First off, for those who don’t know me I’m Matt’s younger brother Andrew. I also wanted to say thank you for coming today. Matt would have been deeply touched to see everyone united here today.
Matt was a great guy and a great brother. I’m learning this even more now, talking to those who knew him best, reminiscing over who Matt was as a friend, cousin, nephew, son, fiancé, and brother. Matt had the gift to love in a quiet manner, and he touched a lot of people’s lives. One thing that stands out most growing up with Matt is that he never liked to see those he loved most to be sad or down in any way. That’s something I take comfort in now more than ever. I know that Matt would love to see us all together today, but even more he would want us to laugh and have fun.
I remember sitting next to Matt at my Grandpa Bill’s funeral. I was close to tears until Matt took the glove I had worn into the funeral and put it on his hand OJ Simpson style until he ripped his fingers through. He had a way to make people smile, and didn’t like to see people down.
Another classic story of growing up with Matt: I may have been a little young to remember this, but there was the time that Matt climbed a tree in the front yard and dropped a brick out of it. The brick landed on my sister Ami’s head. I know she had to get stitches. I still see her looking up whenever she passes under a tree – I’m not all that sure she’s ever fully recovered. What I thought was odd though, is what the heck was Matt doing climbing a tree with a brick? Then why did he decide to drop it? I guess it was too cumbersome to climb out of a tree with a brick… but why’d he climb a tree with a brick in the first place?
Looking back on my memories of growing up with Matt I realize he was the one always finding something new and innovative. A trait he always had with him. At my Grandma Irja’s and Grandpa Bill’s house I remember when he discovered how fun riding in Grandpa’s wheelchair could be. I can still see Matt cruising down Grandma’s driveway and into the street in a wheelchair as if it were a ride at Disneyland.
Then of course there’s the time at Grandma Irja’s house he found one of those extra long phone cords in the garage. It was a straight cord being held together with pieces of duct tape. So what would Matt do with an old phone cord at Grandma’s? Well he went to the backyard, grabbed an old tire, climbed a tree (no bricks this time) and made a tire swing using the phone cord as a rope. He was the innovator. So Matt eventually hopped on and started swinging – really swinging. He was pushing the concept of tire swinging into new grounds. Naturally, I wanted to have some fun on the tire swing too. Finally Matt let me have my turn. I hopped on, the phone cord snapped, and I split my chin open. Another Bauer story involving Matt and ending with stitches for the innocent sibling. There’s definitely a theme here isn’t there?
Growing up though, Matt seemed to always be the one who was coming up with the new ideas. Constantly pushing the boundaries. That’s who Matt was – the big brother. He was the leader of my brothers and sisters. He was the one to show us the way. And he continued his role as the leader, quiet and humble. Yet he was never afraid to speak up when needed. He was always loving and protective of those close to him, especially his family. I always knew he was proud of me without ever having to say it.
Like everyone else, Matt had tough times in his life and had to overcome some big obstacles. But what I admired about him was that he never complained. Quietly leading by example. Never seeking sympathy from others. Matt loved those close to him more than anything else. He never liked seeing those he loved sad. So if there’s any regrets in this room today all I can say is that we need to let them go. Matt knew how you felt and he loved you. He doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him or to be sad for him now any more than he wanted people to feel sorry for him when he was with us.
In recent years whenever Matt would spend time in the hospital he didn’t want visitors. He didn’t want those closest to him to come in and feel sorry for him. He didn’t want people’s lives to stop for him. He didn’t want people to see him weak or vulnerable. Most of all, he didn’t want those closest to him to be sad, especially on his account. The beauty in this is that I did see Matt during those tougher moments – and he was anything but weak – anything but vulnerable. Instead Matt always had strength, a positive attitude, and he persevered in tough times.
And although Matt’s not with us today – I’m beginning to reflect and see how it is Matt changed all of us. He gave my family Katie, Ethan, and Braden – who without them I know we couldn’t have come this far. For me, he showed me how to be a leader. How to be strong, generous, selfless, and humble.
And most importantly for all of us today: What Matt wanted to do was to unite people, love those closest to him, and to see happiness on the faces of the ones he loved most. One of the last things I told Matt a week ago was how he’s brought this family together. So what I see in here today is Matt’s “family” – the ones he’s touched with his life – all of us united as one family. And I’m here to tell you that Matt doesn’t want us to be sad on his account, but to take from him those qualities that made him who he was. That’s what I’m always gonna carry with me, and that’s what Matt wanted us to always carry as his family.