This morning, I traveled to Dobson to pick up what we here at the paragraph factory colloquially refer to as “cops and court.”
It’s a duty that is one of the more menial tasks we do to ensure that readers know who’s buying what property, who’s getting married and/or divorced, who got arrested and what the county police are investigating. They run in Sunday’s paper.
But today was a little different than other days.
Today, workers in the sheriff’s office and the courthouse were visibly shaken, talking quietly with muffled voices about the apparent suicide of a man I can only assume was a beloved county resident, James Matty.
Now I didn’t know Matty, but many of these people did.
And they liked him.
Wednesday, while I was working on coverage of the story, everyone from newspaper employees to people on the street were approaching me to find out what I’d learned.
Many of them expressed shock — including a couple of his “clients,” those whose probation Matty supervised.
One of these clients, a heavily-tattooed young man with piercings and a rough-and-tumble look, was nearly in tears as he learned the news, visibly shaken and with voice quivering, he begged me to tell him it was a cruel joke.
“You’re kidding,” he said. “That can’t be true. He is such a great guy. Why?”
High praise, if you ask me, coming from someone you would have thought wouldn’t have been Matty’s biggest supporter.
Another man was a prior client of the probation officer.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “He was one of the good ones. What happened?”
Sentiments I heard over and over throughout the day.
People are shaking their heads, wondering what could have prompted a man who everyone described as a “great guy,” to take his own life.
It’s a question that hits close to home.
Community newspapers, by and large, don’t cover suicides unless it involves a well-known public figure or takes place in a public facility. It’s a matter of personal privacy and respect for survivors.
I’ve had to cover several in my career, and it’s something that hits a little too close to home.
You see, when I was considerably younger, I went on a few dates with a girl.
While I barely remember her name and what we went to see — the movie “Rudy” was in the theaters at the time — what I vividly remember was that several months later, this blonde-haired, blue-eyed young lady came home, grabbed her father’s nickel-plated .45 caliber Colt 1911 out of his lockbox, sat down on his bed and killed herself.
And the reaction at that time was exactly the same as in Dobson Thursday: “Why?”
It is a question that will never be answered.
We may know a person. We may know them extremely well. But we will never know what is going on in their head or their personal struggles with their private demons.
Perhaps the best eulogy of a life well-lived, and a life cut short, is a comment that was left on The Mount Airy News website Thursday.
A reader who calls herself Momof3wife21 wrote the following:
“Bless your soul Matty. Bless those who lost you. You’re a wonderful man who had a hand in changing my life, and everything you have done will never be forgotten. I wish someone could have had the opportunity to help you as you did for so many. Your family including your dog will be in my prayers.”
Yes. He made a difference. He touched more than one life in a very real and tangible way.
We can only wish Matty had had someone he could have talked with who could have helped him work through his own troubles.