Today was one of the happiest days of my life. It is the day that my first child arrived. I was so excited when I heard he was a boy. I have always wanted to have a boy. Each night, when I was home, I would rub his mom’s belly and know he was in there. I would pray for him each and every night and I will continue to do that for the rest of my life.
Today, he finally introduced himself to the whole world and I am so excited to be his dad. I want to teach him everything I know. I want to teach him to be a Cyclone fan, a Bears fan, a White Sox fan. I want to teach him about what good music is. I want to teach him about what it means to be a country boy. I want to teach him to love and respect animals. I want to teach him to love and respect his parents, family, and all his elders. Most of all though, I want him to know about God and how He will love him more than either his mom or I ever could.
I am so excited for all these things. I have been waiting my whole life to be a dad and the day is finally here. I know I will be a great dad. I will provide for all his needs and show him all the love that I am capable of.
All these things yet to come are great, but today, his mom and I want to pause and tell our new son, why we decided to name him what we did. His mom and I have known for quite a while what his name would be. In fact, I have known what his name would be for almost 18 years now. We decided that we would keep his name a secret from the rest of the world until he was born. Now that he is finally here, we are proud to announce the name of our new son:
Matthew William Marsau
In the following two letters, we will be explaining to our new son, why he has the name he does. I will be explaining, in the first letter, why his first name is Matthew. Steph will be explaining, in the second letter, why his middle name is William. Believe it or not, it is not because my name is William.
I wanted to write you a letter so you would know why you were given the name Matthew. Let me go back a bit. Matthew Clark Lichty was born on Feb. 6th 1977, a couple of months before I came into the world. I had always wished I could be the older one while growing up. As we grew up, Matt was not only my neighbor, he lived on the next farm south of the farm I grew up on, but he was also my third cousin. My great-grandma Dortha and his great-grandpa Clark, were brother and sister.
Growing up as farm kids, there was always a lot of work to be done. Taking care of the animals, bailing hay in the summers, and helping with the harvest in the fall. There were many occasions when we worked together. I can remember bailing hay with Matt. I can remember it well because Randy, Matt’s dad, was known for baling some of the heaviest bales in the county. Plus his hay racks were truck beds so they held a lot more bales than the average rack. After a day of bailing hay with the Lichty family, you knew you had put in a full day’s work. I can also remember one summer when the two of us took on about 10 acres of corn to detassel. Since it was just the two of us, we spent a lot of long days in the field together.
We did not always work though. We had a lot of fun playing too. Since Matt and I were the same age and he lived so close together, we spent a lot of time together. We would do 4-H together, ride horses together, and raised pigs together. We spent a lot of time in my grandma’s barn shooting hoops and playing one on one together. We were both pretty fierce competitors so some of the games got pretty heated. Sometimes it even resulted in blood. We went to different schools so we were not in school together and we did not play on the same sports teams, but we did about everything else together. It seemed like we did everything together.
Growing up, I was an only child so I never knew what it was like to have a full brother. Matt was the closest thing to a real brother that I ever had. We would fight like any boys will do, but at the end of the day, we loved each other. We were best friends.
As we started to get a little bit older, we started noticing girls. I was dating a girl named Shelby, who lived in Wellsburg, which was about a half an hour drive away from us. I got tired of driving over to see her by myself so I asked Matt if he would start going with me. At least it gave me someone to talk to on the way over and back.
We had lots of great adventures on our way to and from Wellsburg. Sometime, when you are older, I will tell you about the time we buried the car on an old dirt road when it had rained a whole bunch. The girl I was dating at the time had a friend named Tiffany. The four of us used to hang out a lot together. It wasn’t long before Matt and Tiffany started to really like each other and started dating themselves. Well, Matt, Shelby, and I were all a year older than Tiffany, so when it came time go to college, the three of us headed off to Iowa State in the fall. Tiffany still had one more year of high school. Tiffany would often come down to Ames to see Matt and the rest of us. Sometimes Matt would head to Wellsburg to see her. Despite the distance, their relationship continued to grow. It was very clear that Matt and Tiffany seemed to have something special.
