Surviving a tragic loss

'The missing today is the same as it was March 28, 2005'

Danette Dooley danette@nl.rogers.com
Published on March 30, 2009
Saturday was the fourth anniversary of Matthew Churchill's death. Bottom photo from left, Andrew Carter, Rod Churchill, Greg Thorne, Desma Churchill and Jason Duggan. - Submitted photos/Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

Desma Churchill wonders how she's survived four years without her only child, Matthew.

The 15-year-old was killed by a hit and run driver four years ago Saturday.

"He had his first kiss, but he never lived to graduate high school with his friends. Or he never got to get his license. There's just so much he never got to do," his mother says.

Matthew's remains are buried in the United Church cemetery on the Bauline Line, not far from the Churchill home.

Desma Churchill wonders how she's survived four years without her only child, Matthew.

The 15-year-old was killed by a hit and run driver four years ago Saturday.

"He had his first kiss, but he never lived to graduate high school with his friends. Or he never got to get his license. There's just so much he never got to do," his mother says.

Matthew's remains are buried in the United Church cemetery on the Bauline Line, not far from the Churchill home.

It's where Desma feels closest to her son.

"I go there all the time. I plant flowers there in the summer and Rod mows the grass. I take down my cloth and wash off his monument. But I find it really hard leaving. I almost got to talk myself into that. I just need to stay there and I feel bad that I'm leaving him there."

Desma's husband Rod Churchill coached Matthew and his friends in hockey.

After his son was killed, Rod was back in the rink within two weeks.

"I needed something to take my mind off everything. And the support I got was great. It got me over that initial period of shock. And I've stayed with it ever since."

Playing hockey is where Matthew met two of his closest friends - Greg Thorne and Jason Duggan.

The 18-year-olds have continued to stick by Rod at the rink and volunteer as two of his assistant coaches.

Although Rod's Bantam team the Thrashers are in the middle of playoff season, Rod won't be at the rink today (Saturday).

"I'll be spending the day with Desma," he says.

"We'll visit Matthew's resting spot and clear away some snow. The rest of the day we'll probably go for a long drive. Anything at all to keep us occupied."

See 'I OFTEN', Page A2

Greg, who was with Matthew when he was struck by the vehicle, says it's important to him to keep in touch with Matthew's parents and spend time with them in their home.

"I never want to lose touch with them," he says.

Jason recalls meeting Matthew for the first time during a flip and dip program at the Aquarena.

"It was the summer before Grade 4 so we were about nine years old. And then we became really close when we started playing hockey together about a year after that."

One of Jason's fondest memories of Matthew involves sleepovers at the Duggan home.

"He'd never end up staying all night. I can remember one or two or three in the morning he'd wake me and then he'd call his parents."

"We'd always sleep with our clothes on when Matthew went to a sleepover because we knew we'd end up going and getting him," Desma says.

Eighteen-year-old Andrew Carter was another of Matthew's closest friends.

As in previous years, Andrew and a group of Matthew's other buddies got together Saturday for a bite to eat at the Cozy Corner restaurant in Portugal Cove, and then headed to the cemetery.

After ordering their meals they were told that someone had already taken care of the bill. Matthew's family and friends were touched by the gesture calling the patron who picked up the tab a "special person."

"I often think a lot about what Matt would be like today. He was 15 and the three of us were 14 (when Matthew died). We grew up fast after that," Andrew says.

It has been said that time heals grief.

That's not the case, says Desma.

"The missing today is the same as it was March 28, 2005. But I know my days are getting closer every day to seeing him," she says.

While Desma finds it difficult talking about life without Matthew without crying, Rod's feelings remain rooted in anger.

"Even though I've had professional help with some of my thoughts, I still can't accept the word accident. Because it wasn't an accident, in my eyes. And I'll have these feelings of anger and resentment until the day I die."

Rod has a word of advice for other parents.

"Make every moment count. Because when you wake up in the morning, you don't know what the day is going to bring."

To learn more about Matthew's life visit www.matthewchurchill.ca.

danette@nl.rogers.com