Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Remembering Matthew

I read “The Meaning of Matthew” several years ago -- a biography concerning the life and death of Matthew Shepard written by his mother. To say that it was troubling would be a gross understatement. If I may, let me briefly recount.

Based on re-creations and eye witnesses, shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard met A. McKinney and R. Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming who offered Shepard a ride in their car. After admitting he was gay, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, then tortured, tied to a fence in a remote area and was left to die.
 
McKinney and Henderson had also discovered his address and intended to rob his apartment. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by a jogger who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow. At the time of his discovery, Matthew was still alive but comatose.

Matthew suffered numerous fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He had severe damage to his brain stem which affected his body's ability to regulate vital functions. Also, there were approximately a dozen smaller lacerations around his head, face and neck.

His injuries were decidedly too severe for specialists to operate. Matthew did not regained consciousness, remaining on full life support for his time in intensive care. He was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998.

Matthews father describes him as "an optimistic and accepting young man who had a special gift of relating to almost everyone ... very approachable and always looked to new challenges ... a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

In February 1995, during a high school trip abroad. According to his mother, Matthew was beaten and raped causing him to withdraw and experience bouts of depression and panic attacks. One of Shepard's friends feared his depression caused him to become involved with drugs during his time in college. A few days prior to his death, Shepard had also admitted to one of his friends that he was HIV positive.

Optimistic, accepting, special gifts, beaten, raped, depression, panic attacks, drug use, HIV, robbed, tortured, pistol whipped, tied to a post, left for dead, killed. 

I can't imagine. I don't want to. And this happened just the next state over only 15 years ago.

For me, the real “Meaning of Matthew”-- all deference to him and his family -- is that there was no meaning in any of it.  None of it makes any sense at all.

I am determined to find meaning. I want better for all of us. While his perpetrators are in jail tying to atone for their mistakes, let us look at ours.

How many jabs do we make to the person who is different? How many punches does someone else get to take at our friends and brothers while we try to decide the appropriateness of stepping in? When do we suddenly decide that enough is enough?

How many more Matthews will it take to screw in a collective light bulb?

Follow this link to the Matthew Shepard Foundation

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