By Reverend Paul N. Papas II
April 18, 2020
For five years, from hospital to nursing home and back a few times, he was a model and inspiration to all those who ever thought of giving up. In high school he was known as ‘Smiley Jackson’. Even through it all he stood tall without a complaint. I had the privilege of speaking with him about the same time most mornings with no subjects off the table.
At one nursing home during the 2016 election, whether by walking, wheelchair, or by walker, he made sure that he looked in on every patient, even if it was just a wave or smile. I asked if him if he was running for mayor and he replied “Yes.” After the election some nurses even called him Mayor.
Matthew was known for his gentle and kind spirit. His smile was infectious. He was an avid Boston Red Sox fan and followed all the Boston sports teams.
Playing Santa for the kids was his favorite Christmas honor. Actually Matthew loved anything Christmas.
Matthew was a devout Christian and an active member in the Brockton Greek Orthodox Church.
Mathew was a longtime, and well respected, employee of the Heights Crossing Assisted Living home in Brockton.
Matthew suffered a severe brain injury in 2015 and throughout his difficult rehabilitation he fully cooperated and never complained and achieved remarkable improvement.
Unfortunately the Coronavirus was a challenge he could not win. His journey in this life was much shorter than that for which we had hoped. At 61 he went to be with Jesus April 10, 2020.
Throughout these recent difficult medical times Matthew maintained his positive, friendly and gentle disposition.
“What started as a small group of families gathered around a kitchen table in 1979 (NAMI) has blossomed into the nation’s leading voice on mental health. Today, we are an association of more than 500 local affiliates who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.” https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI.
One kitchen table in Massachusetts that grew to more than 500 local affiliates was my mother’s with three other women. The impetus and inspiration for the kitchen table meetings was her son, my, brother, Matthew.
The usual onset for a mental illness for boys is in the late teens to early twenties. Matthew started showing signs in high school by hearing voices and writing about it. In the 1970s there was no internet, no organizations, and no support groups.
A few mothers started meeting to gather information which would help the mentally ill and their families cope. I joined in the search; soon the meeting grew too large to meet in the house.
Another goal of the mostly mothers group was to educate the public, media, and lawmakers about mental illness and end the stigma associated with it. The original name chosen was AMI, Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Through it all he stood tall. I told Matthew more than once that he was a great example for anyone to persevere, no matter how bad things seemed to be and his reply was always “Thank you”.
Matthew enjoyed a lot of successes at the “Club House” in Brockton, BAMSI http://www.bamsi.org . While I was the President of NAMI Greater Framingham, our local clubhouse in Marlborough called “Employment Options” www.employmentoptions.org was a shining example of how a clubhouse should be operated.
Another program which has been duplicated and worthy of review is the “Jail Diversion Program” program run by “The Advocates” https://www.advocates.org
Matthew never made it to Phoenix, however his spirit to stand tall through it all did.
Now its time for Matthew to continue to be an example for others to stand tall through it all, be the impetus and inspiration for a Club House in Phoenix, to be called “Matt’s Place”.
I won’t hear his morning greetings again. I will repeat his often said closing: “Go Red Sox!”