Matthew’s Eulogy

There is no greater pain for a parent than having to write and present their own child’s Eulogy.  My son, Matthew Van Masters was born on December 24, 1990 and died March 10, 2011.  This is the Eulogy that I wrote and presented at his services at Horan & McConaty, 11150 East Dartmouth Avenue, Aurora, CO ( March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  To sign Matthew’s “Guest Book” please click on the link below:

     Matthew Van Masters 

Good morning, I want to thank those of you who have made this beautiful service possible.  Horan & McConaty and their staff, Jennifer McBride, Jason, Jessica, Troy to name a few, who have made this tragic and painful event as easy as possible.  John Horan, who has been a long time friend and colleague.  I could not have done this without you, your tremendous support, kindness and guidance. 

To my family:  My Dad and his wife, Baiba, who unfortunately could not make it to this service because of health reasons.  My Mom, and brothers, Bob & Rick.

To my friends for their continuous love and support at all times of the day and night.  Deb & Joe Chipman, Deb & Larry Zepf, Terry, Faith, Liz, Mary & Don, Linda, Kathy, Susan, Laura, Inga & Kevin, Shane, Lisa, Tom, the list goes on.

And, most importantly, an amazing man who I am honored to call my partner, who has never left my side since this journey began, Tuesday, March 8.  He has comforted me through my tears, held me up when my knees buckled, listened to me go through every emotion, as I tried to process and understand this horrific tragedy.  He was and is the calm in the midst of the storm for me to ground in; Gary, words cannot describe my gratitude and love for your unending support.

My son, Matthew as many of you know, lived larger than life and sometimes to the extreme and that is why we are all here today.  I know many of you have questions as to what actually happened and so I want to share what I know. 

Matthew died March 10, 2011 at 4:44pm from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. 

My son, had a challenge with alcohol for the last 3 years and recently starting taking prescription drugs for anxiety.  His biggest struggle was within himself, He kept saying to me “Momma, I want you to be proud of me”, Matthew made mistakes in the last few years and I think his guilt and inability to forgive himself caused him to try and numb his pain.  This tragedy has caused me as a parent to rethink and question just about every decision and interaction I have had and made around my sons life.  The guilt is sometimes unbearable.  No matter how many times family and friends, who know me well and have been with me through this journey with Matthew tell me:  “Marguerite you were a great Mother”, Marguerite you did all you could”, “Marguerite you loved him unconditionally”.  As I stand here before you sharing my sons Eulogy, I cannot help but think “what if I had…”

This is where I must trust and accept God’s will and plan for Matthew’s journey and mission.  I know there is a higher purpose for this tragedy.

In the end, my own sense is that it doesn’t matter as much “how” he died – and I hope that the manner of his death doesn’t overshadow the fact that he lived, that he was a great kid with a beautiful heart, that I loved him and you loved him, and that my memories and your memories of him will be with us always.

Matthew was named after Matthew in the bible.  I was in church one Sunday, while I was pregnant and heard the following scripture:  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven”,  Matthew: 5:16  You may have noticed this scripture is in Matthew’s pamphlet.  As I reread this since Matthew’s death, it struck me that Matthew’s light is his art and music, he was happiest when he was either playing his guitar or drawing, and I think that was the purest expression of his soul. 

Matthew since the day he was born was a warrior and protector.  He used to crawl on the ground, looking for a stick and would throw it down as soon as he found a bigger stick.  I am sure it is of no surprise to learn that he was not an easy child to raise, he challenged and questioned everything, and always stood firm for his way of doing things.  I often described him as my absolutely greatest gift and treasure and my biggest challenge.  Those of you who knew him well, I am sure would agree, Matthew was a person who walked to the beat of his own drum!

Matthew at the age of 3 was asked to leave his Montessori Day Care, called Ms. Weda’s Day Care.  Ms. Weda said, I am not equipped for a child like this, I have been doing this for 20 years and I recognize children like Matthew, he will grow up to be an amazing person with a very strong personality and become a powerful leader.  As I sat there crying, she said, this is a gift.  He needs to be in a place with more stimulation.  He doesn’t want to do what the other children are doing. 

Matthew loved to be active, he had a talent and a passion for soccer, also loved martial arts, although he never made it to being a black belt.  He loved his num-chucks and was amazingly fast and accurate when he did his routines.  He liked to be physically in shape and always challenged himself with push-ups, pull ups and dips. 

Matthew was incredibly bright, when he arrived in 1st grade, his teacher, Mrs. Ferrara, saw his brilliance and tested him and found he was reading at a 7th grade level and doing Math at a 3rd grade level.  Because of this, Matthew did 1st & 2nd grade in one year to keep him stimulated mentally.  Matthew won his first art award at the Kazoo & Company Art Show, in 2000, while in Grade 4; that piece of art is with his collection here today. 

Matthew was awarded the STARS award at Elizabeth High School in 2007.  STARS stands for Students That Accept Responsibility Seriously.  Laurie Schlekeway, one of his teachers nominated Matthew for this award and he won.  Only 1 student per grade is awarded the STARS award each year.

Matthew loved his music and he especially loved performing in front of a crowd whether on stage or off stage he loved to entertain and make people laugh.  He and his band performed in Elizabeth at parties and at the Ogden and Quixotes, the memories of these events are on Matt’s remembrance DVD.  Which we have some of those here today if you would like one. 

Matthew was born on Christmas Eve and I always felt he was so special being born on the eve of Jesus’ birthday.  I loved my son deeply, and could talk about him all day, as many of you know! I was and am so proud of my son.  However, there are others here today who also care deeply for Matt and want to share their stories. 

