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Thread: Losing Matt: A Year Later

  1. #1
    Administrator PhilDernerJr's Avatar
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    Losing Matt: A Year Later

    I was going to write an article for the site but would rather keep it among our close knit squad here. Just a random babble of my thoughts on the day that I thought I'd share. Please feel free to share some of your own thoughts, memories and emotions about Matt.

    Please excuse my long rant here...


    Today is one year since Matt died. I really feels like three months.


    I’ve spent the last year teaching myself to not text him when I see something cool aviation related or have to make a Goodfellas or A Bronx Tale quote. He was my go-to “internet sharing” buddy, with whom I’d send any dumb videos or intarweb finds. Or just sit at a bar with him….talking about NOTHING and it being the greatest of times. Regardless of the mental adjustments I force on myself, it is still instinctive when there’s breaking news, to reach for the phone to call him to activate our little “crisis center” of NYCA coverage.


    NYCAviation has been particularly tough. For the first couple of months I couldn’t even look at it. It was just an upsetting thing. Jason kept it going with articles and social media until one day I just sat down and started working again. I needed to tackle things that were usually Matt’s duties, and with the help of Darin, figure things out which often had us saying out loud “Matt, how is this supposed to go?”


    The humor I always had with Matt was a bit morbid, and in coping with his passing, we would make jokes that were just awful, or awkward to new members of the team. Once everyone would assemble for a meeting, I would say in a serious face “Ok, everyone is here except Matt. Let’s give him a few minutes and see if he shows up.” Matt’s name would come up in conversation and I would say “You know, that guy left without giving two weeks’ notice. If he ever comes and thinks he’s getting his job back, he’s sorely mistaken!” The other day, Darin asked me a question and I said “Hmm, I don’t know. Matt used to work on that one,” to which Darin replied “Oh ok. I’ll send him a text.” These laughs are ones I know Matt would enjoy as well, and like all memories that are associated with Matt, laughter is always involved.


    The website hasn’t been easy, emotionally or professionally. The toughest parts are when we experience successes. It could be something minor like a retweet on Twitter from a celebrity we like or progress on a big tasks, which would trigger a deep depression because I can’t share a celebratory text with him or something about it. The toughest ones come when the team does something collectively. Our team is a group of people, every one of whom is driven by pure passion. So when an article would come out that several folks worked on, seeing the teamwork and the love that would go into it, it usually triggered a crying session in knowing how proud Matt would have been of these guys. Or if Stephen and Darin gathered for a meeting, I’d review notes and stuff afterward and see the stuff we are accomplishing, and the waterworks of pride would start. I’d kill to have him see some of the things we’ve done and are doing.


    I remember my last moment with Matt. We had drinks with a few other avgeeks at a bar in Manhattan. It was cold, so we all said goodbye before walking out the door and splitting up in various directions. Matt and I happened to head the same way together, but ultimately toward different subway stations. When we got to his, since we had already said goodbye and gave a quick handshake atthe bar, he just kinda said “See ya,” and I stopped him with a “Hey” and made him turn toward me so that I could look in his eyes and give him a smile and a handshake, accompanied by my last words to him which were probably “Take care man,” before he smiled and started back down the steps to the train.


    Once I kept walking, I wondered why I had such an urge to do that considering I had already said goodbye 3 minutes prior. But I’m so happy I did. That goodbye was one of the most important memories of my life.

    I can’t emphasize how important that is in life…to express how you feel about people to them. We lost Matt at 33 and I think (hope) I was vocal enough to where he knew how much I loved him. He wasn’t Mr. Talkative but I knew he had my back. After he passed, I realized I had some great people in my life who I maybe didn’t express to them enough how important they were to me. One result of this was flying to LA a bit to hang with Andrew Marino, someone who I always considered a great friend. Andrew and Matt would have loved each other, and sitting in LA at night having a beer with Andrew really made it feel like Matt was hanging there with us.

    Make sure everyone in your life knows how you feel about them. Always. Seriously, go and do that ****. Tell your lady how beautiful she is, tell your friends how much you love them and WHY. Touch them. Tell others how much you love the people you love. Sit back and think about how lucky you are to have the people you have in your life.