Matt and I were very busy at college and there was certainly some adjustments to make. It was so much different from the small town lives we were used to living back in Black Hawk County. Iowa State was much larger than anything that we were used to. I was on the football team and that took up an enormous amount of my time. We all lived in the dorms and would see each other often, however.
By our second year in college, both Matt and I pledged in the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Chris, who was Matt’s brother and a year younger than us, also pledged at the same time. We were now living together and we loved it. It was a great place to live and we were having a great time and learning how to become men at the same time. It was a truly awesome time in our lives. We had never been closer.
Then one day Matt came to me and looked as pale as a ghost. I could really tell something was really bothering him. He told me that Tiffany was pregnant. This was a huge concern because they were not married. He didn’t know what he should do and he wanted my advice. I simply asked him if he loved her. He said yes, very much so. I told him that it should be pretty clear to him. He needed to marry Tiffany because they already had a start on their family.
That is exactly what happened. Shortly after that conversation, Matt proposed to Tiffany and she said yes. This happened in the fall of 1996. They were set to get married in the early winter of 1997. During this span two very important events occurred. The first event occurred on May 17, 1997. Tiffany gave birth to their boy that they named Caleb. Matt was a father and he loved Caleb so much. Caleb looked so much like Matt. It was the best thing that ever happened to Matt. Despite being so young, Matt was a great father to little Caleb.
The second event is one that has always haunted me. It is not unusual for young men to get into fights, especially when alcohol is in the mix. Matt and I were not immune to having little fights over stupid little things, but during a house party for the fraternity, we were on a bus headed to where the party was going to be held. We had all been drinking so obviously, our judgement was a little impaired. A couple of days prior, Matt had confronted me with the fact that he was not happy that I had been talking to a girl who lived in the dorms since I was still dating Shelby at the time. I told him that it was nothing and I had not been doing anything wrong. Looking back now, I was probably being too “flirty” with this girl. I had a girlfriend and I had no business talking to this other girl. I did not see things that way at the time. On the bus ride to this party, Matt brought this up again, only this time it was in front of Shelby, which I thought was way out of line. I grew more and more agitated by the second. By the time we reached the site of the party, I took Matt back to the men’s room and proceeded to start yelling at him about how I thought what he said was so inappropriate and how I could not believe that he had done this to me. He started yelling back. We were in each other’s faces just screaming at each other. It almost turned into a physical fight, but our fraternity brothers separated us before it did.
This event had a huge impact on our relationship as friends. If I had just gone to Matt and apologized, things could have been so different. Instead, I choose to be stubborn and refused to talk to him. Month after month would go by and we hardly ever talked. When we did, we were cold and distant to each other. This fight and my stubbornness almost completely ended our friendship that had lasted all those years. Looking back on it now, it is so stupid. It was a fight over a girl that I could not even tell you what her name was or what she looked like. I had decided that my being right was more important than my friendship to my best friend. The funny thing is that I was never right. I was wrong the whole time. Matt had the courage to call me on something I was doing that was not right and instead of accepting what he was saying, I fought him on it. I was so young and stupid.
Obviously, we did not see each other a whole lot during this time. I saw young Caleb after he was born, but I was not there when he was born. I should have been. That is what best friends do, but I was not being a best friend. Later, when Matt and Tiffany got married in that Catholic church in Waterloo, I was there, along with quite a few of the brothers from the house, but I was bitter because Matt had not asked me to be one of his groomsmen. Why would he have asked me? I had been a terrible friend. I did not deserve to be in that wedding. Not after the way I had treated him. Despite my bitterness, we all did have a great time at the wedding. It was a day filled with much joy among family and friends. Matt and I were fraternity brothers and best friends, but we were also family, and family is forever.
During the week following the wedding, Matt stopped by while I was eating breakfast at the fraternity. He asked me if he could talk to me and I told him “sure.” He took me into the “blue room” in the basement of the fraternity. He told me that he had a dilemma and needed my advice. Matt needed to travel to Waterloo, Nebraska that week to line up an internship he had for the following summer. The problem was that he told me that Tiffany didn’t want him to go. Apparently, she had a bad feeling about it. I thought for a minute and then I asked him if he thought the internship would be important for his career. He said it would be so I told him that I thought he should go. He said he would think more about it and that he appreciated the advice.
