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That's the Night That the Lights Went out in Paris.

Do you ever think that sometimes this earth is just not made for some people? Like, sometimes it is just too fucking much for some people. Some people are just not capable of coping with it all. This person was my brother, Matt. Today is his birthday. I think he would’ve been 41. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, my brother killed himself two years ago. I always knew he would.
My brother was without question the cutest baby on earth. I don’t care how cute you think your babies are, my brother was cuter. Big fat roly-poly baby with huge blonde curls, rosy cheeks, sparkly ice blue eyes… Always with a giggly smile on his face. My sister and I were so happy when he was born because it was as if my mother brought home a new baby doll for us. My sister and I ruled that little boy’s life. We dressed him up, we put makeup on him, we bossed him around and hardly ever let him speak because we did all the talking for him.

My little brother and I. He didn't need glasses... I just liked the way he looked in my sister's Mrs. Beasley doll glasses.
From the get-go, my brother was different. He was sweet and kind and loving. He loved the ocean, he loved animals, and he loved to cook. However, he was also a brat. We called him Matt The Brat. He was always getting into trouble, but not purposely. He just never learned the term, “consequences.” My brother did just exactly as he pleased. One would consider him reckless… But in a sweet way.
My brother wanted to please everyone. When he was about 10 years old he built a condominium complex out of boxes in our front yard and insisted that all of us basically live in it. He was devastated when the whole family refused to spend the night in it.

My brother tried to rescue every animal that he found, including squirrels. My brother would go to the neighbor’s houses when he was a little boy and pick flowers out of their yard and bring them home to my mother in his little fist with all of the dirt still intact at the roots. My brother went to Catalina Sea Camp for what we thought was a two-week session. He called home and told my parents that he was staying for the entire summer because he was so happy there… In the ocean.

My brother in Aspen with my dogs. My brother loved the dogs so much he just took them.
When my brother got older, his disregard for consequences continued. Bad decision after bad decision after bad decision continually destroyed my brother’s life. My brother always had good intentions and a good heart but just never went through the proper routes. My brother had four beautiful children with a woman that my sister and I, and parents had always hated. She was lazy, manipulative and quite frankly, white trash. Surprisingly, she raised four of the sweetest most angelic children on the face of the earth. My brother loved his children with every inch of his soul. After my brother wised up and finally got a divorce, his lovely wife decided that the best revenge on my brother would be to take his children away. This was the beginning of my brother’s ultimate demise and yes, I partially blame her for his death.

My brother's son, Gabriel.

 My brother's son, Aidan.
 My brother's son, Noah.

My brother with his daughter, Olivia.
 He was a broken man without his children. My brother was not strong enough to battle his ex-wife properly and just took a hit after hit in court. My brother did not see his children for years and years and years. Finally, as my brother’s oldest son turned 18 years old a few years ago, his son reached out and reunited with my brother. I have never seen my brother happier. He was on cloud nine. And then I think I ruined everything. I regret what I said and yet I don’t regret it. My brother was at my house with his son and I took my brother aside and I said something to him that I think did more damage than good. I said to my brother, “Matt, I am so happy that you have your son back but whatever you do, don’t fuck this up.” I saw the light go out in my brother’s eyes. He knew he was under a spotlight and that everyone was watching him. We all wanted my brother to be happy with his children but we knew he was walking on shaky ground. My brother still never learned that his actions had reactions. My sister and I would always lecture my brother on what was acceptable and not acceptable. Letting your seven-year-old son drive a car was not acceptable. Letting your eight-year-old nephew shoot a gun at a rifle range was not acceptable. Selling marijuana as a career was not acceptable.

My brother was always frustrated with a side of depression. My brother had every opportunity to have a wonderful life, which he did and didn’t. He was given the best education yet his ADD got in the way. He was an extremely talented builder but his impatience got in the way. My brother wanted to rescue everyone and everything but he could not rescue himself.

My brother had tried to kill himself numerous times before. I remember dropping him off at my mother’s house in 2005 and saying to him, “Try not to kill yourself today.” He laughed and tried to kill himself a few hours later. I knew my brother needed help but I didn’t know how to help him. Looking back, I wish I would’ve tried harder to help my brother. My brother needed a 24 hour babysitter. No one in my family had the tools to handle my brother. My parents tried to hide all of my brother’s problems from my sister and me. They pretended like nothing was wrong. It would take professional psychiatrists with prescribing privileges to take care of my brother which my parents were not. My sister and I always offered my brother advice but like they say, “You can lead a camel to water, but you cannot make him drink.”

