In Memoriam: My Brother Matt

I wanted to take a moment to thank my brother Matt.

You were ‘that guy’. People came to you when they needed help or needed a friend and you never denied them. You were the guy that helped neighbors. Neighbors that you had never met who would be building a fence, laying concrete or digging a trench and you would walk up with your tools and shovel and introduce yourself. You would jump right in and work with them until the job was done.

You would bring your front-end loader to your neighborhood in a blizzard and clear the streets and driveways for your neighbors where the plows wouldn’t come.

I watched you literally, jump into the middle of the Big Thompson River in rapids, to pull a stranger out who got swept away down river. You stood waist deep and waited for him to roll past and you plucked him out and drug him to shore.

People witnessed a small child whose mother was being beaten by her husband in a parking lot, walk into a packed dance hall, past many, many people. She walked right up to you and tugged on your shirt and asked for your help. It was bad news for the guy outside, but you made that little girl feel safe – and went outside and did what you do best.

Everybody who knew you knows what I’m talking about; and there were many. People from long ago in your past, people who you hadn’t seen in years, but they never forgot who you were and what you meant to them. It was always strange how big people described you to be. You were 6’ tall and 250 pounds but they would describe you like you were 7’ tall.

This time of year is our time. It’s October. We were very close but this was our season. College football, fishing and Nebraska pheasant hunting. Just me and you. You were older than me, my big brother. I want to thank you for teaching me how to shave and how to tuck a long sleeve dress shirt in. There were six other older brother and sisters, but you were always there when I would struggle in life. Thank you.

You beat cancer twice — two bad cancers that doctors said should have taken you from us. You never even looked sick to me, maybe like you had the flu. Thirty years later you got sick, yet worked for over a year before you learned you had adenocarcinoma. An end of life cancer. Of course you put in remission after 6 months. In fact, we hunted two more seasons until you came to Arizona just to tell me it was back. I knew from the look on your face this was different.

But still, you were Matt. You went back to work. I’ll never be able to explain what made me drive from Phoenix to Loveland, CO one day, but on my way there, they took you to the hospital. I walked in, you said hi, we joked like we do, I helped you on to your bed and that was the last time we would talk. I had 30 minutes with you. I need to put this in context. Matt’s wife Kay thought they would give him medicine and we would head back home with him. The doctor ran some tests and gathered all of us together. The doctor was visibly surprised when he told us Matt should have been in hospice for the past 3 months. He couldn’t explain how he was physically walking as the pain had to have been unbearable. Matt was working construction on Friday and died four days later.

State champion wrestler, star football player, baseball player and the best father I’ve ever seen – and my big brother. I miss you Matt.

…But we are going to beat the U of A this year. Sorry.

– Don DeZonia