I have had more thoughts in the past week and two days than I can even begin to comprehend. My best friend; the man that I admire most in this life died. But I have not been able to begin grieving my father’s death because, how does one mourn the death of one family member while simultaneously attempting to save the life of another? Over this past week my sister, my mother and myself have attempted to take on the job that my father had single-handedly done without complaint for the past 20 years and to put it simply, we cannot do it.
One thing I learned from my father is the importance of not seeking out pity or attention for our own hardships in life, so writing a blog on my experiences surrounding his death and the mission to find my brother the help he deserves is confusing for me. I feel torn. I feel that if I am going to put my entire life on the internet, I have to have a reason beyond the millennial desire to be constantly affirmed by others. This blog can’t be another facebook post, instagram picture or snapchat video– attempting to give glimpses into my life for no real reason beyond the inclination to document everything about my existence.
I decided that I have three reasons for putting my ramblings into the internet. The first, is simply making our story available for those who care to know. My family has been astounded by the amount of support we have received in our time of need. Our family and friends have not only raised approximately 54,000 dollars in total for the “Stephen Knezz Memorial Fund for the Care of Matthew Knezz” but have also donated an unbelievable amount of time and love. I want to offer our story without reservations to these people.
The second is to gain some guidance in the process of accepting my father’s death. I have had so many individuals reach out to me saying, “I also lost my father too soon. If you need anything, let me know”. I want to share my thoughts with these individuals and ask my questions and hopefully gain perspective on how I will go about accepting something that still feels like a dream.
The third is to reach out to other families with members like Matty. I feel that there is an injustice being done to people like my brother. Autism awareness is at an all time high– but awareness of what kind of autism? My brother has been put in and has been taken out of countless “schools for autistic individuals”. My family has been told that the best place for my brother is a glorified jail cell. I refuse to believe that there are no other families that are encountering these same issues. My brother is not his violent meltdowns and my brother is not his diagnosis; he is so much more than these things. I hope our story reaches others like us and I hope that this experience can act as a catalyst inside of us to spearhead a change that must happen.
Excuse me while I get off of my soapbox to end on a simpler note. My father was a complex man who led a simple life– so I have to remember that if his death doesn’t in fact lead to a revolution in the autistic community, his life’s devotion to my brother is not in vain. One of the last posts on Facebook that my dad made was for my brother’s birthday. He wrote, “Happy birthday Matt. Thanks for teaching me life is its own reward”. No matter what these experiences amount to, I will carry what my father learned from my brother with me forever: Life is its own reward.