February 4, 2018: Matt Glo

Throughout this story, there have been so many days that are meaningful one year after the next, so many days wherein coincidences pile on to each other. On July 3rd, the day Matt’s third tumor was discovered at Duke (and exactly seven months before February 3rd),  he and I saw three rainbows in the sky. On November 21 2017, the doctor at Duke ignited a nearly inextinguishable flame of hope and exactly one year later, on November 21, 2018, she almost—only almost—extinguished it. November 15, 2016, the day I saw our first rainbow while driving to Matt’s MRI was also the day, two years later, when we spent most of the night inside the emergency room at Columbia, waiting for the MRI that would tell us the disease had spread into the folds of Matt’s brain.

There are other days, other coincidences: rainbows appearing over head at the three month Post Hope mark and appearing on my driveway at the six month mark; embers burning in the sky on January 23rd, the day the last glimmer of hope burned away.

And then there’s this date. Fourteen years ago today, on February 4, 2005, a friend convinced me to go out in the city. We bought (probably overpriced and unnecessary) tickets from a club promoter for a club called Glo in the Meatpacking District. I wore a red, strapless, sequined top—which is still hanging in my closet—and enjoyed (what I still think of as) the best hair day of my life.

Once inside, I looked across the dance floor and saw a boy in a brown leather jacket, and my heart skipped a beat or twelve. We made eye contact and then he came over to talk to me. He bought me a drink, and then, as his friends were leaving, he handed me his business card—he was in the toilet seat business—and he asked for my number.

A few days later, he called and left a voicemail. He introduced himself, said some things I can’t remember, and then said something that was so purely him—made of honesty and humor, confidence and a little bit of something uniquely him. He said, “If you’re the kind of girl who plays games, don’t bother calling me back.”

With a smile and a fair amount of bewilderment—because who leaves a message like that?—I saved his number in my phone as “Matt Glo,” and called him back. I would learn, later, that after Matt left that message, he called his sister and told her he’d just left the “wackest” voicemail for a girl and no way was she calling back. I think I loved him from the first time I heard him say “wackest.”

Fourteen years ago today, I saw a boy in a brown leather jacket across a dance floor and my entire life changed direction. They (whoever they are) say you’re not supposed to meet your husband in a club, but I did.

One year ago today, I woke up as that boy’s widow and had the job of telling our two children that he was gone.  There may be no worse words to ever have to speak. As a mother, my job was to protect them, but from this I couldn’t. They cried and responded in ways that have become all too familiar this past year. G, who was vocal about her grief from the beginning, flopped onto the bed in tears. She let me talk to her, she let me sit beside her. But H—he shut down. He walked to the playroom and played with his action figures by himself, declining any company, only eventually agreeing to a long hug. And I learned that no matter how hard you hug a child, you can’t absorb their sadness, you can’t save them from heartache despite your best intentions. The cruelty of brain cancer and the cruelty of grief: you can’t will any of it away.

Yesterday, this story reached another first. It was the first time I couldn’t say it was our first Superbowl without Matt. Yesterday, we officially entered into the year of seconds. We officially have to acknowledge that Matt isn’t coming back—maybe that should have happened months ago, and yet…easier said than done, I suppose. Maybe because it’s easier to live in the past—the past is finite and certain. Sad, but sad in a way that is familiar and known. The same cannot be said about the present or the future. There is nothing finite or certain, nothing is promised—and that’s simply terrifying.

Yesterday, G, H, and I celebrated Matt as best we could. We went to breakfast at his favorite local restaurant, we painted pottery in his favorite colors, and we watched (somewhat paid attention to) the Superbowl. I kept searching for something—a rainbow, a bit of magic, something to mark the day as meaningful. I couldn’t find anything. But at one point, H looked up into the sky and saw three geese flying above us. He said it was a message from Daddy. I was skeptical—geese aren’t as magical as rainbows, after all, but I nodded and agreed, anyway. But in retrospect, maybe H was right. Maybe the truth of this story is this: there will always be a little magic, if you choose to see it. Just like there will always be a little hope, if you choose to look for it.

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