You might have noticed that I have not been posting as much for the past few weeks. The reason is because my dear friend Matt Godson got sick very suddenly and sadly, passed away on July 31st. He developed a rare form of brain cancer called gliomatosis cerebri about three months ago, which was fast-moving and impossible to fight.
Matt was the husband of Emily, one of my very best friends and the father to Charlie, age 7 and Giles, age 4. If you have been following my blog closely, you might recognize their names and faces, as they have been featured here pretty regularly since the beginning.
I wanted to respect Emily’s privacy, so I kept quiet about what was happening, but yesterday, after the memorial service, Emily said she wanted me to share Matt’s memory. He was a beautiful person, the best kind of person, and I agree— his memory should be shared as widely as possible. Everyone could benefit, even strangers, from the gift that knowing Matt has brought to the lives of his family and friends.
Today happens to be mine and Mike’s 10 year anniversary. We went out for breakfast and we discussed what about Matt we could incorporate into our own lives to improve upon ourselves. Matt was brilliant and inventive which are both tough characteristics to emulate, but he was also exceedingly kind, interested in people, an adoring husband and a wonderfully engaged father. Mike said that if he had to pick one thing, it would be that he wanted to try to see things through the lens of Matt’s optimism. I said that I wanted to find more ways to make special gestures to the people I love.
Matt’s memorial service was a celebration of his life with so many family members and close friends making meaningful contributions in unique ways. There were funny stories told, a beautiful song sung and a video that for a brief moment, brought Matt back to life. Matt co-owned a company that put on business conferences and I like to think that he would have been very pleased that his memorial service was a multimedia presentation. It was also a great testament to Matt (and to Emily) that all of these wonderful people, almost 200 people, gathered in one room for something so special.
There were many speeches given yesterday, from family, childhood friends and work colleagues, revealing new anecdotes and insights to Matt’s character with each one. But the only perspective I can really share is my own. So, below, is the speech I gave about the impact that Matt’s life had on me and my family.
Emily and Matt have always given me credit for introducing them because I brought Emily with me to a bar to meet up with a group of friends that Matt happened to be hanging out with. I had only met Matt once or twice before and I don’t even know if I formally introduced them. I just remember them beelining for each other. Then I believe he challenged her to a game of three facts and a lie, which after knowing him for so many years, I now know was SO MATT.
They were inseparable from that point forward.
I liked taking credit for them meeting (even if it wasn’t intentional) because they became such an amazing couple. My favorite couple. My apologies to all the other couples I know.
And I loved that by becoming a couple, Matt became a part of our little group. Because Matt was fun and interesting and smart and by association, he made our group that much more fun and interesting too. Over the 15 years that I knew him, we went to countless dinner parties and gatherings and at every one, he entertained, he charmed, he’d be the guy you wanted to sit next to. He’d have a joke or a philosophical question or turn a conversation into a game, and suddenly you knew that the evening was going to be a successful one.
No one was ever bored with Matt in the room.
Emily and I share a birthday, and we have a tradition of spending it together. For my 40th, my husband Mike told me to get all dressed up because he had a surprise for me. He took me to this fabulously over-the-top dinner show. But the real surprise, was that Matt had planned the exact same surprise for Emily so we could continue our tradition of spending our birthdays together. When Mike and I arrived at our table, Matt and Emily were sitting there too. It was the most perfect 40th birthday present and no offense to my husband, but I’m guessing Matt probably had a lot to do with the idea. Matt always treated Emily like gold and would come up with the most clever gestures to make her happy so I felt very lucky that night that Matt’s special plan for his wife’s birthday, involved my husband and my birthday too.
Emily and I were also both pregnant at the same time, with both kids, so as parents, the four of us, had the rare opportunity to go through every parenting milestone together. And I have to say, in the same way that I admired Matt as a friend, I really looked up to him as a parent.
