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In Memory of Matt Lews

Blog

Posts on tylerthigpen.com explore: 

DEEP LEARNING: How we might renovate our instructional approach and achieve for preK-12 teachers and students a wholesale transition to 21st century teaching and learning

QUALITY LEADERSHIP: How we might apply the best aspects from the public, private, and charter sectors to make U.S. public schools and districts the best in the world; or 

LIVING FAITH: Intersections of faith and public life, so that we might "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).

In Memory of Matt Lews

Tyler Thigpen

A time to mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

One of the people in attendance this evening is Jimmy Blee, who is a friend to Matt’s brother, Joel. And something interesting happened to him earlier this week that I want to share with you. Early Monday morning, Jimmy received a phone call from his brother here in Atlanta, who was calling to let him know that they were headed to the hospital because his wife was in the beginning stages of giving birth to their first child. Monday morning was also the time when it was becoming more and more clear that Matt would not recover from his injuries. And Jimmy had a choice to make – he would leave work at noon either to be at the hospital with Joel and the Lewis family…OR to visit his brother and sister-in-law at another hospital. He told me later that that decision…was complex. On the one hand, a new life was beginning…And, on the other hand, another life – a young life – was ending.

In the end, he postponed the celebration of the birth of his nephew in favor of being at Gwinnett Medical with the Lewis’ and their friends. But I bring this up not to emphasize Jimmy’s decision, but because it reminded me of a similar distinction made in Ecclesiastes chapter 7, verse 2:

The author writes…

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every person; the living should take this to heart.

It’s not often that the Bible makes value statements. But it seems that, in this, the Scriptures are clear: It is better to attend a funeral than a party.

Presumably because of what it does to us. We think about our own mortality, about our own end. We wonder, Who will grieve when we depart? What will people say?
Somehow attending a service like has a way of illuminating the things in life that are most important, most essential, dare we say most beautiful. And somehow attending a service like this… is good for us.

I think that it’s readily apparent to us that the purpose of us gathering today is to pray, to draw strength from God and from one another, and to honor the memory of Matt. Perhaps what is less obvious is just how appropriate it is to mourn, to grieve what we have lost.

For when we grieve, we become more like our Maker, who Himself grieves over what is lost and broken in this world, over pain and suffering, and over wrongs that have not yet been made right. Even Christ was known as a “man of sorrows." And perhaps that, more than anything else, gives us permission to weep.

As I prepared for this service, at the top of my notes I wrote the words “Matt Lewis’ funeral.” And I guess it has been a difficult thing for me to comprehend, to understand. It just doesn’t seem to me like something that we can get over. Rather, somehow we must absorb the loss into our lives until it becomes a part of who we are. And if we take Christ as an example, suffering and brokenness seemed to intensify his own compassion for others…And that in some ways his own sadness is what made his voice tremble into the hearts of women and men.

If that’s true, then this loss just might grow our souls larger after all…Because we have lost a lot.

Matt doesn’t sit at our table anymore. And I, for one, am tremendously sad.

We grieve because we have lost Matt and everything that he brought to the table. But we also grieve because we have lost what he brought out of us. And so, somehow, a part of us is gone as well. For some of us, that part is much greater than we care to lose.

To Matt’s friends, most of whom I know,…we have lost a great and loyal friend, a humble servant, an accountability partner, a confidant, someone who, as you all know better than I do, was a vault…a uniquely trustworthy person. We’ve lost someone who giggled in a strange way, and we have lost one of the greatest haircuts that Gwinnett County has ever seen…hands down. Of course, I’m referring to the large mop-like afro that he sported most of his 9th grade year. Although he didn’t wear that same cut recently, I think we all secretly hoped for its return.

When CS Lewis talked about hanging out with his friends, he wrote: “Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walking have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out towards the blaze and our drinks at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago,…while at the same time an affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life – natural life – has no better gift to give.”

Friends of Matt Lewis, when I consider the students and groups of students that I have known in my life, I know of no other group that has come closer to this ideal than you.

And I know that you miss your friend.