Farewell to a friend
How Alan Mattson changed my life
By Jeremy Nolais
The first day of August is one I will never forget.
It was the day our world lost a great friend, son, boyfriend, sibling, journalist, or you name it. Alan Mattson held many different roles during his 23 years, and he excelled at every one.
I first met Alan at Mount Royal when he was a first-year journalism student. He was confident no question, but he backed it up.
His natural ability to engage and befriend even complete strangers was something I always secretly marveled at.
Everyone he met loved and respected him. He had few enemies — something most people in his line of work cannot claim.
Yes, Alan was a talented writer, interviewer, debater and so many other things. He broke many huge stories during his time at The Reflector, often leaving the students’ association and university officials scrambling to provide rationales for finances that didn’t add up and decisions that didn’t make sense.
He loved to ruffle feathers, and then sit back and watch the glory of his achievement.
No question, my respect for Alan was born in the newsroom but outside of work was where we became inseparable friends.
For the better part of five years, we rarely went a day without talking. He knew all of my secrets and I knew his. Sure, we had our disagreements — all good friends do — but we always rebounded, realizing we needed each other to help make sense of the everyday puzzles we face in life.
Even after I graduated from Mount Royal, Alan and I stayed together, both joining on as full-time staff at the Cochrane Eagle newspaper. He took me under his wing, teaching me the ins and outs of the town he had lived in his entire life.
Over the years, we spent many late nights discussing the finer points of journalism and life in general.
His pessimistic humour paired so well with mine. To outsiders, it looked like we were mortal enemies at times, but we were constantly determined to push each other. Two young, inexperienced kids with the world at our feet. We figured nothing could stop us.
Then, on Aug. 1, Alan went missing.
When I decided to go and find my friend, the world we had planned to make a mark on came crashing down.
Too young, too talented, too skilled, too important; this world took a serious hit the day Alan left it.
I last saw Alan the day before he passed away. Our last exchange held the same caring undertone as always. We rarely outright expressed our feelings towards one another.
Alan came into the office fighting a bad flu. He tried to work but was clearly struggling. I told him to go home, get some sleep and then finish his work.
The last thing he said to me was, “Don’t worry man, you can count on me.”
I always could.
If I had of known that was the last time we would speak, I would have said so much more.
I would have thanked him for always accepting me for who I was, thanked him for listening to me all those nights over a cold beer.
Alan never saw the bad in people; his circle of friends was always so varied.
He introduced me to so many things, including the woman I love and some of the best friends I have ever had.
It’s hard to imagine what my life would have been without him.
I wasn’t the only one Alan inspired over the years.
The horror of my discovery at Alan’s home quickly turned to a determined effort to contact those closest to him. I wanted them to hear it from me.
Needless to say, there were a lot of people.
That age-old worry that no one will show up to your funeral was never a concern when it came to Alan.
Although his parents have chosen a small, private ceremony, I am confident Alan would have filled the biggest church in Calgary four times over.
It pains me to think of the impact he would have had on countless more lives had he been given more time on this Earth.
But from the horror and tragedy of his passing, an undying sense of unity has emerged. People who have not spoken in years have come together to grieve and celebrate the life of a remarkable individual.
These past few days have been tough, no question, but together we will survive and we will be stronger for having known Alan. Of course, we are all going through waves of shock and sadness, but slowly our painful tears will be wiped away.
Alan would never have wanted us to suffer. He lived his life to the fullest and was always determined to have a good time no matter the challenge before him.
So, in honour of a great man, we will pick ourselves up and wipe away the tears.
I love you Al, and will remember you for the rest of my life.