One of the great things that happened at RYLA this year was that some representatives from Toastmasters came and did a session with us. We all had to write and prepare a speech about ourselves, and I was given the opportunity to share mine last week at the opening of the Toastmasters annual conference.
This is mostly it (I didn’t have notes so it didn’t quite turn out word-for-word as I had planned!):
I’m here tonight to speak to you about one of the most inspiring, godly, self-sacrificing and loving men I have ever had the pleasure to know, and to call my closest friend.
Matthew was born into a loving family, the middle child of two beautiful sisters and a happily married mum and dad. He was an adventurous kid and his early years consisted of regular boy things: blowing stuff up, climbing things, exploring, running around, and blowing up more stuff.
Matthew’s parents were Christians who regularly attended church, and more often than not, he tagged along with them.
As a teenager Matthew started to develop and invest in his own interests and talents; he started listening to and attempting to play heavy metal music, he regularly smoked pot, he got into riding motorbikes, and he grew his hair long – and I mean LONG! (I’m not sure whether this was the result of the music he was into or all the drugs he did…but the damage was done!)
Matthew aspired to join the army but in his first year out of high school he found himself enrolled in and attending a church-based gap year – go figure! This year would change Matthew’s life – and thankfully – his hairstyle!
During this gap year, Matthew was exposed to a wide variety of people and experiences. He made some deep-seeded relationships (or ‘bromances’ as he fondly referred them) with a few guys who would later hugely impact his life. Unbeknownst to him, Matthew would also meet his future wife during this year as he studied the Bible, tackled the big questions in life, discovered who he was and who he was meant to be, spent a month in Fiji walking alongside people who live in extreme poverty, stupidly jumped off a building, made a few fireworks, and, naturally, blew some stuff up.
One of the most life-changing decisions Matthew made that year was to put off his enrolment in the army and give the next few years of his life to serving God in the outdoors – all the while still unbeknownst to him, he would work alongside the woman who would later become his wife. During these years he spent long days passionately leading, inspiring, encouraging, loving, investing in, and doing life with students in the outdoors. He loved teaching as he canoed, hiked, camped, rock climbed, abseiled and did other activities like archery and caving.
At this time in his life Matthew had two main passions; his God and his work. As the years progressed Matthew’s third passion rapidly grew – and that was the passion he had for his future wife. Matthew’s future wife also had a love of Jesus and working in the outdoors, but she was also someone who struggled in life as she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders. Despite this, Matthew loved this woman fiercely. He was a romantic, and after two years wooing, serving, pursuing, and growing alongside this woman he plucked up some courage, checked with her dad, dropped down on one knee, and she finally became his fiancee.
What seemed like a very looong three months later, surrounded by friends and family, Matthew’s fiancé became his wife. The weeks following the wedding flew by in a blissful haze. The newly married couple spent a week exploring Melbourne, and a week at home doing newly married couple things, before Matthew unfortunately had to return to work.
On the morning of the 26th of February, two months after their wedding, Matthew’s wife coaxed him out of bed with a coffee and sat with him as he groggily put on his motorbike gear. She kissed him and told him that she loved him and said “ride safely”. He replied with a smile “Always”.
Thirty minutes later in an attempt to overtake a truck, Matthew was thrown from his bike and hit by a car. An ambulance was called and a rescue helicopter was set to pick him up and fly him to hospital. He didn’t make it to the helicopter. Matthew was pronounced dead just a week before his 22nd birthday.
Nine days later over 500 people attended Matthew’s funeral to celebrate his life. The church auditorium was decked out with balloons and other decorations, and those who attended wore bright colours with at least a hint of orange (which was unfortunately Matthew’s favourite colour). As stories from Matthew’s life were shared there was not a dry face to be seen, but under all the tears and sorrow was a joy and a hope in knowing that Matthew was safe in heaven in the presence of his King.
Just a week before he died Matthew was given the opportunity to present a series of talks to a group of year 8 boys, and in true Matthew fashion, he bravely decided to speak on the topic of love. He shared photos from his wedding and spoke of the love between himself and his wife, but more importantly he spoke passionately about God’s perfect love for every body in that room, and his desire for them to repent and turn to Him. Matthew’s last words to that group of boys was “Don’t waste your life, because you don’t know how long you’ve got.”
Don’t waste your life, because you don’t know how long you’ve got.
In his life Matthew impacted and changed many people’s lives for the better, and even now, in his death, he is doing the same thing.
My name is Zoe Schuthof, and I was Matthew’s wife.
Yesterday I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now; I went to the cinema and saw a movie by myself. I didn’t feel lonely at all, but that may have had something to do with the fact that there were only two other people in the cinema and I sat in front of them so it felt like I was the only person there. (Apparently 3:45pm on a Wednesday arvo is not the most popular time to see a movie!).
The Amazing Spider Man 2 was a great film. I had high expectations for it and I was not disappointed! I loved the first Amazing Spiderman movie (so much more than the three previous ones), with its mixture of scientific nerdity, photographic hipsterdom, romantic drama, athletic action, and superhero goodness. The second edition expanded on all of these themes and was brilliant in its execution.
The one thing that I wasn’t expecting though – and here’s the spoiler – was that Peter Parker’s (aka Spider Man’s) girlfriend was killed. It was at this point that I was thankful to be alone in the cinema, because I was crying like a school girl. In a very real way I felt like I could identify with Peter in his grief. It is interesting how somewhat comforting it is to see another person (albeit a fictional character) experiencing and processing pain like your own.
I often find myself connecting with characters in books and films, especially since Matt’s accident. I believe that being able to relate to others in our struggles and suffering is an important step in the healing process. Unfortunately for me there are not many people out there who have lost a companion at a young age, so every now and then I take comfort in books and films.
In the wake of Gwen’s sudden death Peter puts his Spider Man days behind him in an attempt to cause less pain to those he loves (he believed that Gwen’s death was his fault). Months later Peter listens to a speech that Gwen gave at her graduation in which she reminds her listeners to live their lives to the fullest, even if they make mistakes. It was after watching her speech that Peter decided to once again don his Spidy suit and continue saving lives.
This reminded me of something that Matthew said a few days before he died, to a group that he was leading on camp : “Make the most of your lives because you don’t know when they could end.”
It’s true, we just don’t know . . . so today I’m suiting up and I’m going to live.