My brother was reunited with his oldest son and I have never seen him happier. However, he did not last very long. You know that phrase, “Too much of a good thing?” I think that’s how my brother felt and he just self-sabotaged the whole thing. My brother was gone within weeks. Somehow my big, strong handsome brother just couldn’t take it anymore and hung himself in his bedroom facing the ocean.

My brother reunited with his son, Noah, exactly one month before he died.

Apparently, I heard through the grapevine that my brother left a letter. I have never read it because my parents have never mentioned it to me. Hell yes, I want to read it. Wouldn’t you?
Oh, how did I find out about my brother’s death, you ask? My mother texted the information to me. Yes, she texted it. The text read, “Matt killed himself.” That was it. Instinctually, I burst out crying… For about 15 seconds. And then, suddenly, I stopped crying and I smiled and thought to myself, “Oh my God, my brother is finally safe. God has him and will take care of him. Matt is free from all of his troubles.” I honestly feel like God came to get him and wrapped him in his arms and will allow my brother to do exactly what he wants to do which is fly, save animals and watch over his children.

I knew that this world was not for my brother. This world is too harsh and too mean and too complicated for someone as sweet and pure and innocent as my brother. This may sound strange but I do not miss my brother. I do not miss seeing him in so much pain. This may sound even stranger but I know I will see my brother again… In different circumstances.

I used to sit outside in my little yard in Santa Barbara after my brother passed away and every single day a little hummingbird would fly into the yard and buzz around my wisteria… For a very long time. I knew right away it was my brother and it brought me the greatest peace.
What advice do I have? None, really, except that I think it’s important to realize that there are soft souls on this earth ill-equipped to wrestle with the big bad monster called everyday life. My brother liked to eat Cherry Mash candy bars, make his famous fudge, surf, pet animals, hug his children, fly airplanes, laugh, and if your car plunged into an icy lake, my brother would be the first one, without hesitation, to dive in and save you even if he lost his own life doing so.

My brother was always fond of grand gestures. Last night, after midnight, I realized that it was officially February 27th, my brother’s birthday. I looked out my window towards the dark Parisian sky and said out loud, “Matt, just show me a sign. Show me a sign that you are okay.” I waited and waited but nothing happened. This morning I woke up and told my houseguests that my brother did not “come through.” My friends looked at me and said, “Don’t you remember that the power went off in the whole apartment last night?” Oh my God, yes it did. My brother did come through. When the power went off, I was so self-absorbed about my breathing machine and the battery that I didn’t realize what was happening. In a panic last night, I called my husband who is in Los Angeles to tell him that we had no power in the whole building. Today, we looked at the time log on my telephone and it turns out the power went off at exactly 11:59 PM and came back on five minutes later at 12:04 AM… Officially my brother’s birthday. Hold on, it gets weirder, apparently all of Paris had a blackout last night. All over Paris!  How about that for a grand gesture!
For my brother’s birthday, my mother would make him his special cake. He loved it and we only ate it on his birthday, February 27th. It was an angel food cake filled with jamoca almond fudge ice cream, with chocolate whipping cream icing with toasted almonds. I don’t know the name of it but let’s just call it Matt’s Cake. Make it with love.

My mother emailed me the recipe today… Here it is… I hope it’s not too confusing… My mother has dyslexia. :-)

It is an angel food cake where you take out some out of the middle so you can have more ice cream.  I used Jamoca Almond Fudge from Baskin Robbins.
1 carton of whipping cream
Nestlé mocha chocolate powder
Toasted almonds

Put the ice cream in the center of the angel food cake. Pack it down hard.  Put in Freezer for a couple of hours or overnight.
Toast the almonds on a cookie sheet in the oven. Try not to burn them!
Whip the cream until stiff. Add a couple of tablespoons of the Nestlé chocolate mocha powder.  Add as much as you like. I like for it to be a light chocolate color.  Taste it as you add it to get the right taste.
Now take out the cake from the freezer and place on the cake plate that you are going to serve it on.  Ice the cake with the mocha whipping cream. I like to really use a lot of it to make it really fluffy.  Cover the cake now with the toasted almonds.  You need to serve it now or you can put it back in the freezer but it is best to serve as soon as the whipping cream icing is put on the cake and ice cream.  You can put the leftover cake back in the freezer...if any left!
Happy birthday "Matthew Robert Daniel Joseph O'Connell"...


