No More Candles on His Birthday Cake

Updated: Feb 5


By Theresa Anthony, Author, Hope Springs from a Mother’s Broken Heart



Each year when my son’s birthday rolls around, I take a minute to contemplate the age he would have been had he survived his afflictions.


This year, his 34th birthday would have made him so happy, as it lands on 2/2/22. The number 22 was his call tag, his identity, as he’d adopted the number #22 (from his birthdate 2/2) as his jersey number all through his baseball career. To this day, I never pass the number 22, wherever I spot it, without my son immediately coming to mind.


Sadly, just as with his prior seven birthdays, we can no longer add candles to his birthday cake. He remains age twenty-five forever.


As a mother who has no option now but to ponder or conjecture what her child would have been like had he reached a certain age, I am quite certain that Matthew would not only have beaten his demons, but would have triumphed over them. At the time that he chose to leave us, he was broken. Utterly broken. The despair that filled his heart on that fateful day had left no room for even a sliver of hope.


As bleak as things seemed in that moment, as devoid of all hope that his life appeared to be, he’d lost sight of the promise of a new sunrise that could offer him a fresh start. On that day, he just couldn’t will himself to get to that next sunrise. He was simply worn out from trying so hard, and in his exhaustion the devil’s lies seemed authentic.


But I knew my son. I knew his heart, his spirit. I am confident, had he been able to hang on long enough to grab hold of the hand of Christ, that he would have survived.


If my boy were still alive, I know he would have achieved his dream of providing for his beautiful little girl. He would have been involved in her every pursuit, from soccer, to swim team, to theatre, to art. He would have been her biggest fan, her loudest cheerleader. He honestly lived just for the love of that child.


If my boy were still alive, I know he would have landed in a profession that involved helping others. Yes, his dream job, to be a fire fighter, would have been hard to obtain, given his history of alcoholism and mental health challenges. Still, he would have found a way to exercise his compassionate, caring heart through some profession, that I know.


If my boy were still alive, he would have maintained strong ties with his childhood friends, just as he still had at the time of his passing in 2013. Those friendships were built and nurtured over the many years of playing baseball together, childhood birthday parties, skateboarding together, attending concerts together, and bearing witness to each other’s lives. He would be standing up for them at their weddings, congratulating them on the births of their children, and still rooting together for the Angels to win.


If my boy were still alive, he would have continued to be close to his family, which he adored. We all suffer from this dark void, the negative space that should be filled with his presence at our family gatherings. Nothing about our family is quite the same, or will ever be again, since his death.


Tragically, I can only daydream about what my son’s life would have been like had he lived. The sad reality is that he didn’t. There will be no more candles on his birthday cake; his candles abruptly stopped at a count of 25. Anything he might have become or done with his life will forever be just a figment of my own imagination.


I pray that my words, written by a grieving mother, will be seen by someone contemplating suicide… and will change his or her mind. Persevere! That brilliant new sunrise with the promise of hope and possibility is on its way.



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