    Seeing the response to Matt’s death was amazing. I feel bad for David Abbey and Will Rizzo who were the first to show up to Matt’s wake and had to deal with my pointless sad babble. But seeing all those faces show up, it was great to see all of the amazing people we have in our community. A big family, a group of friends from near and far…how lucky are we all to be a part of this?

    Becoming close with his fiancé Gina was a big part of the year for me. She is funny as hell, and I really only started to realize that in the months before he died. Gina and I hang out regularly and celebrate his life and share in our grief. We’d share stories, morbid jokes, and just talk. Often, a joke would set off what would start off as a hearty laugh, and end with deep sobs. Gina still makes these amazing, witty jokes, and movie/TV quotes like she has a soundboard in front of her…Matt has definitely rubbed off on her and I see how lucky both of them were to have each other. In his passing, he has given me an amazing friend. If I am ever so lucky as to get married myself, I will ask her to don a tux and be in the wedding party, as both a representation of her valued friendship and in place of Matt.


    As painful as it still is, I’ve never been so happy to cry. My life has been SO enriched by Matt’s life, and even his death has brought a ton of new lessons, values and goals in life.


    Thank you all for hanging out here and being as supportive as you have been, not only with regards to Matt’s death, but just about the hobby we share. You folks are good people.
    Email me anytime at [email protected].

  2. #2
    Senior Member moose135's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil D. View Post
    I’d kill to have him see some of the things we’ve done and are doing.
    He's been watching, Phil, and I'm sure he'd be proud.

  3. #3
    Senior Member MarkLawrence's Avatar
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    Perfectly put my friend - perfectly put!!!
    Mark Lawrence - KFLL
    Davie, FL

    Community Manager NYCAviation.com
    email: [email protected]

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  4. #4
    Senior Member NIKV69's Avatar
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    Well done Phil, I can't believe it's been a year. Again sorry I couldn't attend his wake. Relay to Gina my regards. It was good to have dinner when the 56th was closing. Only time I was with him and Gina together. R.I.P.
    'My idea of a good picture is one that's in focus and of a famous person doing something unfamous.' Andy Warhol

  5. #5
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    Could not have been said better, Phil. As Moose said, he is watching over us. RIP
    Kaz T

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  6. #6
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    Good read Phil. Seems just like yesterday.
    It's hard to take chances but sometimes it's better if you do

    http://www.southpawcaptures.com
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  7. #7
    Senior Member lijk604's Avatar
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    Well said Phil. Thoughts to Gina and yourself today. As others have said though, I'm sure Matt has "seen" what you are doing at NYCA and is pleased.

    Hang in there my friend.

  8. #8
    Senior Member megatop412's Avatar
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    Phil...that was not pointless, sad babble at all. I felt priveleged that you were sharing your thoughts with me. I hardly knew Matt personally, but once I realized how close you two were, the least I could do was present myself there so that I could listen. The hell with airplanes that afternoon, that was about wanting to share the burden of pain, regardless of how we knew one another. As someone who was trained to treat grief and loss issues, I appreciate the value of being there for people, because that's all there really is in life that has any meaning. When you melt away all the crap and drama, it's really just about all of us passing through time, together, sharing in each other's successes, failures, joys, and tragedies. And hopefully before it is our own time to go, some of us were lucky enough to form bonds with each other like you had with Matt.

    Thanks for checking back with us about this, the one year anniversary of Matt's passing. It would be nice if one day, we got the answers to our questions of why all this happens and what is the point of it all. Until then, we have only each other.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Zee71's Avatar
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    Thank you Phil and well said.
    Mark
    Queens, NY

    My website: http://mbsphotography.smugmug.com
    My photos at: JetPhotos and ANet

  10. #10
    Moderator mirrodie's Avatar
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    Thank you Phil. Matt dropped in on me last week. That big ass smile on that card which re-surfaced in our home. That ear to ear smile….

    It was the pause I needed these past few weeks. An angel I needed earlier today.

    well posted, Phil
    And I, I took the path less traveled by
    and that has made all the difference......yet...
    I have a feeling a handle of people are going to be very interested in what I post in the near future.

    http://www.jetphotos.net/showphotos.php?userid=187

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