Suicide statistics…

 Many who attempt suicide never seek professional care.

Over half of all suicides occur in adult men, ages 25-65.

80% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.

There are an estimated 8 to 25 attempted suicides to 1 completion.

The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.

Research has shown medications and therapy to be effective suicide prevention.



  1. The more you write and the more I read, the more I think you are the most awesome woman on earth. I don't have much more to say than that.

  2. Thank you Ellie. Thank you Matt. Your post gave me the chills. I am having problems with my religion lately (I'm Catholic, I guess a bad one) but faith is a beautiful thing. All the best to you.

  3. I can understand what you mean by knowing your brother is safe and at peace.I lost someone dear to me too and when I get sad, I think of them with the sun and wind on their face smiling.

  4. Wow~ eloquently written and deep on so many levels. My brother took his life in July, and I can't begin to tell you how much of what you wrote here resonates with me. I am going to need to read this several more times, as I'm sure I missed something. It's hard not to think about my brother each and every moment of each and every day, but you are so right- this world is not for everyone. Your words have given me a little "piece of peace." Thank you so much for writing about this. I am an avid reader of your blog and more so today. Cheers!

    1. So many condolences on the loss of someone so dear. While I know the pain stays, I pray peace for you and your family.

  5. This is my favorite post you've ever written. Xo

  6. What a wonderful tribute to your brother. Grand gestures indeed! I hope you are able to keep in touch with your niece and nephews.

    Happy Birthday to Matthew!!

  7. Ellie, I am so moved I am actually at a loss for words. so I guess that's all for now. I'm so glad you got your sign. And what a big sign it was.

  8. Very touching! Happy Birthday Matt! I hope you are still in touch with his children, they are so beautiful!

  9. This is a lovely tribute Ellie - I hope he keeps sending you signs that give you comfort he's somewhere nearby and happy. xx

  10. I hope one of these days they admit to you that there's a letter, and let you read it.

    Happy birthday to Matt, and thank you for the lovely remembrance.

  11. Ellie some are angels on earth just here to make their mark and move on . Clean, untainted souls too good to deal with the ugliness of life. Too sensitive to bear the burden of everyday existence. You were lucky to have one such soul as your brother Matt.

  12. My ex husband told me his brother died last Sunday. On the day he died, a light went on in the ceiling of bedroom where his wife has lain 4 years ago for viewing purposes after she died.

    That light had not been on since her death. We think it was her signal that she was there to meet her husband.

  13. Way to go Matt!!!!!....what an audacious sign!
    I have lost a brother just older and sister just younger than is difficult to lose a fellow warrior who always had my back against other siblings, parents enemies of the day....but hopefully they will be there to pull me in when God turns his back! A wonderful tribute to your brother....your love for him shines thru.

  14. From what you have written, your brother was beautiful human being. It is a shame such a gentle and kind soul had to endure losing his children to such a hateful person. I am so sorry for your loss-so sad for your entire family.

    I hope it's appropriate to share this with you:

    I too have lost my only brother. My brother and his wife were killed on their motorcycle a long time ago when a man failed to yield the right-of-way. They were in their early 20's and newlyweds. He was my guardian angel (and maybe he still is!). If not for my brother, I would not be here right now. He saved me from drowning in a rip current and from stepping out in front of a car - he just happened to be there when I had my foot off the curb - just about 6 inches from the car - he grabbed me by the back of my collar and pulled me back.

    Debra from SENC

  15. Happy birthday, Matt. May you be held in the loving arms of the angels for eternity. Sleep well, dear sweet Matt.


  16. You are so right. This world is not for the faint of heart.. A minister in my past once talked of "death as a healing". I agree. Matt is at rest. How comforting. I just love you Ellie!

