Summer of Sisterhood: a Q&A with Matt Logelin, author of "Two Kisses for Maddy"
Matt and Liz Logelin were high school sweethearts. After years of long-distance dating, the pair finally settled together in Los Angeles, and they had it all: a perfect marriage, a gorgeous new home, and a baby girl on the way. Liz's pregnancy was rocky, but they welcomed Madeline, beautiful and healthy, into the world on March 24, 2008.
Just twenty-seven hours later, Liz suffered a pulmonary embolism and died instantly, without ever holding the daughter whose arrival she had so eagerly awaited. Though confronted with devastating grief and the responsibilities of a new and single father, Matt did not surrender to devastation; he chose to keep moving forward-- to make a life for Maddy.
In this memoir, Matt shares bittersweet and often humorous anecdotes of his courtship and marriage to Liz; of relying on his newborn daughter for the support that she unknowingly provided; and of the extraordinary online community of strangers who have become his friends. In honoring Liz's legacy, heartache has become solace. We asked Matt to share some of his insights with us regarding his writing of the novel:
1. After Liz died, there were a lot of people who helped you as you grieved and took on your new role as (single) father, what was the most helpful for you during that time?
Just knowing that people cared was most helpful to me. My entire life had fallen apart when Liz died, so knowing that people cared, whether family, friends or eventually total strangers, meant the world to me.
2. Strangers made a lot of assumptions when they saw you alone with Maddy. How do you feel about the reactions you received? How did gender play a role, positively and negatively?
When I was alone with Maddy, especially when she was just a few months old, people constantly asked me where her mother was. It was as if no one had ever seen a father out alone with his baby. It was only when I was out in public with another adult (whether that adult was male or female) that I felt comfortable because I knew that no one would ask about her mother. The thing was, I had no problem talking to, and answering stranger’s questions about Liz…it’s just that I had a hard time comforting a total stranger in a public place after telling them that the my wife and the mother of our child had died the day after our daughter was born. You can’t imagine the number of hugs I gave out in those situations.
When I was out alone with Maddy I was rarely ignored. Sometimes I was treated as though it was my first time alone in public with her and as a result I was assumed to be completely incompetent. Other times I was fawned over by women who were surprised and happy to see a father taking such an active role in his child’s life. In my opinion, I was just doing what any parent would and should do. I never felt like I deserved any accolades or attention for being a single father. I mean, there are lot of single mothers out there and they don’t get even close to the amount of credit I was getting, which is absurd.
3. How do you try to keep Liz’s memory alive for Maddy? What do you think Liz would want Maddy to know about her? What do you want Maddy to know about Liz?
Keeping Liz’s memory alive for Madeline is one of my chief goals and I attempt do it in a lot of ways. The most important way is by making sure that Maddy knows she can talk about, and ask questions about her mom any time. I tell her stories all of the time, whenever they pop into my head. The thing is, I never want her to have to hold her feelings in or be hesitant to talk about Liz, so I encourage her by telling her how I feel…that I miss and love her mom and that it’s okay for her to miss and love her, too. Also, we spend a considerable amount of time with Liz’s family and friends, and I encourage them to talk about Liz with Madeline. There are also tons of photos of Liz hanging up around the house and in Maddy’s room, and there are a bunch of her mom’s things in the house that I encourage Maddy to use.
And as far as what Liz would want Maddy to know about her, well, I think it’s the same thing I want her to know about her and that’s everything, both the good and the bad. I’m not trying to make Liz a saint…I do my best to humanize her. I don’t want Maddy thinking that her mother was perfect because even though she was the greatest person I’ve ever known, it doesn’t mean that she was perfect. And quite honestly, the personality traits that sometimes were the toughest for me to deal with are the ones that made her so endearing, and they’re the ones that often come out in Madeline, which I love.
Of course, none of this makes up for that fact that Liz is not here, but I work very hard to make sure she knows her mom as well as she possibly can.
4. You shared so many tough and vulnerable stories in the book and on your blog, what advice do you have for men who find themselves in a similar situation as yours? Is there anything you can think of that might have prepared YOU more for this outcome that you’d recommend for other first time parents?
My advice is really simple: Seek out help in whatever form you need it, and don’t turn down any help. My help came in the form of socialization, traveling, reading, music, taking photos, talking about Liz and most importantly, focusing my time and attention on Madeline, but if I had felt like counseling or medication or whatever would have been helpful, I would have gone for it. The thing is, men are often loathe to ask for help, but in a situation like this no one should be alone and sometimes the people around you don’t know what to say or do, so it’s best to communicate and be honest with them and yourself.
Nothing really could have prepared me for this outcome, but with some hindsight and experience I can say that I wish Liz and I had talked more frankly about death so I would have know what her wishes would have been. We were together for 12+ years so we had discussed things like how we planned to raise out daughter, but we never talked about things like cremation versus burial and other awful-sounding discussions, but I really wish we had. In addition, I wish we had done some form of estate planning in the form of a will and life insurance because the death of a partner is hard enough without having to deal with all of the tedious and confusing financial issues that inevitably come along with it.
5. Tell us about the work you’ve been doing lately and with your own Foundation to honor Liz’s memory?
My foundation, The Liz Logelin Foundation, was created in honor of my wife to provide hope in the form of financial grants for widowed families with children. To date we’ve given no-strings-attached grants to 120+ families, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status. We do a lot of fundraising via the internet, as well as through events that we put on throughout the year. In the past we’ve done 5k races, bowling events, online auctions and more, and on September 22nd, 2012 we’ll be hosting our 4th annual Celebration of Hope Gala in Minneapolis, MN. The gala includes both a silent and live auction, as well as a great program that shares the stories of some of our applicants and recipients. For more information, please visit our website: thelizlogelinfoundation.org
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