I never met or interacted with Midshipman 1/C Matthew Christopher Sears. I may have interacted with his parents on one of the many USNA-related Facebook pages, but nothing I can recall.
And certainly, I am not the only USNA parent in that position. But I’m also among the many who believe in the #YourMidIsMyMid mantra and, for that reason, my heart is aching during the usually joyous Christmas season.
You see, the Sears family will not be gathering with their Mid this Christmas. There will be no moment of excitement when he crosses the threshold to mark the real beginning of the Christmas season. There will be no discussion about his recent service selection, no gifts under the tree, no tales about Army Week pranks.
You see, all the Mids battle a number of challenges every day – a grueling academic load, demanding physical requirements, relentless military responsibilities. But Matthew had another battle, a much harder battle. And, on Thursday, December 6, Matthew lost a two-year battle with leukemia.
Like many other Academy parents, I read the news on Facebook and my heart sank. It’s a tragedy for any person that young to pass. But there is a closeness to the Academy family that I suspect eclipses the experience of most college parents. As I read the post, I was transported to The Yard and a stream of memories overwhelmed me – Induction Day and that dreadful Oath of Office, PPW, the Herndon Climb, football games, casually strolling Stribling Walk, dropping Mids at BWI … and as those images flooded past me, I couldn’t help but imagine that every Mid in the background, every Mid in the crowd, everyone one was Matthew.
In a way, I’m certain he was. I never met the young man, but I’m willing to bet he had his struggles (aside from his health) and he had is triumphs. And because I’ve lived through them with my own Mid, I guess I feel like I went through them with the rest of The Brigade. That’s the essence of #YourMidIsMyMid.
Now, admittedly, that usually takes on a much happier tone, whether it’s dropping off favorite treats to another Mid or transporting them to BWI to get them home for break or, in the best of circumstances, hosting Mids. But if you believe #YourMidIsMyMid, you feel the tough times, too.
There is no right or wrong way to handle that, I suppose. My perspective is simple, I guess. I will make a greater effort to be supportive of other Mids. Maybe send one more care package, make one more trip from The Yard and, without question, I will hug my Mid more than wants to be hugged this Christmas break.
For the Sears family, I find myself dwelling two Bible verses, one each from both the Old and New Testaments. The first is the verse my wife and I have inscribed on our wedding album. It’s Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” The other is Revelation 21:4 – ” ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Both are forward-looking and, frankly, I can’t imagine looking back. It would be too heartbreaking.
We were at a wedding for one of my wife’s students this past weekend. He would graduate in May and she will graduate in about 18 months. And as I watched them at the altar, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes and dreaming about their future, I thought of Matthew. I thought of how he wouldn’t have that moment, nor would his family. I found that I had to stop myself and focus intently on the words of the pastor lest I become overwhelmed. After the service, I hugged the bride and groom but really wanted to hug Matthew’s parents, though I don’t suspect I will ever have that opportunity.
But when my Mid crossed our threshold late Friday evening, I wrapped my arms around him before he dropped his bags and I held him. I held him longer than he wanted me to and I told him I loved him.
I never met Matthew Sears. But he was my Mid, too.
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A funeral service will take place for Matthew Christopher Sears in the Naval Academy Chapel on Saturday, 12 January 2019 at 10 a.m. All family, friends and the Brigade of Midshipmen are welcome to attend. Following MIDN Sears’ interment in the Naval Academy Cemetery, the family will host a reception to honor his memory and thank all those who have shown their support for the Sears family.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made c/o the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, 274 Wood Road, Annapolis MD 21402, with “Attn: MIDN Matthew Sears” in the memo line. Online contributions may be made at on the Foundation’s website by selecting “other” from the drop-down menu and adding “MIDN Matthew Sears” in the “gift to be used” field.