We heard the news last night, even though the actual passing occurred a day before. Still, it really doesn't matter when we found out. Our friend is no longer among us.
It's been decades since I've talked to Matt face-to-face. We delude ourselves into thinking that friending or following someone on social media is "almost the same thing." It's not and it takes an event such as this for us to realize that fact. Commenting on someone's Facebook post or sending an instant message allows us to communicate, but that's pretty much it.
I first met Matt January 24, 1985. We were both preparing to serve church missions, he having arrived a month before me. To say that Matt makes an impression is an understatement. I remember a tall guy, great hair and energy to light up LaVell Edward's Stadium.
In the almost two years we served together in Denmark, those first impressions never dimmed. In fact, the more I got to know him, the more I realized Matt was an amazing person. Matt made you feel like a better person just because you knew him and made you want to be a better person, too. I'm not the only one who feels this way. It's pretty much universal.
I've stayed in touch with many of those who donned the black name tag and talked to people about Jesus Christ those many years ago. Many of us live close together and have seen each other at reunions and other events. But Matt chose to see the world, take risks, live life.
I had heard from friends who had kept in touch of the health issues he and his wife faced. By the time Matt and I connected on Facebook earlier this year, his wife had died and the day before yesterday it was his turn to join her.
The impact his passing had on me, even after not seeing him in years, is a testament to the kind of person Matt is. And the thoughts and messages to his family only confirm what we all know, that we lost one of the good ones, one of the elites, one of the best.
God's speed Matt. Thanks for the example, the friendship and everything.
* Photo used without permission from Del Benson