Whatever cleverness he brought to a dinner party, however engaging and present he was in every adult conversation, he brought that same spark whenever he was with his boys, and when he was with my children too. He made up a special song for both my girls— one for Mazzy and one for Harlow, with different words and different tunes that suited them each individually, and he’d sing them every time we came over. I was always shocked that he continued to remember the words. I could never remember them. Or how he made them up out of thin air in the first place. And now that I think about it, I wonder— did he have a different song for every kid that visited their house? And each one thought they were equally as special as my girls did? It wouldn’t surprise me.
Whenever Emily and Matt and the boys would spend the weekend at our house, it was Matt and I who would always go upstairs to tell the kids bedtime stories. I always read a book, but Matt usually opted to tell his own. I’ve tried to make up bedtime stories, but I’m terrible at it. They’re usually thinly veiled stories about kids who refuse to go to sleep. Matt, on the other hand, would tell these beautifully intricate stories, with interesting characters, attention to detail and real plot points. They would go on and on and all the kids, myself included, would be hanging on every word.
“How do you do that?” I asked him one night after the kids were tucked in.
He told me that the secret to telling bedtime stories was easy. You just had to create characters that are like your kids, but just ever so slightly different, so they think it could be them but they weren’t exactly sure. Then you had to add in a little danger. He explained that there were a few basic tropes that he used over and over again and it was just a matter of switching out the names of the characters and the locations and some of the plot twists. Of course, I thought. Matt treats stories like a puzzle and you just have to find the right pieces. I could do that!
But I tried and I couldn’t do it. I can sit down and write a story, but my brain simply does not work as fast as Matt’s did on the spot.
Nobody had a brain more brilliant than Matt’s. He was always on, shining brightly, and on top of his game. I remember one of the last times I saw him at the hospital. I was sitting with Jason in this little cafe area and Matt’s mother Helen was pushing him over in a wheelchair when he spotted me from across the lobby. Both of his hands shot up in a double wave and I swear, his smile, his special Matt smile, lit up the whole room. Whatever he was feeling in that moment, which I’m sure included a mix of many things, he made sure to make me feel like he was nothing but delighted to see me.
It was the same delighted smile he gave me every time he spotted me across the room at a party, whether it was a dinner party, their yearly New Year’s Eve party or a two-year-old’s birthday party.
It was the smile he gave me when I finally arrived at their rehearsal dinner, after getting lost in the Italian countryside on my way to be Emily’s bridesmaid at their wedding.
It was the smile he gave me when my family showed up at their apartment with suitcases after Hurricane Sandy.
It was the smile he gave me when I entered the triage room right after Giles was born, because I had just given birth to my daughter a few doors down.
And if I think back hard enough, it was probably the same smile he gave me across the bar all those years ago when I showed up with Emily, and he knew, and she knew, that I was about to introduce him to the love of his life.
About a year ago, Matt and Charlie participated in a Father’s Day video that I made for my blog. The video was about little kids writing their dads Father’s Day cards (with the help of their moms) and the funny things they might say. But as a warm up for being on camera, we asked Matt a series of questions about being a father that did not appear in the final video. I took that footage and combined it with some of Emily’s videos and at her request, I played it at the Memorial Service and will post it here today.
For those of you who don’t know Matt, I think the video will give you a sense of just how amazing Matt was and how much he loved his boys. If you knew him and already knew that, then it will just confirm it for you.
For Emily, she told me that seeing the Matt she knew disappear as he struggled against the horrible cancer that overtook his brilliant brain was the most difficult thing anyone should have to endure, and watching the video helps her remember the Matt she loved at his strongest.
We chose the song Wonderwall in the video because it is a song that Charlie is learning to play on the guitar and it is the last song he played for Matt while he was in the hospital.
Matt, I know you didn’t believe in an after life, but if you were wrong and are somehow listening, know that we all feel devastated by your absence but so lucky to have known you.
If you would like to contribute to Matt’s Memorial Scholarship Fund for his sons, Charlie and Giles, you can find it here.