This month I want to share something personal with you that took place in my life at the end of last year: the death of my beloved father. At first I wondered how this topic would go over as a New Year’s blog...but there is something so poignant and relevant about loss for everyone.
My experience of my Dad's passing has not been a singular thing: it has been a time to appreciate one of the most important relationships of my life, to cherish what Dad has left for me as a legacy, to listen to the stories other people had to tell about him—which made me understand my Dad in a whole new way, to laugh because he was such a character, to stay close to my dear Mom and brother as a family unit, and to feel the care of my beloved community. It has also been a time to feel the hole in my life that was my Dad, and know it will never be filled, and to have the experience of needing to remind myself, as I drive past his house, that he is no longer inside. I welcome all of this with an open heart.
In a broader way, now is a time to reflect on the universal nature of the human condition and the realities of impermanence...and to contemplate, even deeper (as you know I love to do!) the nature of interdependence and emptiness. I ask myself: “What does it mean that Dad (or anyone or anything else for that matter) has ever been “here” in any singular, permanent, or independent way?” When I search for a singular, permanent or independent entity that was my “Dad” I can’t find him...and so how would it be possible for him to fall out of existence?
This is not a denial of the very continuum that I call my Dad, but it brings me deeper into understanding the nature of everything—which is too full, lively, and fathomless for the likes of my ideas.
Every moment of my Dad’s life, since I have known him, has been precious to me. He taught me, by example, that there is an inner resource of joy that is always available to me, and I rely on that. So in the most essential way he is still alive in me, and also the memory of his charm, wildness, and irreverence too.
Dad began to show signs of leaving this world early in 2017 and the letting go process for my brave and loving Mom, my brother Chime—a devoted and caring son—and me, was gradual, and took place over many months. At some point Dad began to fall more. Then he couldn’t stand up. Then he stopped talking. Then he stopped eating. Then he passed. Then my brother and I washed and dressed his body. Then, with the help of many kind and caring friends, Kongtrul Rinpoche, our son and Dad’s grandson, Jampal, and my aunt and cousin, we took his body to our community outdoor cremation grounds surrounded by a spectacular view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, where many people gathered together to celebrate his life—and the air was full of laughter and music and we felt the elements of “Marv” in a different way: in the fire, the cold air, the smoke. Below are some photos. To me each one of these photographs is Dad...even his remains after the cremation felt like Dad to me—as they lay there amongst the warm and luminous coals, which turned them to ash and will eventually be given to the wind.
(The photos in this blog are of me and Dad in the last months of his life, an old childhood photo from Los Angeles, my brother, Mother and myself in Crestone. Photos of the remains was taken by Neil Hogan. The other photos were taken by Dad’s beloved friend Bill Ellzey)
My brother, Chime Mattis, also wrote a beautiful obituary for my father.
I decided to include this for you all as part of our celebration of his life.
Marvin Mattis - beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, rascal and rabble-rouser – passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on the night of December 13th. He was 87 years young. Marv became an integral part of the community since he moved to Crestone in the late 1990’s. He loved it here.He was born in Brooklyn but moved to Los Angeles with his parents and sister when he was 3 months old. They came by boat through the Panama Canal. He spent his youth in and around Los Angeles.
After graduating from U.C.L.A. in literature, he worked in the Hollywood music industry for over 30 years before relocating to New Mexico and finally Southern Colorado. He seemed more than happy to trade the wheeling and dealing, suits and ties for the big sky, jeans, a t-shirt, cowboy hat and boots. Though he loved the music biz, it recently came to light that he may have seen himself as a carpenter all along. Given his joie de vivre and adaptability, he probably would have been just as happy working at City-Market.
Marv loved the world and everyone in it. And the world loved him back. Throughout his life he rallied for peace and human rights and the haggard man on the street corner holding out an empty tin cup. He rallied against greed, oppression and injustice. He loved to make others happy.
He had a deep passion and sensitivity for art, creativity and the word. In his later years he published two books of his own original works.Right up until the end, until his eyes closed for good, all who were in his presence received and were touched by his contagious smile and the sparkle in his eyes.
In loving memory of a Marv-elous life that left a trail of joy in its wake.
May your journey be clear and lead to all you held dear.