The meaning of Matthew

Kate Daily at Newsweek reviews Judy Shepard’s memoir The Meaning of Matthew.

…In her moving new memoir, The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed (Hudson River Press), Judy Shepard writes about her family: first the joy and frustration of parenting a complicated teenager, then the horror and resolve when that child is the victim of an unspeakable crime, and how it felt to watch her dying son become a symbol for the entire nation.

Here is an excerpt:

It’s often said that we see a white light before we die. I wonder if that is what Matt saw that last night of his consciousness, or if the last thing he saw was Aaron McKinney’s hateful face.

A phone call woke me with a jolt at about 5 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8, 1998. My husband, Dennis, and I were living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a construction safety manager. I assumed that the call was from my 21-year-old son Matt, who was living in Laramie and studying political science and international relations at the University of Wyoming. At that time of day, it was almost always him. Unlike our other family members and friends in the States, who usually calculated the nine-hour time difference between Wyoming and Saudi Arabia before dialing, Matt always seemed to be living in the moment and wanted to share things with someone right now, regardless of what time it was anywhere else. Or maybe he thought it was just too much math to work out the difference.

. . .

During the 19 hours that Dennis and I waited in Dhahran, we were in constant contact with Ivinson hospital and then Poudre Valley Hospital. But in all that time, there was very little they could tell us about what had happened to Matt. Although the medical staff knew he had been attacked—his injuries were too severe to suggest anything else—nobody could explain who had done this to my son or why. When it came down to it, I knew that no amount of speculation on my part would help answer any of the thousands of questions that were already overwhelming me. Even if I could find answers, I knew that none would ease the panic or the excruciating pain welling up at the root of my soul. No answer could help Matt, who was hanging on to life with every ounce of his incredible strength. So as our plane finally took off, for the first leg of our long flight, I gripped Dennis’s hand and tried to force myself to think of better times.

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