  17. So heartfelt, Matt seems like an empathic kind soul, so missing in our world today,
    empathy...pure, honest, true empathy. I will say I have often felt like Matt and this
    world is hard....My younger brother married Matts sister same thing happened to him
    and he is still stuck in and is a brutal sad....I never see him, I don't understand
    why souls use children as their angle to perpetuate more pain to the other parent for revenge
    and hatred....we do not own people as pawns....I take great offense to such people, hurting
    the children and a long chain of others.....why why why can't people be more kind to each
    other for everything else materially just rots but Love is what matters..we never know what
    another man suffers you Ellie and thank you for your authentic soul xo

  18. Happy Birthday to sweet, dear Matt. Sometimes life is just so hard.

  19. HIS CHILDREN are GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!AS HE WAS............YOU putting Mrs. BEASLEY's glasses on him was SO YOU!HE LOOKED TERRIFIC!!!!!!!!!!
    WHAT A SIGN...............POWER out all over PARIS because his SISTER is asking for a glimpse.WHAT A BROTHER........he sounds like a REAL GENTLE SOUL.
    ON ANOTHER note.........I met one of your READERS YESTERDAY!She drove to my house with a CARD for YOU!We had a lovely chat and I feel we will meet up again!THE cards are flowing........even by PRIORITY MAIL!!!!!MS.CATHERINE and MS.GILES your envelopes arrived!THANK YOU TO ALL the OTHERS...............THANK YOU!I am SO excited about wrapping this box of cards up and mailing to YOU!
    YOU have a beautiful evening..........I will be dining at your old HAUNT TODAY!!!!HAVING lunch with another READER of YOURS!!!!!!!!!!!!LIFE IS GOOD when we have YOU to share it with!Off and I just found out its suppose to rain there for four straight days!!!!!!!XOXOXO

  20. It has just occurred to me that your words, from half a world away, have more impact on many of my days than almost any others. My 15 year old daughter has suffered from depression and has attempted suicide. It breaks my heart to know that there are moments when this world is far too much for her to bear. There is not a day that goes by when I don't do everything in my power to change that. Your blog keeps me in touch with what is important. Thank you.

  21. Ellie, I read this last night and have been thinking about it all day. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing Matt's story as honestly and with as much love as you did. Not only is it incredibly moving but each time that awareness is raised that, "Yes, this happens" is a really important thing. In these photos I can see the fragile beauty in his eyes and yes, this world is not made for all of us. That was one sly prank that he pulled on you though. Matt the Brat strikes again. You will be able to laugh about that when you are reunited.

    Sending much Love to you...a prayer of Peace for Matt...and Strength to his children,

  22. You told the sotry of the my youngest son. Still with us, but my fear is that, like your sweet brother, life is just too much for his sweet spirit. My niece died at 30 of bulimia a few short months ago, it was her form of suicide that had been a long time coming. None of us knew how serious her condition had become. We all tried year after year to get her help. My last attempt was a very few short weeks before she died, but she cancelled on me and wouldn't come to the hospital. She was 30, an adult and there was nothing my loving daughter (who was the last to see her and love her) could do. We grieve every day. Thanks for writing this birthday memorial, it helps me immensely. xoxo Mary

  23. Remarkable. Truly remarkable..

  24. I love your honesty & this story struck home with me. My eldest son has recently lost contact with his children (ugly separation) he has been severely depressed & tried to take his own life twice. Every day I live in fear of losing him. He is not unlike your brother a good man a good Dad whose had the crap kicked out of him. I am in my senior years now & find it really hard to know how to help him. He is currently in treatment & I pray every day he gets to re-build a new life. Thank you.

  25. Ellie,
    The birthday tribute to your brother, Matt, was beautifully written, as always, and was so very touching, too. What gorgeous children he left as his legacy. Hopefully, some day they will read this post and maybe gain some insight about their troubled yet wonderful father, and get confirmation of his enormous love for them.
    You are so right about this world just being too much for some dear souls. Unfortunately, I've known too many who decided it was too much for them. For some, suicide is not a 'temporary fix', it is their only 'fix', and I do believe they are now safe and happy. just like your dear brother. Love the Paris blackout sign! (My late Mother does weird things to me with digital clocks! Too strange to explain.)
    Happy Birthday to Matt!

  26. Ellie I am so sorry and at the same time know your brother IS now safe and in God's hands. He did leave you a message and hope he continues to. A beautiful tribute and from the images many memories to cherish.

