My Goals For Life – by Matthew Van Masters

MY GOALS FOR LIFE – written by Matthew Van Masters, January 21, 2004

I was going through my computer files and found this list written by my son, Matthew on January 21, 2004, he was 14 years old.  It broke my heart to read this list and realize Matthew would not be able to achieve his dreams and goals.  

As you read through this list, regardless of your age, think about how many of these things were or would be on your list of goals for your life.

1. To get a degree in college.

2. To become a pro skateboarder before the age of 21.

3. To in some point in my life to own a Shelby Cobra.

4. To start my own skateboard company.

5. To get straight A’s all through high school.

6. To get my college degree in San Diego state university.

7. To have a family with a wife, 1 boy and a dog.

8. To keep a good relationship with my family my whole life.

9. To be organized and clean my whole life.

10. To not do drugs no matter what kind of pressure.

11. To be safe and not sorry.

12. To get better at working with computers

13. To be kinder to others I have not been kind to in the past.

14. To respect all living things big or small.

15. To cherish life and not take it for granted.

16. To have a good relationship with everyone around me.

17. To value everything and everyone that crosses my path.

18. To learn lessons from my mistakes.

19. To know that not everyone is perfect but they try.

18. To give my BEST effort in everything I do.

19. Have fun learning and have fun living.

20. Laugh often and love laughing.

21. To keep my friends close and my enemies closer.

22. To try not to have any enemies to keep close.

23. I quote “To judge by content of character not color of skin”

24. To know it is more important to love than to hate.

25. Treat others, as I would want to be treated.

26. Remember the rule “What goes around comes around”.

27. To have faith in god and in others.

28. To never stop believing in what I feel is right.

29. Stay healthy, stay happy, stay alive.

30. Remember big things come in small packages.

31. Value every day like it’s your last.

32. Go to every amusement park and ride the scariest rides.

33. Know that riding those rides will not be regretted.

34. Always always know that I can do better.

35. To have a life that I would not regret.

36. To know and understand what unconditional love is.

37. To always believe in myself.

38. To not have dreams but have goals you want to accomplish.

39. To always have an open mind.

40. To pray often and pray for others first and yourself last.

41. To always say sorry when I know it’s the right thing to do.

42. Make friends with people that want to have friends.

43. Learn how to be a great cook.

44. Learn how to fix anything (become a great handy man).

45. To want to have abundant amounts of knowledge.

46. To not be fearful but be curious.

47. To have control of my mind, body, and spirit.

48. To get my black belt in Ninpo-Tai Jitsu.

49. To argue only if I know I am right.

50. To stop and take a deep breathe once in a while and think.

51. To travel to Europe.

52. To travel to China.

53. To travel to Japan.

54. To travel to Africa.

55. To travel to Australia.

56. To eat escargo

57. To have my own half pipe in my back yard.

58. To have my own street course in my back yard.

59. To have my own shoe brand.

60. To have my own pro model decks.

61. To eat three whole large pizzas in 1 hr.

62. To fly fish and actually catch something.

63. To write a book about anything.

64. To invent something that will help people all around the world.

65. To in some way leave the earth a better place then when I came.

66. To reach 6 feet tall.

67. To be able to bench-press 350 lbs.

68. To draw and sell a picture for over 250$.

69. To buy a lifetime supply of gummy-worms.

70. To, for my honeymoon go to Jamaica.

71. I want my year salary to be 600,000,000,000,000,000,000$ a year.

72. I want to learn French.

73. I want to learn Spanish.

74. I want to learn Japanese and Chinese.

75. I want to own a monkey.

76. I want to own a corgi.

78. I want to own a Siamese cat.

79. I want to own a cockatoo or parrot.

80. I want to live to be exactly 100.

81. I want to run a mile in 6 min flat.

82. I want a degree in business and I want to go to law school.

83. I want to be part of a firm.

84. I want to live in a mansion.

85. I want to experience non-gravity.

86. I would like to invent my own candy.

87. I would like to help save all endangered animals.

88. I would like to own a tiger as a pet/guard tiger.

