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The Gaillery

Sunday morning, while getting ready for the market, I was thinking to myself that I was going to have such a fun story to share with my readers come Monday.

In a first ever for us, we went to the Parliament House on Saturday night, and I'll admit I did not know what a grinder was. Am I the only one?
Except that idea was soon replaced by a text that came in from Angela at 7:40 am, which reads:

Hi sweet friend. Matt passed away at 5:33pm yesterday. I will be in touch soon.

And that is all I know so far. It was not like we didn't know it was coming, but so suddenly after our Thursday visit??? What could have happened? Making matters worse for us is that Friday night, while we were having dinner poolside with David and Catherine, I saw I had a voicemail from Angela. With trepidation I listened, only to learn that Matt was still alive and as well as could be expected, however, she wanted to reschedule the visit we'd planned for the next morning. Saturday Bruce was to have taken Baxter over to show Matt that he no longer has, in Matt's words, "dodgy, doggy breath." Apparently an out of town visitor needed to take precedent. And that is that....

So you can imagine how shocked and sad we both are around here. And, you may very well be wondering about my title today--The Gaillery, that's what Matt called all of the pieces they purchased from me for their home, and there are more than I can count. He was clever like that. I know he was so proud of how my business turned out because he was there at the outset. Having purchased the home across the street as a single man of 37, he was not shy about getting to know his new neighbors.  I was newly not working, and home a lot, as was Matt while renovating the house. I'd go over to commiserate about the renovations, and in general, be a sounding board for his ideas.

And then along came Angela.

Neither Bruce nor I will probably ever forget meeting her for the first time. Returning home from somewhere on a Sunday afternoon, in his booming voice Matt called over to our driveway saying come and meet my beautiful Angela!! Except she was anything but beautiful at the time, however, he went on and on about her. We felt like she was delightful, however, once home, we looked at each other, wondering"what is wrong with her face?" Yet, Matt was able to look past her disfigurement. A baseball sized tumor, growing in her sinus cavity, and displacing her one good eye, marred her face. It wasn't too long after that he said they were marrying, a first one for him at age 40. But not before Angela endured a nine hour facial surgery, followed by months of recovery.

From the beginning Matt called her his princess, and proceeded to treat her like one each and every day. Whatever Angela wanted, Angela got. And, right from the start, she began having prints of my photographs made for their home. As well, I was always enlisted as their go-to photographer, such as this very early photo of them before attending a military ball.
Although this one might have been even earlier? One of a series of Christmas card photos I took...
That is Michael, Angela's son from her first marriage, who as I type is just about a month from beginning college in Alabama. From the start Matt loved Michael as if he were his own. The big new house is going to be a lonely one...

I will say, they packed an awful lot into their eight years of marriage, going hither and yon, usually at Angela's insistence. Matt, he could be a real homebody, but not the princess! Having both gone through horrible health crises in their late 20's, they had a very special bond, loving each other fiercely.

At age 27 Matt was first diagnosed with brain cancer. As an active Marine and helicopter pilot, this came as quite a blow. After surgery, extensive radiation, and chemotherapy, he began the hard business of learning to do things with an injured brain. Not a year went by that he did not have a brain scan to make sure things were going well.

Except, then something began happening. Late 2013, he began having headaches and dizziness. Although they came to the wedding reception we held here for Jonathan and Alissa, there was no denying that something was going terribly wrong. Matt loved nothing more than to dance, and with a dj in the house he gave it a try, however, even he could see that it wasn't working. Soon thereafter they left for the night. Then, it might have been on my birthday, he had an MRI and the news was not good. Most of 2014 was spent in either, surgery, chemo, or radiation, and hoping for the best. They prayed like never before.

But, it was not to be. Anyone who has worked in medicine for very long knows that it is a rare person who survives cancer a second time around, especially when it is in the same location. But that did not stop them from living life to the fullest until the very end. Remember how Matt wanted me to bake chocolate chip cookies several times? Here we are together in March after a delivery of some.
And then in May, the vow renewal...
One of the last photos I took of Matt was during a visit they made to the Farmers Market this year. Angela wanted something new for the gazebo; she picked out one thing, but Matt insisted on another. For once, they took home Matt's selection.
Angela, once home, overruled him, asking for her choice. I complied, although truthfully, I did not want to. Thursday afternoon she gave it back to me, however, I was less than happy about doing so. I don't know what it meant to Matt, but I'd like to think that it meant something.

When I wrote this post last Monday I mentioned how I'd immediately responded to his letter, sending one of the sewing notecards. I told him that I might never forgive Angela for moving him away from us. Can you blame me after reading this in his letter thanking us for cards we've sent?

Your presence marks the first friends and first couple known by Angela and me. This is just one reason that your presence is special to us. Though Angela does have new "book club" friends in our new neighborhood, you were our first friends.

He closes with, hope the tardiness of my response to you does not make you think ill. Please accept this in the joy with which I wrote it.

Every couple has their unique love story, ours is about youth and longevity, theirs is about finding love at 40, and holding on for dear life.

Matt was a very special and unique individual, whom we will never forget.

Holding on for dear life,

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