As he began to leave, I felt a strong urge to tell him I was sorry and give him a hug, but I didn’t. I guess my unforgiveness was controlling me still at that point. I let him walk out of the room without saying anything. I stood there alone until, about 30 seconds later, Matt came back into the room. He told me that he was sorry for everything and told me that he loved me and I would always be his best friend, no matter what. I walked right over to him and with tears in my eyes, I told him that I loved him too and he would always be my best friend too. We embraced in a giant hug that lasted a while. When we had finished, I wished him well on his trip and told him when he returned, we would start spending more time together, like we had been before our stupid fight. Matt then walked out the door.
I did not know it at the time, but that was the last time I would ever see Matt alive. Matt did decide to go on that trip and on his way, he was trying to pass a semi-truck, when he hit a patch of ice and had a horrible crash that cost him his life. He was dead by the time the paramedics arrived. The day was Dec. 4, 1997. That is the day that a piece of me died forever. You can see the story from the Iowa State Daily here.
Later that day, I was eating lunch at the fraternity, when our cook Leila Coe told me the news. I did not believe her at first. Then I saw so many of the brothers crying. It didn’t seem real. How could this be? I can’t really remember a lot of details about what happened over those next few days. I remember being very numb. It was like I was functioning on some low-level zombie state, but wasn’t anywhere near my normal self. I do remember that I did not cry. I guess I was suppressing it and going into survival mode. That changed on the following Tuesday, when we had to return to that same church he had been married in only a week and a half prior. Once they had the viewing for family and close friends, I just lost it. Seeing Matt in that casket finally made it real for me, I guess. I could not stop crying. I remember bits and pieces from that day. I remember them playing “He’s My Brother,” by the Hollies during the ceremony. I remember all the brothers from the house were there and we lined the exit of the church. It was so impressive and moving to see all those brothers lined up in their blue blazers and suits to pay tribute to their fallen brother. These young men of the house loved Matt so much. He had been a part of their everyday lives for a couple of years, but Chris and I had known Matt our whole lives so it was different for us. I also remember the funeral procession, that was about a mile long, that traveled to the Orange Township Cemetery to put Matt into his final resting place.
In those years following his death, I had a very hard time accepting how things played out. I blamed myself for his death because I told myself that if I had not talked him into going on that trip, he might have listened to Tiffany and not gone and would still be alive. I was so angry at myself for spending those last months of our lives together in that stupid feud that was so pointless anyway. To help out, the other brothers at the house would have Tiffany bring young Caleb over to the house and they would help babysit him. I couldn’t. I couldn’t be around Caleb. When I looked at Caleb, I saw Matt and I would just break down. Caleb would never have any memories of his dad because he was too young and I did have those memories, but I could not bring myself to tell him. I was very depressed over the whole deal.
The following spring, our house had a house party on Matt’s birthday, it would have been his 21st birthday. It was a night filled with great emotion. There was some laughs, but also a lot of tears. It was on that night, Feb. 6, 1998, that I decided, if I ever had a son, I was going to name him Matthew, after the best friend I have ever had.
I eventually was able to forgive myself. It was not until the spring of 2009. I held on to that poison in my life for way too long. The experience taught me two valuable lessons. It taught me to forgive more freely, especially over stuff that is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It also taught me to more freely tell people that I love them and appreciate them. These lessons will stick with me the rest of my days.
I know that on this day, Matt was in heaven with a smile on his face, knowing what a great name you have. I know that he is proud of you already. We both are. Your mom has asked me on several occasions if I fear death. I told her I honestly don’t. I think a big reason for that is that I know that on the day I leave this earth, is the day that I get to be reunited with my best friend in heaven. That will be a great day for me indeed. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of Matt. He has touched my life in a way that few others have. I have had a lot of great friends in this life, but he is special. He is the one. He is still the closest thing I have ever had to a brother. It is like a part of him is still here. It has been just over 18 years since my friend passed from this earth, but through you being born this day, his memory will live on through you.
