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my sons are not gone; they’re just dead

in our home there is a room which is for “storage”
it used to have a crib
on the door there are still hand-Crayoned signs
“Ezra God loves you”
missing the comma
which always made us laugh
penned from children in a school class who I hope will remember
the day my son came to visit
with a smile so big
he didn’t need hair on his head

on my arm is written the time with breath
given to my first-born son
on my wrist are seven characters telling a tiny story
of a tiny person
our third son
who fit in the hand just past that wrist for one week

my sons are not gone
they’re just dead

and we’re not supposed to say “dead”
because it hurts to think of a son
a daughter
a child gone
its uncomfortable to feel you don’t know what to say
or don’t have the answer to the questions
everyone has to ask when this happens
do prayers travel through time and space and I don’t even know what else
to achieve anything?
if I spin a quarter a hundred times and pray every time its heads
and it’s heads half the time
were my prayers heard and granted fifty times?
were my prayers heard and denied fifty times?
is a prayer more a nod to deity than anything else?

maybe death is too private
(but you’re wondering too
all the things I’m wondering)
and maybe I just need to heal
and maybe I just need to move on

as if watching your children die
is a stop on a bus tour
and not something that changes the colors around you
makes you shake uncontrollably for hours
makes you roar at the heavens until you forget everything except your own scream
until you’re not even sure it’s you making that sound
makes quiet feel different

as if you haven’t spent so much time
thinking this isn’t the place
or the moment
to talk about it

and you can talk about your mom who’s died
or your grandfather
(God rest his soul)
and all the times you had
how they changed who you are
and we’re all ok with it
but it’s awkward to mention my sons
because it’s tragic
because it’s not right
because it’s uncomfortable

but you see
it’s not uncomfortable for me to remember my sons
even though it hurts sometimes
my family is not defined by the people living in my home
and if our conversation nimbly dances around the moments in my life
you feel are painful
(and they are)
we’ve ignored these parts of me which burn brightest
which make Robyn still Ezra’s mom
still Price’s mom
which make Charley still their brother
which make me still their dad

my sons are not gone
they’re just dead

“but are you ok?”
what does it mean?
I’ll tell you what we are
we’re realizing all of us carry this huge strength
which wraps a home in hope
and holds up the arms of a friend who can’t
or the pole which holds a bag of chemo
to fight the cancer in a body
because we are created
with this innate need to express
to feel something
to connect to one another
and it makes every moment so necessary and meaningful
and we wonder if we’re missing it
whatever “it” is

we’re realizing you’re thinking some of this too
and maybe you’re “fine”
and maybe you’re not
and either way it matters

it can’t have been worth it
this attention to the need
the hurting
to have this empty room in our home
when I see the fire in my wife’s eyes
because I said we have one son
and not three
or when a 6 year old fighting a killer in her body
puts a flower on the head of every person she sees
because she finds beauty where others see pain
when my chest tightens
and I catch my breath
every time I see a father
throwing a ball with his son
I know

my sons are not gone
they’re just dead

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  1. Your love pours out in this video. I am so in awe of your and Robyn’s strength. The work you do In honor of Ezra is wonderful. It makes the loss of your son a blessing to others and I can only imagine how hard that is. Your raw emotions are sad and beautiful. Thank you for sharing these adorable images/videos of Ezra.

  2. I selfishly delayed watching this for many of the reasons you mentioned. Brings back a lot of memories consumed with worry for you and Robyn and all the boys– memories you have to remember every day. But it happened and it has to be told and shared and used to help others. xoxo

  3. Kyle you are amazing…all of you Matthews are…really awsome inspiring and amazing people. I’m so in love with your little Ezra!! Price and Charly are also two rays of sunshine. You’ve got three amazing children. An amazing family indeed.