Matthew expressed his art in many ways, some of which you see here today.  He was also a gifted tattoo artist. Not only did he do tattoos on others, he also had several tattoos.   This used to be a big bone of distention between my son and I.  I kept saying, remember you have to live with these for the rest of your life! 

The tattoo on his right arm, represented a bit of our family heritage.  My Mother’s maiden name is Purcell, and our family coat of arms is listed on Matthew’s pamphlet, the motto for the Purcell clan is: “Aut Vincam Aut Periam”, this is latin for “Conquer or Perish”.  I think Matthew connected with his because he was a born warrior.  The challenge was, his biggest fight was within himself. 

I remember one morning he was reaching for the cereal box in the cabinet and I noticed the edges of a tattoo on his stomach.  And, I said, Matthew, is that a tattoo on your stomach?  He said, I am not going to show you because you will get mad.  I said, Matthew, let me ask you a question: is that a rub on or a real tattoo, because if it is a permanent tattoo, there’s not much we can do about it now is there, so what is the sense of me getting upset, you might as well show it to me.  So, he lifted his shirt, and as I looked at it, I said, “oh my gosh, who the heck is Amber Klein??? Don’t tell me you tattooed the name of a girl on your stomach?????  I can still see his face, his face contorted into absolute pain and insult and he said, “MOM, it doesn’t say Amber Klein, it says UNBREAKABLE!!!  Can’t you see it?  This is in old English script!!!” He was so insulted that I could not read it!  I am not sure he ever forgave me for that!  “Matthew, please forgive me for that.”

One of the reasons we are here today is evident, our bodies are “Breakable”.  Our spirit lives on forever with God, but our bodies are fragile and we must take care of them.  Matthew made the mistake of thinking he was invincible and unbreakable.  He tested this on many levels, stretching and challenging himself in music and art.  And, also unfortunately, with alcohol and prescription drugs.  Matthew died because he thought he was unbreakable and his body could bounce back from anything.  There are a lot of teen agers and young adults who think they are invincible and can push the reset button anytime they choose.  This is a dangerous way to think and is absolutely not true.

The first time I saw Matthew’s date of birth and date of death together was on Facebook.  Matthew’s Godmother, Jill, had posted a beautiful message about her Godson and ended it with RIP 12/24/90-3/10/2011.  I had an absolute melt down right on the spot seeing these dates written in reference to my son. 

It made me think about the poem by Linda Ellis called “The Dash”.  In this poem, it talks about a man giving a Eulogy about his friend.  It goes on to say, how many people think life is about the 2 dates stated, however, his perception was that each of our lives is represented by the “DASH” in between those 2 numbers, that is where we actually lived life.  As I sat there, I felt my son had been cheated, to have his life end at the very young age of 20.  And that he deserved more time. 

You may have noticed that Matthew’s dates are listed as 12/24/1990-3/10/2011, with a sword after it.  The sword represents Matthew’s mission on this earth, that will continue. There are too many pieces of this puzzle for there not to be a higher purpose for his actions, his life and his death. 

Last week, as I watched my son attached to a respirator, 11 IV’s and on the arctic sun where they chill the body down to protect the brain, I thought what is the higher purpose here? Over the last year, Matthew had said several times, “Momma I want you to be proud of me”.  I always responded, Matthew, “I am so proud of you and will continue to be proud of you.  You can right the ship and make choices to change your life.”  Unfortunately, Matt did not right his ship, his ship went into a violent storm and it capsized with Matthew in it. 

As I looked at my son, and quickly reviewed his short life, the choices he made, the actions he took, it all of a sudden became very clear to me.  Matthew’s mission was and is to send a message to other young adults.  Young adults who think they are INVINCIBLE and “UNBREAKABLE”.  Young adults who have a deep pain inside and do not know how to process it or forgive themselves for it and try to numb it with alcohol and or drugs. 

Matthew has a tattoo on his stomach that says “unbreakable”.  Matthew has a warrior tattoo that says “Conquer or Perish”.  His body proved to be breakable and his body has perished.  However, his spirit will live forever with God’s unconditional love. And, his mission and message will continue through the Eye of the Storm Foundation, who’s mission is to educate young adults and parents on the deadly use of prescription drugs.   I, personally will be heading up this foundation and creating a powerful message for teens and young adults, using Matthew’s music, art and tattoos. 

My hope is that if Matt’s story can perhaps change the mind of ONE YOUNG ADULT, then Matt’s life, is not a waste!  Because no child, no parent, no grand parent or family member or friend should ever have to go through this.

Matthew I love you more than words can express, and I will hold you in my heart for as long as I live.  I am so proud of you, please forgive me for any shortcomings I had as your mother.  Today is really about forgiveness, Matthew could not forgive himself, and this is the result.  A friend recently shared a quote with me:  “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.”


  1. Jenn Rosenkrans says:

    You did an amazing job. And you stayed strong through the whole speech. I’m so proud of everything you are doing for your dear Matthew. No mother should ever have to give a eulogy at her sons funeral. Stay strong. This foundation is amazing and I support it fully.

  2. Joe Hatfield says:

    Such a beautiful eulogy.

  3. Martie Taylor says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart concerning Matthew’s life. I want to also thank you for taking a stand for the young people in our country abusing drugs and alcohol. It is so important to get the message out there so these young people can become productive citizens. I too am grieving the loss of our 18 year old grandson, he used a different way to end his life. May God hold these 2 young men close to His heart and grant them peace.

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