A tribute to Matt Bradley
I feel sad again today. Can't sleep and I'm far away from home. I can't imagine what his family is feeling, and my heart goes out to them. I've been going through the motions but Matt's passing really caught me off guard.
I had gotten in a big fight with my sister the night before and all I could think was how petty a fight it was. It definitely wasn't worth not talking the rest of the week.
I feel so blessed for the opportunity of having Matt as my friend. I am on a trip in Atlanta, GA to organize for the FMFP 2013 conference because of him. Literally, he helped me pay for it. On Wednesday morning I was supposed to talk to him but instead was hit with the news. I'll admit I freaked out and considered not coming then I thought about it and I know he'd be mad if I hadn't made it out. No excuses!
In 2009 I joined the FMFP group on a trip to Houston, I felt really uncomfortable because a lot of the people that went were not my friends. I am also kinda shy when I meet new people. So I was kinda staying behind a lot. At one point he called us up to the front of the bus for a "meeting" and I walked up, it was crowded so I stayed on the middle aisle that was a step down from the rest, and put my hand on the seat next to me, well what I thought was the seat. I was kinda feeling on the threads of the cloth and felt a weird plastic thing. I looked up and it was Matt's back pants pocket. I had been feeling on his butt!
I remember my whole body blushing, literally felt like I started sweating because I was SOOOO embarrassed. He turned and gave me a weird look and I just said I am soooo sorry! That was a total accident. He saw how embarrassed I was and started laughing and then told Isaac. Who laughed at me too, lol. Every time I would see him for a while I would be soo embarrassed and he would bring it up without fault and tell me to stay away from his butt. Eventually it became an inside joke.
I know that there are many times that we encounter people in our lives that we don't assume will be so important but I still can't fit the idea of not having Matt live down the street on 90th.
I remember one night my little dog attacked one of our chickens and we didn't know what to do because he got her pretty good. We called Matt at almost midnight and he answered. We told him we were thinking of taking the chicken to the vet and he was quiet and said, "really?, you love that chicken that much?, you know you can buy a new one for $2.00." Then he proceeded to tell us that all we needed was some super glue and we could super glue the skin back together. We cleaned out the wound and super glued the chickens neck and our chicken is still outside living a healthy life.
The first time I had a bike accident I texted him a pic of my bruise, he told me to wear a helmet and laughed. Last year when my garden wasn't doing so well he sent me tips.
When Isaac moved back from ND he was so happy, he even made Isaac a cake and brought it over. That was a really fun barbecue.
I am so grateful for his knowledge on so many levels.
Last week we were hanging out and Andrei couldn't stop looking at his prosthetic leg. Finally I told him to just ask him whatever he needed to ask him. Andrei walked over and said, "Matt, are you a real robot?" Ha ha we couldn't stop laughing. He explained he was only a little part robot. ha ha. And Natalia was really upset because she thought Andrei was so rude to have asked that. Matt told her it was okay.
A lot of times I feel bad to haul my kids around to meetings and planning events, but there are times that I can't find a sitter. I was supposed to be going to meetings every friday but wasn't able to get a sitter 2 times in a row, he texted asking if I was still alive. I told him what was up and he told me to just bring the kids, that no one cared if they were there. Next time I came he had snacks for them.
I had been dreading coming on this trip because at times the place I grew up catches up to me. I begin to doubt that I am capable of having so much knowledge and of being able to use that knowledge to build. As individuals who have overcome great hardships we have learned things that textbooks and euro- centric pedagogy can't ever teach us. Those are the tools and strengths of under-represented communities. That is something that Matt taught me with his trust in my knowledge and capabilities.
In many cases I have felt incapable of doing something. I hate speaking in public, my emotions make my voice tremble and I sound like I am about to fall apart. On several occasions he put me on the spot, because he knew if I didn't speak I would never learn and I thank him for that. I am also grateful for the collective knowledge he taught us to hold on to and the type of organizing he inspired in me. Organizing that is a true collective that utilizes diverse talents, stories and experiences and doesn't gloat in recognition and personal accomplishments but instead in community advancements, growth and the well being of individuals working together.
On several occasions I saw him angry because of unjust situations. I saw him defend those he felt were persecuted with his name and presence. I also saw him stick up for people who didn't deserve it, I remember telling him that once and he shrugged his shoulders and said, "well see what happens."
Another time, he told me I was spot on a "feeling" I had about something and he encouraged me to trust those feelings and give myself credit for learning from my past. There are so many things that I can keep saying… BUT today I got to talk to one of my other friends who is also a community leader and advocate. She grounded me a little.
I remembered that there are great and special people all around us and that we have to remember to appreciate them when they are still here next to us. I know Matt must be having a good time resting after all the work he put in, physically and spiritually and I also feel a deep impression that he would want us to move on and continue the work he knew we were all capable of doing. He joined his mom and sister-in-law, now they are waiting for the rest of us. Nothing can replace an unforgettable like Matt, his life's legacy will continue to flower from the seeds he planted in all of us.
I am where I need to be and I will work my best to complete the tasks I started with him. I know he believed in all of us, in me. Thank you and rest in peace my friend.