Memorial website in the memory of your loved one

M

atthew loved Jesus as his personal Savior, affectionately called his mom “mumsie“, loved babies, enjoyed his job, had his own car, loved the color red (thus the red background here), Skittles were his favorite candy (but loved almost ALL candy) yet detested egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches. He was determined to get his first deer that year in 2004. He wanted to go on a missions trip to Guyana. He had a lot of dreams.  So did we . . . 

But, dreams were shattered. They never happened. The picture on the wall of him does not age.  He will be forever 16 in our minds.  Even 8 years later, he is still, ooooohhhh, so missed.

Matthew was our second born of our now 12 children, just 13 1/2 months younger than his oldest brother. Though very different personalities, they were in many ways like twins as they did everything together and grew up so close. His oldest brother (Stephen) called him Me-Ma, so that became his nickname through the years. His brother just 18 months younger than him, Jayson, was the one he played around with the most. They rode bikes together, fished, and golfed many games together. Matthew was always a sensitive boy. When he was little we’d call him “pouty face”. He loved his cowboy boots as a little boy, and would go to bed with them on. He had a love for animals ever since he was young,  from dogs to our baby lambs. His last animal was his pride and joy – a beautiful Chocolate Lab that he trained well, and looked for Matthew for weeks after his death.

At a young age, Matthew accepted Jesus as his personal Savior, and was baptized on 12th birthday. There was no doubt that he loved Jesus, as he would often be in tears with concern of certain close people. A few months before he died,  all on his own, he took his Bible to our neighbors house to make sure that this man knew the Lord and shared verses with him. I am so thankful Matthew allowed God’s leading to do this. We never know if we will have another chance. Little did we know that 2 weeks before Christmas we’d have to say good-bye to him.

Over the year before his death,  Matthew read through all the Left Behind Books, and spoke often of the end times and couldn’t wait for the rapture. At night as the boys were “trying” to fall asleep, Matthew would tell the latest of his readings. Adventures in Odyssey from Focus on the Family was another favorite for Matthew to listen to at night with his brothers.

Matthew started a job  the summer before his death, working for a wonderful older Christian couple at a “high class” type dimestore. Over the years his other brothers had interest in small engine repair with their dad, but that just was not Matthew’s niche. He often spoke of wanting to learn how to fly and considered going to a missionary aviation school in the future. When he started the dimestore job,  he found he also liked “business” and the owners were so good in teaching him various aspects. We were looking into some college courses in accounting and business for next semester.

He loved going to church and was usually the first one Sunday morning to get his car warmed up and call out to see who was going with him. We always sat together in church, taking up a whole pew —there’s an empty space now. We have yet to eat a family dinner at the table. No one wants to look at the empty chair. So we all eat in the living room together, remembering.

(Update 2006– It took us many months before we ate at the dinner table.  We switched our “assigned seats". Jessica talked often about missing playing “staring” games with Matthew across the table.  There will always be an empty spot . . . at the table and many other places, until we are reunited in heaven, and eat at Jesus' table.

(Update August 2012 ~ As I read the words above, from years ago, I think of how it still hits us.  In 2011 Matthew's older brother married.  It yanked at my heart - he was not standing next to his brother that day.  But it was neat, that particular week, by his gravestone were red mushrooms growing.  I never knew until then that mushrooms could be red.  It was just a little gift God allowed us to have . . . God saying He cares and maybe that  Matthew got a glimpse through the heavens of our special day.)

Matthew loved his siblings, and enjoyed playing with the little ones. A new baby was always so welcomed by him. I had several miscarriages, and with one miscarried baby the children did not know I was pregnant. We told them after I miscarried. Matthew with tears in his eyes asked why we didn’t tell them we were going to have a baby, that if we had, they would have prayed and maybe the baby would have lived. He was so tenderhearted. He had a strong faith in prayer. This past summer he was riding his little moped to a temporary job he had. We got a call that he was late. I went looking for him, and there he was walking his moped in the pouring rain. I pulled up behind him, and he was all smiles and said, “I knew you’d come. I was praying.” Oh, just to have that moment back. I will still never forget when he was about 4 years old (and we have it on video-tape) when our twin girls were born and he was looking them all over and said so sweetly “I so esiiiited” (excited). He played games with his siblings all the time – monopoly was a favorite, maybe because he always won! He loved UNO and Risk and during the summer there was barely a day he did not play golf at our next door neighbor’s 9 hole course, and even would take the younger ones to teach them. (Our neighbors just told us they will plant a tree on the course this spring in his memory). He was quite patient with his siblings. How thankful we are for these precious, sweet memories.

