When I was about 12 years old, we moved into a house in Surf City on Long Beach Island. While I lived there, I met a boy a few houses down from me by the name of Matt Bradley.
Matt and I were in Miss McNeil's class in 6th grade. When I walked in with my treasure map project, thinking I was the bomb, I soon had the wind taken out of my sails when I saw Matt's map. He could outdraw me without even trying.
I lived in that house for a couple of years, and Matt and I had lots of fun together. In the winters, we'd go ice skating on the Manahawkin Lake and sledding down the dunes.
By freshman year in high school, we moved to the next town over, and I didn't see Matt as much. But out of the blue a couple years later, he called me up to ask me to the junior prom.
He drove up in his crappy orange Gremlin, and we had our pictures taken out on my deck; him in his rented tux and me in my Gunne Sax knock-off. I felt like I was on the arm of a celebrity that night. I was with the coolest guy there.
Years passed. We hadn't been in touch since high school, when lo and behold, the dawn of Facebook was upon us, and old friends began to reconnect.
I learned that Matt was living in California. He had married, and was the proud father of three beautiful children. He was also a talented guitar player and gymnast, and his passions were as much a part of his life as were food, water, shelter. He lived life to the fullest, in every way possible.
Unbelievably, Matt died about a week ago.
Last night I attended a memorial service on the beach in Surf City where Matt and I used to swim and body surf. A group of his old friends stood in a circle, flowers and candles in our hands, bare feet in the sand. We shared remembrances, we cried, we hugged, we prayed.
We walked down into the ocean, and set our roses into the sea.
Goodbye, Matt. You will be loved and missed by many, many people.
God bless you and your family....