I am 63 and semi-retired. On Tuesday 11th September 2012 at 11am, I looked out of the window to see a young policewoman walking down our drive. I opened the front door as she rang the bell and she asked if Matthew Beadle lived here. I said yes, but he was in America, and “I’m his Dad.”
I invited her in and asked what had he broken and did I have to go and collect him from the airport? When she asked me to sit down I knew it was a lot worse than a broken leg. As she told me he had suddenly and unexpectedly died, I felt like I’d been hit by an express train. She said Matt had been surfing with his friends and they had returned to their motel and he had gone to his room. 15 minutes later a friend found him dead. I told her it could not possibly be Matt as he was a 32 year old super fit professional dancer who didn’t smoke or drink heavily and worked out daily. So they must have got it wrong.
The young police officer phoned the British Embassy to question the information she had and they confirmed that it was our son who had died. I burst into tears. It felt like someone had ripped my heart out. Then she contacted my wife Lynne and daughter Joanne who were both at work and asked them to come home.
Whilst waiting I thought how we had brought him into this world, looked after him as a baby, a teenager and watched him grow into a good, kind young man. Then just when I thought we’ve made it, and all is going to be OK, this came along and ripped our world apart. Why him? Why not some evil murdering scum who does not deserve to live?
Lynne arrived first and the policewoman brought her in. As I held her and told her, she screamed so loud I am told our neighbour opposite heard it. She was hysterical, holding on to me, sobbing uncontrollably. 40 minutes later Joanne arrived and I had to do it all again. Joanne just kept crying NO, NO, NO. All three of us just held each other and sobbed. Everything became a blur. Where do you start? Our lovely son dead on the west coast of America. Joanne’s fiancé arrived. We all sat totally stunned for some time.
Then it started. We needed to do things. Matt’s girlfriend Jess, also a professional dancer, was working on a cruise ship. They had been together 4 years and Matt had told me after his trip he was going to propose. I arranged that the captain of Jess’ ship would be with her when I broke the terrible news, one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do.
Meantime we had to knuckle down and get our boy home. I was numb, angry, hurt, frustrated and exhausted because on top of spending every evening on the phone to America we were spending all day dealing with his personal and financial stuff as well as contacting people, finding an undertaker (not as easy as it sounds) whilst trying to understand it all. Why? How? What for? Why him? Why us?
I cannot tell of all the crazy things that the Orange County Coroner’s / Sheriff’s Office and its staff put us through, which still makes me so very angry, delaying our son’s return and making it so hard to grieve his death. Finally the insurance company agreed to take care of arrangements and bring him home. I just cried with relief.
Because the first autopsy was inconclusive the English Coroner needed a second. Matt was eventually released to the funeral director so we could arrange his funeral. More importantly we finally got to see our boy, to prove to ourselves that this was really him.
Lynne, Jo, Jess and me, went in holding on to each other for moral support. It was now nearly 3 weeks since he died and we were scared how he would look, but he looked so peaceful as if he was asleep.
His funeral at the Parish Church was a month after losing him. We set up a web cam at the back so everyone who could not make the service could pay their respects. There was so much love in the church that day the Funeral Director said he had never witnessed anything so moving in 30 years. Matt left church to “The Show Must Go On” with the congregation applauding his final exit. He would have loved it and I hope and pray he was watching from above.
The church was opposite the Studio where he first started dancing. His mentors Lauren and Conan Rice organised the reception there and for his dance, musical theatre, and musician friends to form a choir and do solo songs from some of the shows he had appeared in. Lauren gave an eulogy calling him our “Borrowed Angel”. I was so proud of them all, but none more so than our daughter Joanne who managed to stand in front of 500 plus people to give a reading of Matt’s life mantras.
Our next hurdle was the inquest which we did not attend. The coroner’s concern is whether death is “natural”, not how or why. We had no closure as death was still “inconclusive”. Then a light entered our lives and we found CRY, who did their own tests.
Somehow Christmas came and went and in February we were screened at CRY’s unit in St. George’s Hospital to see if his condition was inherited from us; and more importantly whether Joanne had the same complaint. We learnt Matt’s heart was not enlarged, and that maybe it was an electrical problem. At long last we may have some kind of closure.
His West End friends’ concert for CRY at St. Paul’s Church (the actors’ church) Covent Garden was a sell-out and we will continue to support CRY’s very important screening programme to get as many young, fit people as possible tested, so their parents do not have to go through the hell we, and so many others, have had to endure.
Lynne, Jo and I knew Matt was the greatest son and brother in the world but did not know that thousands of other people thought the same until someone told us about all the entries on Facebook and the cards started dropping through the letterbox. Family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues rallied around, supporting in so many ways. A kind word, phone call, text, e-mail, visit, cooked meal, bunch of flowers, hug or just leaving us alone.
The impact of our son’s sudden passing has been devastating for us, his aunts, uncles, cousins and of course Jess and her family. It is only four months and things are still very raw and painful. Lynne puts on a brave face, hiding how she is hurting inside. Matt was her baby. I feel empty inside but she was his mum; I cannot begin to imagine how she feels. Like having a limb torn off? I vent my feelings onto Lynne; but how does a mother cope with hers? Parents never expect to bury their children and the shock, in our case, has brought the family even closer together.
We will never forget our Borrowed Angel, the big smile, his sense of humour, positive attitude and those huge Matt hugs he always gave us every time we met. His life may have been short but by heck did he pack a hell of a lot into it and touched the hearts of so many people. It made us so proud of him.
So until we meet again Son, all my love Dad. XXXX.