Matthew’s death was dramatic, and we want to be careful to protect the wonderful memory of our son, yet, our children face things in this corrupted world we were not even aware of. Matthew was homeschooled, went to church, had Christian friends, and worked in a Christian environment, yet, he was somehow introduced to a “choking game” - getting a “high” through choking/affixation, which in trying, he accidentally hung himself. Two of his brothers found him. If we give too many details we are concerned about other children trying, thinking this will never happen to them, but this is a very growing movement, and killing many kids. Just within  two months of his death, we learned of two other similar deaths in our area. (We were told shortly after his death that in 6 months, in a 50 mile radius, there has been 8 of these deaths.) It is so hard to know how much to talk to our children about, without giving them ideas. Yet, those doors of communication need to be continually opened. We have a “links” page with letters from other parents who have found out since reading our webpage that their kids were either participating in this or knew about it. We also have some other links regarding this dangerous game. It also is not just a “boy thing” or a sexual thing, but kids right in schools & churches are playing danger hyperventilation/affixation games. We do not know where Matthew learned of this, as our computer has filters and we continually check the history. We have learned that there were some documentary type programs on TV on this recently, and wonder if this is where he learned it from. But as we know our son had a deep love for the Lord and his family, we know we all have a sin nature – many of us can hide in secret, but this was something that took Matthew’s life.

Yes, our hearts were shattered, and the first three years were beyond difficult. We are so thankful for family and friends that have enveloped us, cried with us, prayed with us, sat on the floor crying and talking with our children, kept our home full of food, cleaned our house, and walked beside us. Our pastor was with us as soon as he got the call, even before the ambulance left our home, and spent days with us. The funeral visitation was packed out and went an hour longer than we expected. The hugs and tears with us, helped us so much. Matthew wanted a new Bible for Christmas. We got him one with his name on it weeks before this happened, along with a new red corduroy shirt, his favorite color, which he wore, and buried with his Bible. We had a private burial with family and close friends. His earthly body was laid next to his little infant sister, Angela Hope, that was stillborn January 22, 1998. We then had a Memorial Service and celebrated Matthew’s life. Our church was packed out and are thankful for the many who heard God’s truth and the gift of Salvation that Matthew accepted and that was also offered for him.

BLOG UPDATES: (update August 2012) I started a blog shortly after Matthew died.  Through it I've made new friends, sadly with other moms who have lost a child the same way.  To make sense of our earthly loss, God has given me a sensitivity to reach out to women, weeping with those that weep, who have also buried children.  My blog has moved a few times but rests now at Writing Canvas.

FAMILY UPDATE ~ 2012

In February of 2007, we welcomed a new little LIFE - Nathan Levi - into our home.  He is certainly not a replacement for Matthew, but a little precious being that is helping us wipe more tears away, and bring more joy in our hearts.  Yet . . . there's the pain of knowing Matthew will not meet this little brother on this side of heaven.  (Nathan is now over 5 years old, and "knows" Matthew through pictures and our talking of him often.  He does not hesitate to mention his brother Matthew!)

We have also added two more children to our home in the way of marriage.  In 2011 we gained a new daughter-in-love and in 2012 we will gain two son-in-loves!  They all know of Matthew.  When my daughter-in-law walked the aisle, she surprised me when she reached our son, to hand over three white roses to me - one in memory of Matthew, one in memory of Angela, and one for gaining a new daughter.  What a precious gift!

Matthew's Writings

Matthew’s Uncle Tim, who is a pastor, read at Matthew‘s memorial service, a paper “In God‘s Timing“, a paper Matthew wrote for his schooling, shortly before his death.  It gave us a special glimpse that we never know – and neither did he, when our lives may be over. Matthew was ready to meet Jesus – the timing was not what any of us wanted, and the foolish mistake he made was not how it should have been. Yet, he was ready, and how thankful we are to know, that someday, we will be reunited as a family with Jesus.

Do YOU know about the Choking Game?  

Your children probably do!

PARENTS!  TEACHERS!  PASTORS! PRINCIPALS! AUNTS & UNCLES!  NEIGHBORS!  DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE CHOKING GAME IS?!?!?!  Chances are the children in your life or you know, DO!  Please visit this site below, for awareness, warning signs and sadly, more memorials of children who lost their lives to this "game".

G.A.S.P.

Games Adolesents Shouldn't Play

Our  Family ~ Thanksgiving 2004 just two weeks before Matthew's  death

Matthew is tallest son, standing in middle, holding our youngest daughter

Our Family Today Christmas 2011

Tributes and Condolences
Matthew......  / Diane Angel Mom- Katie Cassidy
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Matthew's Photo Album
Matthew Norman Vander Stel
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