I’ll start with a little back story, in January of 2003 Matt was involved in an accident, so to speak. Matt was on his way home from school when a guy with the same model truck tried to instigate a race with Matt. Matt was just trying to get home & ignored the guy. The guy then started riding Matt’s tail so (as I’ve been guilty of & everyone else at some point) Matt sped up, the guy sped up to continue to stay on Matt’s tail & did this for several miles & when they came to a stop light that was yellow Matt went through to get away from the him, the guy then ran the red light causing himself to hit an elderly man & killing the elderly man. Matt, on the other hand, swerved to miss the elderly man’s car hitting his & ended up hitting an embankment. Matt’s car never hit the elderly man’s car. To the community of witnesses it looked as if it was racing ending fatally.
Both Matt & the other guy were put on trial, Matt pleading not guilty of murder since his vehicle never touched the elderly man’s vehicle. Matt’s lawyer was unprepared for the not guilty plea thinking Matt would take the offered plea deal & ended up losing the trial leaving Matt with a sentencing of guilty & 13-16.5 years in prison. What happened to the guy that actually hit & killed the elderly man you ask? He took a plea deal, plead guilty (which he was) and got out on a 60 day work release program.
When the accident happened Matt was a junior in high school, he worked a part-time job, he was 1st chair trumpet in the high school band, all-star tennis player & he had gotten a scholarship to Gardner Webb for music. (he wasn’t a trouble maker who got himself in that situation by breaking the law, he wasn’t a troubled kid from a bad home, it was an accident that wasn’t his fault but ended up changing his life)
I met Matt in the 2003-2004 school year, I had no knowledge of who he was outside of the cute Senior I befriended in keyboarding class as a Freshman that slept the whole time while I typed his assignments & mine. He was sweet, funny & dated all my friends, but me & him? We were the best of friends. I didn’t know of the wreck because it happened before I met him & he didn’t talk about it. It was my sister, who was also a Senior in high school that told me what little she knew.
Matt was a normal high school kid in my eyes. & when he graduated high school we were still friends. We were even friends when he went off to college. We would talk weekly on AOL messenger & it wasn’t until then I figured out I had feelings for him.
In 2005 was when the trial happened. We had kind of fell out of touch for personal reasons, (truth: I told him I liked him & so did another girl & he decided to date her instead, so needless to say I was petty about it. haha). It wasn’t until 2007 that one of my friends at church, who also went to school with Matt & I, was telling me how she was writing him & how he was doing. I got his address from her & started writing him as well & even visiting him, it wasn’t until then that I got the whole story of what happened & knew that I’d support him through the end because he was literally an innocent person in prison. It was during my mission trip to S.Africa that I realized I still cared for him because I missed him. 2.5 weeks in another country unable to get letters from him & I missed him. When I got back to the U.S. my first letter to him was telling him that I still had feelings for him, we then became boyfriend & girlfriend. We figured out the mailing system so we were getting letters every other day & I would go to every visit him with his parents on the weekends. It wasn’t your text-book definition relationship for a girl who was 18 but I didn’t care. I got questioned about it from some of my friends & some people even told me I was crazy but for the most part, the ones that mattered anyways, understood.
He was a felon & actually in prison. I’m not going to lie, walking into the prison facility on visit day at 18 having never been to a place like it, it was scary the first few times, especially to someone with anxiety. But as soon as Matt would come out none of that mattered because when I looked at him I saw an innocent man who had been let down by the justice system, I know that’s not always the case but that was the case when it came to Matt & I had made it up in my mind I’d stay by him.
From the time he was sentenced his parents started working with lawyers & other known names of the community to get his sentence appealed. Myself & other people who knew him wrote letters to the Governor on his behalf & one of the last things Governor Easley did in office was grant Matt clemency & approved the appeal & Matt ended up only spending 4.5 years in prison rather than 13-16.5.
Before he got out we had actually broken up. It was tough for me because I knew I loved him but we were at different stages in our lives. He had been in prison, a cold & hard place & I didn’t know how hard it was because it wasn’t me experiencing it & he tried to shield me from it as much as he could by putting on a happy face at visit & not giving me any detail as to how it really was. During the time Matt was in prison he began to “identify” with a group of skin heads (white supremacist group) & he told me that he no longer believed in God & eventually that is was broke us up, because he would tell me he was racist, I would try & tell him that it was circumstantial due to the place he was in & the environment around him along with his statement of not believing in God. We would have that argument on a weekly basis at visit & eventually it just got to be too much.
