Erik Joel Matson
Erik Joel Matson
"Erik Joel Matson was brought into this world September 20, 1980 and
was entered into rest on July 2nd, 2000. Erik was a young man with so
much to give and a smile was always included. He was his dad's best
companion, the apple of his mom's eye, and his sister's 'Big Bro'.
Words can not express the depth this loss will be felt in his family
and among his many friends."
I cannot believe this is happening. Erik is not dead, he can't be. I
am not sitting here on this pew, listening to a pastor recount the life
of a boy he never really knew. Erik is still alive! Yet even as those
thoughts run through my head, I know its true. Erik is dead, taken from
us forever. I look at my uncle Rich. Oh, how it must hurt to have his
only son stolen from him. And Jolie, still locked in her swirling cage
of denial. Her only brother, her best friend, is gone. She smiles at
me. A smile that shows she still believes Erik will walk in at any
moment. Oh, how I wish he would. It still seems as if this whole ordeal
is a horrible dream, like the past fifteen days have never happened.
Yet, I know they have. Dreams can be erased from our memories, but I
will never forget the past two weeks. I will never forget getting the
call from Jenni, telling us Erik was missing, that his truck was found
at the Blankenship Bridge, next to the river. I will never forget
spending every day for thirteen days standing next to the river,
hoping, wishing that Erik would be found. I will never forget walking
along the river, searching the woods, and finding a pocketknife that
could have been his, even as divers combed the river bottom. And, the
call I got, saying Erik had been found will certainly never be erased
from my memory. The sheer pain of the moment plagues me even now and
will for the rest of my life. The service passes in a blur. I keep
reading the insert in the program over and over again. It's a letter
from Jolie to Erik:
"To My Dear Brother Erik,
I never thought the day would come that you would leave me to take care
of mom and dad alone. I promise to take good care of them. I never
thought I would lose you so soon. Life will be tough without you and
your smile. Not a day will go by that I will not think of you. I tried
to hug you and tell you I loved you, but not as much as I should have.
Erik, I love you with all my heart and I hope you know it. Take care
dear brother, watch over us.
I love you and will see you later,
Somehow I didn't believe she had written that. She still seemed as if
she truly believed this was all a joke. We had sat at the river
together, many a morning, when she told me over and over again that
Erik was just fine, that he had just gone off with some friends or
perhaps he was wandering in the woods, lost, with amnesia perhaps, but
never dead. It scared me really. When reality hit, she was going to
take it hard. I watched her as she sat through the service, seemingly
unaware of what was happening around her.
We left the chapel and drove to the cemetery, a long snake-like
procession of cars, almost as long as the distance to our destination.
So much family and so many friends had come to the interment. Erik was
truly loved. I loved him, so very much. I regret not telling him so,
more than I did. I hope you know I love you, Erik and that I will miss
you, so much, I think as I watch the casket being lowered into the
ground. Behind me, my grandparents supported Rich. He seemed close to
collapsing, the weight of his sorrow too much to bear. How would he
ever go on? I find it hard to imagine life with out my dear cousin,
always smiling at me, and telling me jokes. I try and bring his image
to mind. Nothing. I can't see his face! Oh, God, its been so long.
Erik, I miss you! Please don't be angry. I can't remember your smile.
The tears begin to fall. I had sat in a dazed silence throughout the
service, unable to cry. The reality of his death hits me, standing
beside his grave, the place where his body will rest for eternity. The
guilt at being unable to recall Erik's image almost overwhelms me. What
a horrible cousin I must be. I have no memories strong enough to
overcome the finality of death. As I leave the cemetery, I continue my
struggle to recall his likeness. Nothing, my mind is still blank. Give
it time. It's still too soon.
Weeks pass, still nothing comes to mind. "Please, Erik, forgive me for
forgetting you." I tell him as I stop at his grave to leave flowers,
hoping they will make up for my lapsed memory. I feel guilty for
leaving to attend summer camp on the lake. For five days I will not be
able to carry out my self-prescribed punishment. Yet, as I sit by the
headstone in which his name is inscribed, something deep inside tells
me I need to go. The time away will be good for me. Still doubtful, I
agree to go. I will make it up to Erik when I get home. I need to go,
I arrive at the camp and unpack my things. The first day passes. We
meet with our small groups in the morning. The counselor asks us how we
spent our summers. When my turn comes I say, "Pass." I can't bring
myself to tell strangers about Erik yet, maybe never. I want to go
home. Erik needs me. My grandma needs me. I begin to think about how I
can convince the counselors to let me leave without having to actually
tell them what's going on. After breakfast, I will talk to the
counselors. I'll tell them I'm sick. I sit down at a bench waiting for
breakfast to be served. My long time friend, Justin, approaches me.
