Saturday, April 26, 2014

Matt Urban: The Last Good Day

                Matt Urban collapsed on my birthday in 1995, and lay in a coma for another week before he died. The last time I saw Matt alive, I was curled up next to his hospital bed, sleeping on those awful folding chairs. During the early morning hours of March 4th, while his wife and daughter left for a necessary breakfast, I quietly stroked his hair, and whispered in his ear how much he meant to me. 
                Visitors to the hospital were running back and forth from their cars throughout the entire night, shielding their heads from the rain with magazines or newspapers. Sometime during the dark hours, I could hear the unmistakable sound of ice typing out a rougher prose against the window. I turned to look at Matty one more time because I knew I could no longer stay awake. I was near the edge of consciousness, where all thoughts make perfect sense and questions give way to tacit understanding.
                As the sound of the storm grew stronger,  I pictured all those frantic souls running to the lobby  with soggy paper draped over the top of their heads. I thought to myself how much the rain must love these human faces- so very much more than puddles or cervices along abandoned roads and swelling creeks. How each and every storm will trick us into looking up with squinting eyes, just to gather more around the parts they seem to enjoy the most. Maybe the rain finds something in common with the place where tears are shed and want to feel something just as we do; maybe the storms want to be a part of us; to be anything other than the shapeless life they have outside of these human bodies.
             The endless traffic on the highway grew quiet as it should be. And I pictured the pavement being scrapped clean by a single piece of bread, making its way around  an empty plate, sopping up all the muddy gravy.
             When I awoke, Matty was still breathing.  I walked over to the window and turned the handle on the venetian blinds expecting to see something ugly and mean below.  But the daylight came, one match at a time, to each branch of sycamore and maple below covered in ice. Smoldering sweetly, tiny flames began to form, then perfectly- burning like the tips of candles on a hundred chandeliers.                              
Parked automobiles had been adorned and rounded off with the whitest  frosting of snow, and each and every newly fashioned dessert, waited beside a tall and shiny spoon, that only  hours before had been a parking meter.
Coming back into the room with tears in her eyes, his wife Jennie sighed, “Oh look Matty, this is all for you.”  
I drove home very slowly that morning,  and threw myself into bed the moment I made it through my door. It seemed only a short while before Jennie called to tell me Matty had passed away .
          I have kept so many memories to myself; stored away in a packaged deal with my own mortality. I owe my friend another version of a life well lived; to speak of an addendum to his story, the story of a  life  long after  the hedgerows of Normandy. And I will tell you, of this incredible friendship; I will tell you of this incredible man- in the coming weeks and months, but how do I begin and end a story such as this?  The story of Matt Urban, my great and enduring friend? I will try. I will try.

Painting by K. W. Morford. All rights Reserved.

You may find a copy of his book, which I illustrated, here:

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