others who’ve abused drugs.
When Pat died, Matty wasn’t
able to attend his funeral. It
wasn’t because he didn’t want to
go—Matty’s own addiction caused
him to abandon his family and
turn to the streets for comfort.
His addiction was so strong that
he wasn’t able to maintain a family. He lost everything but the
clothes on his back—and he too
was living with HIV.
But despite his ailment, Matty
was able to turn his life around
after Pat’s death.
About a year after Pat died,
Matty returned home from a stint
at Riker’s Island Correctional
Facility in New York. For me,
his release was unacceptable at
first. His addiction forced him
to steal. He never stole from the
family, but I was concerned he’d
eventually find a way to take
from us, too. Maybe he’d pawn
my computer, I’d often think, or
perhaps he’d find a way to trade
my car for drugs.
None of this happened.
From the get-go, Matty was determined to turn his life around.
And that’s exactly what he did.
Although he was HIV-positive,
he took a job at a grocery store,
where he worked for the next
eight years or so. He loved the job
so much that he was there just
two days before he died.
During the years he “reformed”
himself, he was an integral part of
our family. His laughter and spirit
were contagious. Everyone was
so happy to have Matty back. He
showed us that despite his addictions—and despite a former life of
homelessness and crime—he truly
did have a heart. He truly did love
his family. He truly did love life.
Fast forward to July 2005. It all
happened so fast.
My mother called
me one Friday morning and told me that
Matty had gone into
the hospital. He
was having trouble
breathing, so as a
precaution he went
in for observation. Truthfully,
I thought nothing of it. A lot of
people go to the hospital for routine issues.
But Matty never came home.
Two days after he went in, he died.
The strangest part of his death
was that he showed no signs of
being ill—quite the antithesis of
his brother Pat. He wasn’t well
during the last day or two of his
life, but he never suffered in the
way so many who have HIV/AIDS
do. In a sense, his sudden death
was a blessing in
disguise. It was
difficult to lose
after his incredible
was now going to bury her third
son, was incredibly grateful that
Matty didn’t suffer.
What could have been an unbelievably difficult time was instead
a time to give thanks.
Matty was buried in his favorite white pinstripe New York
Mets jersey. His death at 53 was
yet another stark reminder of how
vicious HIV/AIDS really is.
All of these years after we first
learned about the disease, there’s
still no cure. Sure, there are the
Top left, Matty Slane
with his nephew and
the writer’s cousin
Rob Troy. Center,
Matty Slane with his
mom and the writer’s
Slane. Bottom right,