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December 4, 2018

My Brother Dear

This past week has been full of impossible things… getting the call from my mom that he was gone, calling his son to give him the news, going to see Matt one last time and then having his memorial service yesterday.

But God.

But God has carried us like you wouldn’t believe.  He’s reminded us of the hope we have in Him, He’s sent friends to comfort us, to pray over us, to send us meals (because we all know my brother was the chef, not me!) and to just check in on us with a quick call or text.  My dad suddenly passed away 24 years ago when I was 14 and my brother was 12 so I’ve had flashbacks to that time and what stands out the most is that God was there for us then (even though my faith was SO young) and He’s here with us now.

I cried on the car ride to Matt’s service.  Ben just held my hand and said yes, it would be difficult, but it will be good.  And it was.  It was complicated, because life itself is complicated, but it was good to hear from my mom’s heart, to get up and speak about my brother and especially to hear from Chad, Matt’s boss at Southern Culture where he worked.

My brother was a crazy talented chef and I knew that Chad believed in my brother and his gifts in the kitchen, but to hear him talk about that side of my brother’s life was such a treasure.

So, I wanted to share some photos of him as well as what I shared during the service yesterday.  It was emotional, but I knew from the day after he passed away that I wanted to say something… and Lord knows He’s the one that gave me the strength to do it because I didn’t have any of my own.  And the same was true for my mom.  I can’t imagine walking through this from her position, but God is carrying her just like He’s carrying me.

Matt was my younger brother by two and a half years and three days.  Exactly.  But as we got older and he got taller, he would walk up to me and with ease, rest his chin on my head and lovingly call me shorty or little sister.  And my reply was that it would have just been ODD if I had been the taller one!

As much as I didn’t like having a younger brother growing up (I would have preferred an older brother or a twin brother if I was going to have a brother at all), he was still my playmate for the longest time.  And since he was more apt to let me play with his He-Man castle and transformers than with any dolls I might have had (which weren’t many), I knew all about Castle Grayskull, The Ninja Turtles and X-Men than most girls my age back in the 80s. And I kind of love that.

But what God was doing, even way back then, was building a bond that I didn’t even know I would want as we got older.

The pesky little brother that used to chase me around the house, knowing I would eventually lock myself in the bathroom and one day take advantage of that by having already locked the door and slathered it with Vaseline so that I couldn’t easily open it, became someone that I cared so much about that it would literally hurt sometimes.

But it was a gift.  Matt was a gift.  And God gave him some incredible gifts that I’m so thankful many of you in this room were able to experience. 

He may have begun working in a kitchen when he was younger by washing dishes, but he became a man who I will forever remember having culinary ideas that were far beyond anything I could ever dream up.

I didn’t love that he lived in Charleston for so long, but at the same time, we always ate WELL when we would go down to see him.  The first time Ben and I traveled down to Charleston together, we went to dinner at Poogan’s Porch where Matt was working at the time.  Everyone in the restaurant knew Louie, of course, and they were so welcoming to me and Ben when they found out who we were (just as anyone has been at any restaurant of his that I’ve walked into).  Matt had told me beforehand to just show up and he would take care of the rest.  They took our drink order and did not give us a menu but oh my mercy… food just kept coming.  And coming!  By the time the dessert course arrived I actually thought my stomach was going to explode.  But it’s dessert and I never say no to dessert :-)  Matt was only able to come out for a few minutes that night to say hi and actually meet Ben, but he told me later how impressed he was with my new boyfriend.  And I think he was just as happy as I was that this one stuck and has been taking care of me ever since.

One of the biggest gifts he ever gave me, besides walking me down the aisle at my wedding and giving me away, was to also cater our wedding.  He had such an amazing crew and it was some of the best food I’ve ever had at a wedding.  And I’ve been to a few weddings in my time.  Even several years after we were married, friends would still comment on how good the food was at our wedding and I’m SO thankful that several of you were able to experience his gift that day.

The other huge gift that God gave my brother was his heart.  As we got older, we did become better friends and our hearts just grew for each other.  We still had PLENTY of differences, but no one else knew our home and our lives the way we did.  It hurt to watch him struggle the way he did, but he always knew he could call me and I almost always answered the phone whenever I saw his name pop up.  He was too important to me and I knew if he was calling then it was something he needed to talk about. 

