Yesterday I woke to the news that a dear, sweet new friend, Matthew Ryan Hanson, had died; shot in the doorway of his home in Oakland at 10:05am the day before. Waves of sadness and disbelief washed over me… I couldn’t breathe… it must be a mistake… it was most certainly a mistake. But he hadn’t replied to my messages from the day before and soon the reality set in. I’ve spent the last 24 hours remembering every detail of our way too brief time together. Engraving them in my heart and mind. Promising not to let the memories fade.
I met Matty on a Sunday morning at a weekend camp-out a few weeks ago. As he approached our group, he was greeted with smiles and cheers from his friends who were sitting enjoying their morning coffee. I was introduced and within a few minutes the two of us were deep in conversation. I was so taken by his energy, and outlook on life. That conversation continued throughout the day and into the night. He shared with me stories of his past… family, travels, military, career, his beloved Meems, and his dreams for the future. And that smile, that sweet sweet smile.
When he asked if I’d like to join him and his friends on a little road trip to Ukiah the next day, I jumped at the chance to spend more time getting to know this amazing being. We were off to one of his favorite places. It was a beautiful drive. We shared stories the entire way. He was so inquisitive and open.
Eventually we made it back to Oakland, where I dropped him off and left to make my way back to Reno. He promised to keep in touch and was going to figure out a way to see me again soon. A promise he made good on immediately. We connected every day with texts and calls. And when the chance to meet up four days later came up, he jumped in a car ready for another adventure.
Matty spent his last weekend with me and my best friend, Heidi. We met up in Truckee Saturday afternoon before heading to Donner Lake for some fun on the water. He tried SUP yoga for the first time; he was not afraid to fall. Tired and happy we headed back to Reno with no plans other than to have fun. Saturday night the three of us walked around Reno. I kept making detours on the way to dinner so I could share some the art and treasures of this town I love so much. And he got it.
On the walk home we were approached by a man that was telling jokes for money. I instinctively reach for my purse, ready to spare a handful of coin and get back to our giggle-fest. The man’s second joke was offensive. And although I don’t remember the joke, I will never forget Matthew’s reaction; “rape is NEVER a joke and you will get no money from any of us!! Let’s go.” I could tell it had shaken him. And I felt so honoured that he stood up for his principles and held such high regard for the women in his life. We could use more men like Matthew Ryan Hanson in this world.
Sunday morning we sat in the morning sun, drinking coffee, listening to music, laughing, and sharing stories. I was so amazed at how much Matt had experienced and overcome in his thirty years on this earth. And still held such a soft, sweet heart open to the world. The three of us jumped on bikes after breakfast and headed to the river and then to the park. He had a lot on his mind that day and the realities of his work responsibilities were setting in. I could tell he didn’t want the day to end, and neither did I. I assured him this was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and we would have many more opportunities to share space… it breaks my heart to have been so wrong. I was falling in love with this sweet, amazing being.
As we stood in the doorway saying our good-byes, Heidi yelled from the kitchen “Bye Matty. We love you. Come back anytime.” He beamed with joy. I smiled and winked, knowing we had a true friend in this man. The following days were busy with work and responsibilities, but we still managed to talk or text every day. His last message to me; a picture and a kiss. My last message to him still sits unanswered.
Matty ~ My heart goes out to your many friends and chosen family. Your spirit and smile touched many hearts. It is a great loss to this world. In the short time I have known you, I have been reminded of how quickly connections can be made, and to savor every moment we have with the people we care about. I am so glad I said yes to that first road trip, and only wish I had the chance to say it again a thousand more times.