89. I would like to eat more healthy food than junk food.

90. I would like to have a pool outside my house.

91. I would like to drive over 100 mph in any car.

92. I would like to do a 20-foot gap on a skateboard.

93. I would like to do a 30-foot gap on I dirt bike.

94. I would like to have a huge stereo system in my car.

95. I want an enormous home entertainment center in my room.

96. I would want an extremely fast computer.

97. I would like to own a dirt bike track.

98. I would like to own a Yamaha 4 stroke 250.

99. I would like a raptor 660.


Prescription Drugs – 9 News Reports

Prescription Drug misuse and abuse is an epidemic!  Alex Hunter, former Boulder County Court District Attorney lost his son, John, in 2010, due to the combination of alcohol and Oxycontin.  See the live report from 9 news below reported April 29, 2011:

John Hunter-Hauck, 20, was a Colorado State University sophomore when he passed away inside his off-campus home in Fort Collins on May 3, 2010. A coroner’s investigation found he died from a lethal combination of alcohol and prescription pain medication.

Hi father, Alex Hunter, said he had the pain pills in his medicine cabinet.  He is not sure and will never know if his son took the pills from his medicine cabinet or if he got the drugs from a friend.  Alex said, “I was sloppy about it….I was careless…I did not keep track of how many were there….”

Beverly Gmerek, the prescription drug abuse prevention program coordinator at Peer Assisted Services, said “We think a lot about drunk driving, and we’ve changed a lot of our behavior around that, but we haven’t changed the way we think about prescription drug medication.”

In 2009, for example, Gmerek says 445 people in Colorado died from prescription drug abuse, more than twice the number of people who died that year in drunk-driving related crashes.

Parents:   Don’t be sloppy!  Don’t be careless!  Lock up or properly dispose of unused prescription drugs!

Federal Government Response to Prescription Drug Abuse

The White House unveiled an aggressive plan to curb prescription drug abuse on April 19, 2011.   The plan will include some new federal requirements aimed at educating the medical community about the proper use of prescription drugs. There are four main parts to the administration’s initiative: education, monitoring, taking unused prescription drugs back and enforcement of drug laws. 

A task force has been gathered by the Federal Government to take action.  This task force includes: 

  • Gil Kerlikowske, White House Drug Control Policy Director
  • Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration
  • Howard Koh, M.D., Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Michele Leonhart, Deputy Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Karen Perry, Executive Director Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education Task Force

The abuse of Prescription Drugs is an alarming public health crisis and is suffocating our society.  The misuse of prescription drugs is the leading cause of accidental death in 17 states.  In many states the number of deaths due to the misuse of prescription drugs now exceeds auto accidents.

In 2007, 28,000 Americans died from unintentional drug abuse.   In September of 2010, the CDC organized the first collection of old, unused prescription drugs in 4000 locations across the country and they collected 21 tons of prescription drugs.  On April 30, 2011, there will be another collection.  Please look in your medicine cabinets for old, unused, prescription drugs and find a location to properly dispose of these prescription drugs.

 Below is the link to the formal announcement made by the task force organized by the White House.  It is about 45 minutes long.

Gil Kerlikowske reported:   “America is in the midst of a public health epidemic driven by prescription drug abuse.  Prescription drug abuse is our nations fastest growing drug problem.  According to the CDC, it is an epidemic.” 

Half of all teens believe prescription drugs are easy to get from their parents medicine cabinets.  Please take action now!  Educate yourself, protect our youth – protect your children, properly dispose of prescription drugs.

Grieving – How You Can Help

I get the sense that people do not know how to help or support someone who is grieving.  Most people are not sure what to say, what to offer or if it is ok to call.  They feel like if we need something, we will ask, we will call.  This is not true for me.  Working through the grief of losing a child is a long hard battle. 