There are several conversations he and I had on the phone that I treasured when he was here and that I am so thankful for.  But one funny one was when he called me and was SO frustrated.  He had been working and just couldn’t take it anymore.  He said, “People are idiots!”  And I remember sitting on the guest bed at my friend Jill’s house trying not to laugh!  In all of my big-sister wisdom, I said, “Well, since the world is full of people and you think they are all idiots, you better figure out a way to deal with it.”  I’m pretty sure I said it with a straight face, but I’m not entirely sure.

Somehow, even as he continued to work and go through life and walk through countless obstacles, his heart kept growing.  When I asked him to give me away at my wedding, we both cried.  When that day came, we both bawled like babies.  When he met his oldest niece for the first time, he was SO proud and couldn’t hold the tears back then either.  He loved his little peanut and I’m going to enjoy reminding Catherine as she grows up of the joy he had when he got to spend time with her.  He didn’t get quite as much time with his second niece, but when she was born, he fondly began referring to them as Thing 1 and Thing 2… which some days seem to be very appropriate names!

Because of his huge heart, Matt would have done anything in the world to help mom and me out if he could.  When we were maybe 23 and 20 years old, we had our own Christmas dinner at home because mom was out of town.  After we ate our ham and the sides off our tv trays, we drove down to the convenience store around the corner to buy a power ball ticket because it was pretty high at the time.  When we got back in my truck to drive home, we were talking about what we would do if we won and, without skipping a beat, he said the very first thing would be to make sure mom had the perfect house and would never need anything again.

It seems like if I was ever carrying anything, from a diaper bag to something far heavier, he would just take it from me to carry it instead.  His hugs were mostly suffocating and his kisses always fell on the very top of my head because he really was that much taller!

If you knew him, you probably knew he had several tattoos.  But I’m pretty sure I shocked him when I got one of my own and showed it to him!  After Ben and I found out that my first pregnancy wasn’t viable, Ben took my hand and said, “Our hope is not in this and God is still good.”  It took almost 2 months for the miscarriage to end and while it seemed to last forever, God kept reminding me that HE was my hope, not a baby, not the end of the miscarriage, not even my husband.  So when it was all said and done, I had the word HOPE tattooed on my wrist in Hebrew so that I had a constant reminder that my hope is in Jesus and nothing else.  That hope is how mom and I will keep going even though Matt is no longer walking this earth with us.

Brother Dear, you truly were the gift I never knew I wanted or needed.  I’m so thankful you knew how much I love you and how thankful I am for you.

And just so I can wrap this up with laughter (and a potential eye-roll from Matt), I’m going to leave you with this story of him.

Sometime around 1989 or so, when Matt was about 7, we were walking out of the door for school.  My mom and I were waiting on Matt to come and he finally bounded out of the bathroom with his goofy grin on his face.  He apparently decided that his bangs needed a trim and thought it would be a good idea to do it himself.  Except that he was left with a triangle cut OUT of his bangs smack in the middle of his forehead!  And he got to go to school like that because we had to leave that second!  I’m pretty sure he got a buzz cut when we got home that afternoon, but I will never forget that missing triangle :-)

Matthew Gray Lewis | April 29, 1982 – November 28, 2018

  1. Cindy Taylor says:

    So sorry to hear about your brother. Prayers for you and your family.

  2. Jon Griffin says:

    So sorry, Sabrina! We hadn’t heard. Thanks for the beautiful tribute to Matt. I haven’t been there for my little sister like Matt was for you. I’ll have to work on that. Be assured of Kathy’s and my prayers. Jon & Kathy Griffin

  3. Lana Minnick says:

    This was beautiful Sabrina. I’m sure this has been a hard situation for you. The tribute to Matt was just wonderful. Please know that you and your family thru this time.

  4. Ramona Lewis says:

    I think my heart will burst..from the beauty of what you have written..from the memories evoked by the pictures..and regret for reasons I won’t state here.
    Much love,
    Aunt Monie

  5. […] My brother dear (what I always called him because he called me sister dear) passed away the morning of November 28, 2018.  Just a month and 2 days after Hudson was born and went to be with Jesus. […]

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