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Saying goodbye to Matty
RUMFORD -- As the sun began to set on a pleasant afternoon Friday, close to 35 people gathered in the parking lot next to the DARE Field.
They were there to pay tribute to Matthew Thurston, whose brain activity has ceased and who has been taken off life support. As his time on earth winds down, his relatives and friends decided to take a proactive approach by celebrating the life of the eight year old. Matthew would have been a third grader at the Crescent Park School in Bethel.
"We decided we needed to do more for the kids who knew Matty, to celebrate his life and say it's okay to go," noted Jackie Thurston, one of his aunts at the event.
Another aunt, Tina Erwin, said Matt and her son, Jack Huard, were good friends. "We're so blessed to have known him."
"Matty is so loved," noted Melissa Humphrey, who said Matty was protective of her daughter and his cousin, Megan, when she began kindergarten.
As some people were blowing up balloons from the tailgate of one of the vehicles, others were busy thinking of messages to write on the balloons to Matty.
One thing they had in common was that they were messages of love, and goodbye. Erwin wrote, "I know you will be at the gates of heaven to greet me when my time comes. Til we meet again, I'll see you in my dreams."
Music was playing in the backfield and the feeling was pretty upbeat, thanks to occasional hugs.
After about a half hour, people began walking onto the field. Carrying their balloons and lighted candles, they formed a large circle, with four of the younger children inside the circle. Then people were asked if anyone had anything they would like to say.
One person noted, "Thank God for bringing Matty into our lives. He was a wonderful boy."
Another added, "There's a lot of broken hearts in Rumford."
Then, they counted down 3-2-1 and released the balloons, prompting Melissa to say, "Matty would love this. This is Matty's rainbow."
There were numerous hugs as everyone looked to the sky. But as the balloons went of out sight, there was a renewed feeling of loss, an emotion that particularly hit several of the younger people hard as they went down to their knees in tears.
Unbeknownst to these people was the symbolism seen through the eye of the camera in which the follow through of releasing the balloons resulted in many of the people with an open hand in the air, as if they were waving goodbye to Matty.
On Aug. 12 at about 11:30 a.m., Matthew Thurston was in the back seat of a 1996 Jeep Cherokee operated by his mother, Jessica Thurston, 28, of Bethel, when the vehicle crashed into a utility pole on Route 26 and continued several hundred feet before the car split a tree and burst into flames.
On Oct. 1, friends and residents organized a walk-a-thon for Matty, which began at his school.
Some 35 relatives and friends of Matthew Thurston released balloons in the air with messages to show their love, and to say goodbye to the eight year old last Friday at the DARE Field in Rumford. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)