Of course, Matt still lives through his son Caleb. It has taken me a very long time, but if Caleb is willing, I would love to sit down with him and tell him about his dad and what a great friend he was. He really was the best. I’m so sorry that it has taken me so long Caleb.
I will let your mom tell you about how you got your middle name.
As far as your last name, the name Marsau has a long history. There have been some pretty amazing Marsau men through the years. One of the greatest men I have ever know, is your grandpa John. He first saw you today and I could see his love for you in his eyes. You will know him so well in your life. Another is your great-grandfather Robert Marsau. He was amazing too. He left this world several years ago so you will never get to meet him, but I will tell you all about him when you get older.
Matthew, I want you to know how loved you are. I have had the privilege of having some really amazing days in my life, but today was the greatest. Seeing you born and knowing that I was going to be your dad made me so proud. We have so many great times ahead, but I wanted you to know on this day, that you will always be special to your mom and I.
Love Your Dad,
William John Marsau
Now I am going to let Stephanie explain to Matt why his middle name is William:
Your dad wanted me to write you a letter and explain why your middle name is William, which I’m more than happy to do. You’ll find though as you get older that your mom is a bit of a procrastinator, so it took a handful of times of your dad asking if I’d done the letter yet to actually get it done. You’re due exactly one month from today, so I figured I should probably get cracking. The way you’re moving about in my belly, who knows when you intend on making your appearance!
I imagine that people are going to think your middle name is William because your dad’s FIRST name is William (although he goes by Bill). That’s actually a complete coincidence, albeit a nice one.
You see, MY grandpa’s name, was William and like your dad – he also went by Bill. He passed away when I was just 11 years old, but I spent A LOT of time with him in those 11 years. Growing up it seemed like I was always at grandma and grandpa’s house and while I loved them both dearly, in those younger years, it seemed like I spent the most time with grandpa.
He taught me how to read at an early age using the newspaper and by thinking up different word games – he did so well teaching me in fact, that I skipped kindergarten! We also watched a lot of Cubs games – grandpa LOVED the Cubs. He also taught me how to play cribbage – you don’t know what that is yet, but when you’re old enough we’ll teach you. It didn’t much matter what grandpa and I were doing though, I just wanted to be around him.
Maybe the most important thing grandpa taught me though was the importance of second chances, which wasn’t a lesson I really understood when I was younger – but I certainly do now.
Grandpa and grandma had seven kids and while most of them were younger, grandpa wasn’t around much. But when I was born, something in him changed. It was like somehow he recognized he had another shot and if a person could right their wrongs by fiercely loving another person – that’s exactly what he was going to do.
Those first 11 years of my life and the last 11 of his – he was different. He laughed more, he talked more and maybe it’s my imagination – but I feel like he loved more. I certainly know he loved me. Grandpa wasn’t perfect, nobody is – but when you love someone as much as I loved grandpa, you only see the good.
Grandpa passed away in January 1993 and grandma passed away in February 2011, just a couple of weeks after I’d met your dad. She was pretty sick and kind of in and out of it, but someone told her while she was in the hospital that I’d met someone who I liked very much and that his name was Bill. And at the sound of that name, she smiled. I have a feeling that somehow grandma knew that day that I would marry your dad, even though we wouldn’t get married for 2 ½ more years. So it only seems fitting that your middle name be the first name of the man who made her just as happy in her last moments as he did me in my first.
Love Your Mom,
Stephanie Marie Marsau
So what’s in a name anyway? Well, for Stephanie and I, everything. Through our son, we have chosen to honor two people who have had a great influence on our lives. Even though they are not still with us here on Earth. We know they are smiling up in heaven, knowing that this precious little boy will carry their names on for another generation.
Matthew received a brand new Iowa State football helmet from another Matthew, new Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell.
Matthew William Marsau has his whole life in front of him. There are so many family and friends who will meet him and influence him and we are both so thankful for that, but sometimes we need to remember that the influence of those who are no longer with us can have a great influence too. Thank you Matthew and William for being the people you were. Your lives touched us deeply and we are forever better parents to our new son because of you. You are missed dearly, but never forgotten.