want to sleep where he slept, and wear his clothes (the jeans that are a couple of inches too long -- those are Mat's), read everything I can find that he has written, and be with his friends. Mat gave me permission to read his journals, and I did. (I probably would have anyway.)

At least one of my siblings has been staying with us since Mat died, so we are being well taken care of. Dozens of people are offering help and support and encouragement, all of which is making this much easier than it might otherwise be.

Now if only I could sleep.