We are a society that supports and preaches “emotional numbing,” in many ways.  Grief is good.  Grief is healthy.  Grief is a relief and release from overwhelming emotions deep inside, including:  guilt, anger, anxiety, rage, sense of loss, feeling cheated, helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness, fear, restlessness, insomnia and indescribable inner pain.

Everyone grieves in their own way.  What I have found I need most from my closest friends is:

  1. Call me:  don’t wait for me to call you.  I feel like I am a burden to my friends and will not reach out when I most need you.  I feel like I am a “downer” and don’t want to pull others down.  I want to hear from you.  Don’t ever feel like you are invading my space.  If you get a sense to call me, you are probably right! Trust your instincts. I need and want you to call.  If I can’t pick up the phone, I won’t. Your call means the world to me, just to know you are there.  Continue to call me in the weeks, months and years to come.
  2. Ask me:  I need to tell my story over and over again.  The story changes because in healthy grieving, there is movement.  It is a process, a journey.  A long journey.   Grief doesn’t all of a sudden end, it has many layers, each day you will find me dealing with another piece, maybe a piece I went through before.    Ask me, “What is going on with you today?”  Ask me, “What is the most difficult thing you are dealing with right now?” 
  3. Listen:  Advice can sometimes be harmful and I have found that sometimes I don’t listen well.  I am too deep in my own thoughts and pain.  In addition, I am not looking for you to solve this problem.  I just want you to listen and be there, so I can process.  An arm around my shoulder, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, to know that I am not alone.  Through listening, you will lighten my burden and sadness and relieve the stress.  Sometimes it is impossible to listen to a lot of words when my mind is confused or deep in thought or pain.  Silence allows me to sort out my thoughts.
  4. Physical Support:  I need you to remind me to eat healthy food, drink lots of water and take my vitamins to be able to keep my body strong through this stressful ordeal.  Sometimes, I simply forget.  Offer to do errands or drive.  There have been times recently, I am so deep in thought and grief, that I lose consciousness of what I am doing and all of a sudden, realize I just went through a stop sign while driving!  I am not sure what to expect, or how long this will last.  Help me tell you what I need.  There may be days when I can’t function and I will need your help.
  5. Share memories:  I want to talk about Matthew.  I want to hear all the stories you can remember about Matt, good and bad!  I want to hear funny stories, moments Matt touched you in some way.  Pictures!  Send me every picture you have of Matt, I don’t care if it is out of focus.  Send me anecdotes about a moment you had with Matthew.  Send me a drawing he did, a note he sent you, a picture of a tattoo he did.  I love the feelings that surface, it is very healing and nurturing.  I am afraid I will forget something about Matthew and I never want to forget anything. 
  6. Get me out of the house:  I need to get out and do things that are fun and take my mind off of my grief.  When I am alone in my home for long periods of time, I have found I will walk in circles, get lost in thought or emotion, sit in Matthew’s room on the floor and cry and ask why.  While some of that processing is good, I have found it can throw me into a downward spiral.  Stop by, you don’t have to call.  Visitors are a welcome relief.  If I can’t talk, I will tell you and ask you to come back, please come back. 
  7. Keep me connected spiritually:  Sometimes in the darkness of grief, I am looking for someone, something to blame for this loss.  Staying connected spiritually keeps me connected to God, God’s light, God’s will and His mission for each and every one of us.  Invite me to go to services with you, programs that are uplifting, motivating and inspirational.  If I say no, keep asking.  Staying connected spiritually and to the light will help me process and understand this tragedy in a healthy manner. 

The goal of grief is to acknowledge that a change has occurred.  I feel like I am interacting with the world as a different person, looking through a different pair of eyes.  Everything looks different, feels different and I respond differently to everyday interactions.  There are moments where I know Matthew has died, but my heart won’t believe it.  The journey of grief is helping the heart to know what the head knows.  You can help.

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.”