For those new to my blog, the Hands that Mold series of posts is about the people in my life that have helped shape me into the writer I am today.
This post is about Mathew.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you might remember me mentioning Matt before. He was part of my very first Role Playing Game (RPG) group, which I talked about in a previous The Hand that Mold post. You might also remember him if you’ve read my book. This is the Mathew that I mention in the dedications and by the end of this post you’ll have a better idea of why I plan to dedicate each and every book to him.
I won’t repeat how I met Matt, since I covered that in the RPG group post, so we’ll start in my junior year of high school when Matt and I were already best friends and that RPG group was beginning to fall apart. We didn’t have the RPG going anymore since the Storyteller had moved away, and there was other drama that I won’t get into, but that was the year that the whole things pretty much dissolved.
I’d made enough friends in other places by then that the RPG group falling apart wasn’t the end of the world, I just spent more time with other friends instead. And then, after a few months, Matt introduced me to some new friends he’d made, and soon I was a fixture in his new group of friends. Like so many things in high school, it didn’t last long. There was more drama, and the group dissolved again, but I still had Matt. We still talked about stories and planned games, even if he was famous for running one session of a game and then never finishing it. I have to admit he wrote really great hooks.
So we were without a group of friends again, but it wasn’t long before Matt found another group, and once again introduced me to I could become a part of things. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what was happening. Matt was bringing me along with him. Over the course of three groups that began and then dissolved because of drama, Matt and I were the only constants. It really showed me how important I was to him.
Throughout all this drama, Matt and I never stopped sharing ideas. He’d use me as a sounding board for game ideas because I was “the queen of out of character information” as he liked to say, which meant I could know how the entire story was supposed to play out, but my character would still react in game like she would if I knew nothing. And I spent hours talking with Matt about story ideas or my character back story, or ideas for the RPG or LARP we were in at the time. (Yes, I said LARP. That’s Live Action Role Playing Game for those not in the know, and yes, I am proud to be a complete and total geek.)
During my senior year, I did a video assignment for class. I don’t even remember if it was for creative writing or English (it was the same teacher). I did my video with the topic “My Muse.” My visual aids were books and notebooks and videos and pictures of my friends and artwork I’d collected or created. I read the voiceover while I filmed (this was before the average high schooler had access to video editing via computer). And one of the things that was prominent in the project was Matt. It wasn’t overt, but looking back it was always there. Matt inspired me. He helped me work through plot ideas and develop characters and settings. He’d become my own personal muse.
To this day, I still think of him that way. He’ll always be my muse.
Later in my senior year, during and right after spring break, I went through some very turbulent events. I’m not going to get into the details, since it’s personal to me and several others, but by the end of the ordeal, I wasn’t sure I believed in God anymore. Yeah, it was a really rough couple weeks.
I was in a place of doubt about so many things, but Matt was there for me. He was the first person I told about almost everything that happened those couple weeks. And he supported my decisions and comforted me as much as he could. When I was a little more stable, and decided I needed to research other religions since I wasn’t sure about God and being an Episcopalian anymore, he was still there to help.
Matt introduced me to Wicca. He showed me some books, and recommended some websites, and talked to me about his own experiences. He’d become Wiccan a few years prior. I liked what I was reading. And I started thinking really hard about what I was going to do moving forward.
The end of the religion issue found me embracing a lot of things about Wicca, but ultimately returning to my roots and the Episcopal church. While I can’t claim the term as original, I became a Wiccapalian, an Episcopalian who embraces Wicca and its ideals and practices (none of which preclude being a Christian).
After high school Matt attended a community college for a while and I headed hours away to attend a state university. We still saw each other on weekends, and he even came up to visit me and our other friends at the school a few times. Matt later enrolled in a local state university and worked toward a degree in Social Work while I continued toward my English degree.
We didn’t see each other as often because I was away at school, but we still talked online a lot and we still shared ideas about stories.
The summer after my junior year in college Matt invited me to his apartment for another RPG. Once again he was introducing me to his friends and brining me along with him. It meant the world to me. I’d missed hanging out with him. He’d come out of the closet almost entirely by that point, which explained why I was never interested in him romantically, but that didn’t matter to me. He was still my best friend and the older brother I never had.
That summer was so much fun, and I finally got to play in more than one session of a game Matt was running. Three if I remember right. Then the game went on hiatus for the school year. Matt continued working on his classes and living it up on the weekends. I kept writing and reading and making up stories.
Then, during my senior year, the worst happened. A mutual friend of ours came to find me at my on-campus apartment. He had horrible news. Matt had died. It was a heart defect. Sudden and completely unexpected. I hadn’t even known he’d had a heart issue in the first place.
Needless to say I was a complete wreck. My boyfriend (and high school sweetheart) drove me home that weekend. I visited with a few of the friends Matt and I shared. The services weren’t until the following Tuesday. I chose to return to campus and not miss classes and midterms that week.
The grieving process was a long one for me. It involved months of writers block. Not a great thing when earning a creative writing degree. I had to resort to turning in an older, already complete short story in my workshop class. It took months to process the loss and work through it.
The day I found out he’d died, I started wearing a necklace Matt gave me my senior year of high school during all the upheaval around spring break. It was something he’d blessed for me, a Wiccan charm if you will. I still wear the pendant almost every day. If I can’t wear it for some reason, I carry it with me or pin it inside my clothes.
Because of Matt’s connection to Wicca and thus the moon, I think of him whenever I see it. During my grieving process, I started talking to Matt when I thought about him, and in some ways it was like I was talking to the moon as Matt. I still think of him every time I see the moon, and I greet Matt whenever I do.
That’s how Matt became my Moon and my Muse.