Matthew William Chambers

November 14, 1989 - June 12, 2023

Matt once joked – he always had a joke at the ready – that he thought the perfect title for an autobiography would be This Is Why I’m Interesting. So. This is why Matt was interesting, as well as deeply, forever loved.

Matthew William Chambers came screaming into the world one evening in 1989, and said screaming didn’t let up until he was able to locomote on his own. The indignity of learning to crawl made him furious, and he didn’t so much discover walking as running (and crashing). As was true his entire life, he never did figure out how to do anything slow.

Childhood was a great adventure, full of bruised knees, broken bones, and clothes that never fit for long. Fueled by McDonald’s french fries and joie de vivre, it was obvious from the jump that Matt’s signature trait was his gregariousness. Drop him in the middle of a playground, and in a blink, he’d wrangle a pick-up game of anything involving a ball and forward momentum. He was his sister’s bestest buddy, his parents’ “good company,” and a source of laughter to everybody he ran into (sometimes extremely literally). Matt was fun, full stop. Pure, irrepressible fun.

This is the part where we fumble through summing up a fantastically eclectic life in a few scant paragraphs. What didn’t Matt enjoy? What wasn’t Matt interested in? Homework and following rules, perhaps, but when he took a liking to something, he dove in headfirst. His life was one of sports, pranks, video games, spontaneous shenanigans and LAN parties and cheese pizza at the beach. As an adult, Matt gravitated towards things that kept his ravenous brain busy. He studied chemistry, and had a keen predilection towards the universe’s smallest building blocks. His appetite for history and politics was bottomless, with a special fondness for over-the-top characters from antiquity. Debates about philosophy and scientific esoterica ruined many a respectable bedtime. He was fiendishly skilled at strategy games, to the point that nobody in the family would play against him, especially when he brought out Scrabble or a chess board. The question of who would win was already answered.

And we must mention music, of course. Music was Matt’s most constant companion. When he was six years old, his mom found him conjuring a pretty little melody on the piano. She asked him where he’d learned it, and he replied, “I’m playing the music inside my own head.” In middle school, he tried every instrument the band had to offer, and when his dad asked him why he’d decided on trombone, Matt said, “Because it’s the hardest one.” Skilled as Matt became with the horn (he had a particular knack for jazz), it wasn’t an instrument you could easily bring out for other people, and so, he taught himself guitar. He never learned tabs; he always played by ear. Matt’s music was an infallible barometer for his overall mood. When he was in a rough patch, he’d find albums to anchor to. When all was well, he’d play.

Songs and games weren’t the only things Matt shared of himself. Nothing gave him more satisfaction than being there for others. In 2011, in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Matt went to Japan to assist in disaster relief efforts. He cleaned up wreckage, unearthed personal belongings from destroyed homes, played basketball with kids who needed to do something normal. After he came back stateside, Matt began working as a math and chemistry tutor, and took great satisfaction in puzzling out how to make tough concepts click. He was an excellent teacher, an excellent ally. He was most content when he could lend a hand.

Matt loved travel, and had a lengthy list of places he wanted to visit. Matt loved the finer things – a leather jacket, a nice cologne, a perfect steak. Matt loved silly dogs and giant pandas and long naps. He hated spiders. He hated windy days and being bored. He was a real pain when he was hungry, and was never on time for anything (except being born; for that, he was early). Matt was human. Matt was flawed. He had regrets, made mistakes. He wanted to be a good person. In that last point, he succeeded. There is no question of that.

For over a decade of his adult life, Matt wrestled with a complex mix of physical and mental health struggles. Like any of us, he couldn’t overcome his obstacles alone, and finding the care he needed proved challenging. In what would be his last two months, he finally found an extraordinary care team that provided both the medical and social aid he’d been searching for. He grabbed hold of that rope hard, and doggedly pursued his own healing. Outside of direct treatment, he offered support to his fellow patients, joined a softball club, dusted off his guitar and began to practice a piece for new friends. “I’m so grateful to have my mind and health returning,” he wrote to his sister. The people closest to him remarked on how happy and hopeful he was during that time. Just as when he was tiny, all he needed was to take a few solid steps.

In a prime example of the universe’s capability to be tremendously unfair, Matt’s strength of will couldn’t outpace the realities of his body. He had begun to suffer from seizures, one of which led to temporary cardiac arrest. The resulting damage to his brain was severe, and after twelve days of every effort that could be made, he died on Monday, June 12, at the age of thirty-three. He had family at his side, and he was not in any pain.

Matt was a secular individual, and though he’d respect prayers, he would greatly prefer tangible action. The best way to remember Matt is by living at full speed. Befriend strangers. Throw a ball. Have dessert. Thrash a loved one in a board game. Loop your favorite album as loud as you can. Savor a good meal, a smart outfit, a beautiful building. Binge a top-notch TV show. Read Wikipedia all night. Skin your knees. Solve an equation. Pay things forward. And most importantly, no matter what – don’t give up. Never, ever give up.

Matt is preceded in death by his grandparents. He is survived by his parents, Jeff and Nicoline, his sister, Becky, and his sister-in-law, Berglaug. We will never stop loving him.

As someone who spent countless hours pondering the intricacies of microscopic exchange, it is unsurprising that Matt wanted his molecules to return to the planet’s biogeochemical cycles in a beneficial way. “I don’t want to be the end product of a combustion reaction,” he once said. In accordance with his wishes, his body is to be composted, and the resulting soil will be used to strengthen protected forestland. Matt once said, when he was still a kid, that he wanted to be a tree. In the end, he will become many.

Matt’s death was unexpected and far too soon, and his family has chosen to take this time to grieve privately. A memorial event will be held in 2024 for all who wish to attend. If you would like to join us in celebrating him, please go to mattchambers.life and share your contact information with us. We’ll get in touch with you when the time comes.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Matt’s name to the Little Company of Mary Foundation, so that others may benefit from the same compassionate care he received in his final days, or to All Hands and Hearts, in support of disaster relief efforts the world over. Beyond that, as we hopefully have illustrated well: Matt just wanted to help. However you choose to do the same, please think of him when you do.

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