Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Remembering Matt

Over the past year, on only a couple of occasions, I heard from my friend and former co-worker Matt White. They were our first communications since I left our shared employer and moved to New Zealand. He was checking in on my doings in the new world, providing intel on the old--the kind of pleasant surprise you get every now and again when you move far away from everyone you know.

It was good to hear from him. Like a number of my erstwhile colleagues, however, he'd been laid off. (In any number of ways, I got out just in the nick of time.) That wasn't exactly fun stuff, but he had plans to return to school, and that was encouraging. Shortly before my departure he suffered a stroke and was in hospital, and so we didn't have a proper farewell; and to be honest I didn't know how he had fared afterwards. To hear him tell it, though, over two years down the track, things seemed to be looking up.

Yesterday I heard from a mutual friend that Matt was murdered in his sleep by his wife. Horrible, shocking, senseless. The details at this early date are few but unhappy.

I can't claim to have known Matt well. At 6'11" he was the tallest person I knew. He loved sailing. He'd gone to Penn, led its basketball team to the Final Four in 1979, and after being drafted by the Portland Trailblazers played professional basketball in Europe for a number of years.

I worked closely with Matt. He was a member of the software documentation team whose work I edited. He was a very good technical writer, smart, frightfully thorough, and an expert in e-learning. I remember interviewing Matt for the position and reviewing his respectable work history (including upper management), education (Wharton MBA), the seemingly idyllic life he left behind in Spain, and--let's be honest--the romance of his former career and wondering why this fellow wanted to take what must have been a hefty pay cut to write instruction manuals for credit union software. (To be fair, this is exactly what I was wondering of myself.)

He was a good hire. He picked up the software quickly. He did his work well and he did it fast. He kept his head down. When we talked, it was of Europe and his days abroad and my several trips there. It was exciting, this glimmer of another life, of travel. It wasn't rooted in the distant past, or nostalgia, or even of hope tied to a distant star. It was something he had done, something real that could be done. I can't say he influenced me directly in my decision to live abroad, but he more than most knew the appeal of other places and how they can take us out of ourselves in the most wondrous ways.

He also drank more coffee than any person I've ever met, with the possible exception of my dad's friend Larry Ironsides.

No, I didn't know him well, you know. I can't speak to his domestic or his interior life. I didn't have his confidence. But I mourn his passing. And maybe that's just how it is with those who for a time play a significant part of our daily life. We don't know what angels and devils reside on their shoulders, nor the trajectory of their lives. We just hope for the best, don't we?

Thanks, Matt. Be at peace.

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Anonymous Nadine said...

What a beautiful tribute, Ryan.

All humans deserve to be remembered, and all humans have good. No human deserves to die by violence.

I relate to the coffee drinking too.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Thanks, Nadine. I had an Americano today and I think Matt would have approved.

3:41 AM  

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