Justin has known me for so long, it was surprising he hadn't picked up
on my distress before, but I really hadn't seen much of him all week.
Now, he realizes I'm bothered by something. He takes me down to the
chapel where we can talk and he somehow coerces me into telling
everything. He lets me pour my heart out and just listens. He tells me
he loves me and that he is glad I came to camp. He says I should try
and ride out the rest of the week and that he will be there for me if I
need to talk again. This gives me the courage to hang on until Friday
night. I still feel as if I don't want to tell anyone else what's going
on, Justin is enough.
Friday night arrives and along with it, the farewell dance. I isolate
myself in a corner and watch the festivities. I feel so guilty for
being happy and celebrating when I cannot recall the image of my
cousin. It's been a month, to the day, since Erik drowned and I still
cannot believe he is really gone. Luke, a friend of mine, approaches
"Would you like to dance?" he asks me.
"Not really." I reply.
"Will you anyway?"
"Yes." I say as I stand, uncurling myself from the fetal position I
had been sitting in. We walk on to the dance floor and he wraps his
arms around me.
"Something bothering you, Miriah?" he asks me softly. I knew he had
heard about Erik's death in the papers.
"I can't remember him." I tell him, the tears welling up inside
"Its okay, give it time. I'm here for you, you know that, right?" I
nod, glad he understands whom I mean without me having to tell him. We
dance, he simply holds me, no more words are necessary. Luke
understands. The song changes. Familiar words drift to my ears over the
laughter of others.
"I don't know how you do what you do, I'm so in love with you. It just
keeps getting better. I want to spend the rest of my life with you by
my side, forever and ever. Every little thing that you do, baby, I'm
amazed by you.
It's been months since I've heard that song. I try and remember when I
last heard it. Prom. It was one of the last songs played at my senior
prom. I stop dancing. I know Luke is wondering what has happened. I
The memory hits me like a freight train. My boyfriend, Joey, and I had
gone to prom with some of our friends and my cousins. Jolie, her date
Logan, Erik, and his date Jodi had all eaten dinner with us and we had
attended the dance together. Erik had looked so cute, all dolled up in
his tux, complete with a black Stetson. I had harassed him telling him
he couldn't possibly be serious about making Jodi ride in his truck to
the dance. He had been offended. The truck was his pride and joy, built
by him alone. Still, we laughed together as we watched Jodi struggle to
crawl into the lofty cab. Together, we had enjoyed dinner and dancing,
laughing and telling jokes. The song "Amazed" had been playing, one of
the last songs of the evening. Joey and I were dancing when I looked
over my shoulder to see Erik grabbing Jodi's ample behind. He grinned
at me. A mischievous, impish grin, followed by his encouragement of
Joey to assault me in the same way. The boys laughed, conspiring
against us as Jodi and I had squealed and tried to escape. We had
parted that evening, still laughing.
Reality focuses. Luke watches me, waiting for me to explain.
"I remember. I remember Erik."
"Tell me." I relate to him the events of that night.
He laughs. "That's how I remember Erik too: always getting into
trouble, but finding humor in it. He was playful in any
"Yeah. He was." I say, looking at Luke, smiling.
He hugs me. "That's my girl. You are so beautiful when you smile. I
missed that. You just needed time. Keep smiling. I'll be here when you
can smile and when you can't." He says as he kisses my cheek. Tears
fall freely down my face. These tears are different somehow. Happy
Luke and I walk outside and down to the lake.
"Erik," I say, looking out across the starry sky, "I miss you. I love
you. But I need to move on. You will always be a part of my life. I
will never forget you. In time, I may once again forget what your face
looks like, but I will never forget what your soul looks like. Thank
you for the memories. Thank you for the time you gave us."
Copyright ( 2000 Miriah Grigg age 18