When he came home I was still heartbroken over everything that happened between us. I was with someone else at the time but my feelings for Matt still lingered. Matt had got a job and was trying to rebuild his life but was still carrying the label that he was racist. We had talked a couple of times on Facebook but nothing ever in-depth about how he was adjusting to the world. A couple of years went by & eventually I got over the hurt from me & him & I’ll be honest, from time to time I would stalk his Facebook page, I wanted to know how he was doing without making myself vulnerable to him again. He got married to a girl he graduated high school with, & I stopped checking in as often, then when I did I learned that she had cheated on him & they had divorced. I messaged him at that point to see how he was doing only to find out that he was with someone else, another girl from school, actually a girl I had graduated with. They were an odd couple. Eventually they got married. & they were married 9 months when he found out she had been cheating on him for 6 months. The day after he caught her cheating on him was the day he sent me a friend request on Facebook. It took me all day to accept it. (at that point I had Facebook set up to where if we weren’t friends you couldn’t message me). It was 10:00 at night when I accepted the friend request, 30 minutes later Facebook messenger dinged with a message. “Hello.” I stared at that one word for fifteen minutes before responding.
We ended up talking all night.
He told me that he no longer felt he was racist, I was more or so right all along (I liked hearing that) & he apologized. He apologized for everything that went on between us & not being a better person about it. I told him that I forgave him a long time ago. Not for him, for me. He understood. We traded #’s & struck up a friendship, I remembered he was always one of my best friends. First couple conversations we had we talked about his marriages & how they had failed & how he’d probably never get married again. I told him that God had a reason for his pain & he just needed to trust Him. He informed life was like baseball & 3 strikes you’re out. I responded with, or maybe, 3rd times a charm & your 3rd wife would be the winner! (little did I know I would be his 3rd wife)
Matt & I were friends when he first told me that during his time in prison he studied other religions & actually tried to study/write a contradiction of the Bible but had recently asked the Lord into his heart. I told him now was the time to find a good church.
When we started dating he started coming to church with me, it made us stronger, so strong that even the first few short months felt like we had been together for years. People wanted to know who he was, some remembered him from when we were together the first time & some knew who he was from other people & knew the “racing tale” that sent him to prison. I just knew him as someone who had a past, like everyone else & he was the love of my life.
He warned me that he had seizures, and he warned me that due to radiation from having cancer he had scar tissue on his brain & because of it sometimes he forgets things, sometimes he can be talking & mid sentence lose his train of thought, sometimes he gets stuck on things & can’t let it go until he’s said EVERYTHING he needs to say & sometimes he gets in moods where he doesn’t want to talk at all. He “warned me” that it wouldn’t be easy to be with him some times. I warned him that I was stubborn & didn’t like to give up on things easily.
I’ve witnessed the mid sentence forgetfulness, I’ve witnessed the forgetting things, I’ve witnessed how he gets stuck on things & can’t let the topic go & I’ve witnessed the days where he’s just not in the mood to say nothing at all. They don’t bother me. Heck, I sometimes lose my phone & look frantically for it only to realize I’m talking on it. & I too have moods where I don’t want to talk. It doesn’t make him unlovable. It just means that it takes the right person to do it. I am that person. I have no doubt that God made me to love him & that’s why we’re so good together.
We got married on October 1, 2016. I’m aware of every dark part of his past & love him all the more. It took him going to prison, identifying as racist, studying other religions & being married twice before to be the man he is today & I thank God for who he is today. Matt is living proof that God can save someone from the worst part of themselves & make them brand new. Matt is living proof that God can bring you out of any situation (racism/hatred, self loathing, unbelief & stage 4 cancer the Dr said should have killed him). Matt is living proof that God can use your past to make you a better witness to others. Matt is living proof that saving Grace is undeserving but at the same time, a gift. He was a racist, doubtful, drunk sinner & God saved him.
No, everyone’s not going to always understand why Matt is the way he is, but for those that matter, now you have a little piece of why/how he is the man he is today & maybe you can appreciate it a little more. 🙂