    The Arts by Karena

  27. Thanks for the honesty, beautifully written.

  28. This makes me sad. Matt was such a kind soul. He's with God and, you're right, he's out of pain. I love you Ellie.

  29. Crying. I can see the symptoms in my son and I'm powerless.

  30. What an evocative post. As a nurse I see people suffer emotionally and physically every day. May they all find inner peace. Suzana xxx

  31. OPPS, big mistake, thought about it after I clicked, yikes:

    my sibling married Matts FORMER WIFE CLONE..(not his sister, I goofed)...both could really pick um, exact same woman clone in another state, he has never been the same since....exact story....toxic and rationed the grandchildren to my Mom that I think help perpetuate her into total sadness and more.. this woman would only allow my mom to see her grandchildren on her time and meet at a neutral place for 20 minutes a visit...I have seen them 3x's in their lifetime, they are now 25 & 26 years old.....they don't know I this day I have no earthly idea why.....So CRUEL......sorry for the mistake....xo

  32. I suffer from great depression at times and recently went through a bout of constant suicidal thoughts. I finally was able to get in to see a psychiatrist who prescribed some medication which made a huge difference, I know I wouldn't be here without it. It's amazing what your mind can do to you. My thoughts go out to you and your family and your sweet Matt.

  33. I never understand the cruel actions of some women who alienate their children from their fathers. It is wonderful that his eldest reached out and spent some time with his father. I am sure his poor son at least will be haunted for the rest of his life.
    May your brother rest in peace xx

  34. You are a very understanding sister, you knew your brother probably better than he knew himself. He was a handsome man and those children are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your story and also the facts about suicide. I have five young sons and two daughters, what will the future hold for us? I hope and pray their lives are kind to them.......

  35. Ah, Sweet Ellie, Matt smiles at you from his cloud perch, and is charmed by your birthday tribute. Beautiful honest stories have the effect of helping many many others-- his life becomes a healing for another's struggle.

    prayers for you and your parents-- very difficult loss, always with you. And yet, Matt is now whole and well.

  36. What gorgeous, honest, brave, words you have shared here. I have an 18 year old Noah and your post makes my heart ache for your family and your brother's family and for your sweet Noah.

  37. How lucky that Matt (sun-sign Pisces) was born into a family that lived so close to the ocean. It fit his nature. I agree the earth isn’t made for some people. My son, after two near deaths under the age of 18, is now part of the 80% statistic you describe…in treatment. It’s much easier to get treatment for someone under 18, while you still have legal rights. Fast forward 13 years…medications help but he still needs to be looked after. Sometimes my biggest worry is that he may outlive me (hard for a Mom to say). That said…I do believe there’s a Divine Order to things.

    *Something you don't know about me? I think death could be underrated. I recently watched two interesting Super Soul Sunday shows on near death experiences. One was with Dr. Mary C. Neal and the other was with Amy Purdy. Thought provoking and comforting.

  38. I had a family member who took his own life in his 20's. A beautiful, sweet soul gone too soon. We have never really been able to describe just why and I think you just gave me the explanation....this world was just to fucking much for him. You continue to be a bright spot in my day....lights out Ellie! My god lights out all over Paris! Too cool.

  39. Your story is very personal and touching. For days I’ve wanted to comment but couldn’t find the words, because I sense the emotions. So perhaps that suffices as my comment.

    On a selfish point, your brother and I share something powerful: Jamoca Almond Fudge from Baskin Robbins! I think that is the brightest memory of my teenage years… perhaps of his, too.

  40. Your brother Matt does have the look of an angel even in the Mrs. Beasley glasses and he has clearly fulfilled his role. What comfort that he is watching over you.
    His children are beautiful as well. I loved this post.xox

  41. This was a beautiful post... and what gorgeous children.

    I'm so grateful to you for sharing and writing with such love and honesty. I'm ordering a thousand copies of your book when it comes out.

  42. What a beautiful tribute to your brother Matt. Like you I believe some are in a better place with God doing as they wish where things are always as they want them, looking over us. I know when this happens they leave those they left behind with a lot of guilt, speculation and devastation.
    It is a life changing event.......I hope Matt's legacy will only be for the kind hearted person and devoted father that he clearly was. And I love how when he shows you a sign that all is A OK, he goes all out....a full blackout in Paris. That is really something:) Thank you for sharing.

  43. On a completely different note; those dogs are so wonderful. I just love them!

  44. I agree....some people are not for this earth. My darling brother in law took his life 9 years ago this year. He too was in an abusive relationship with she who shall not be named and did not know how to handle it day after day. He loved children, he was the joker... we miss him and his daughter misses him achingly.....I loved this post. Thank you x