a different sort of angel… Dave Mattis: March 24, 1973 – January 2014


At my first haunt, Grisly Gothic Gables, sometimes we needed to have wall panels attached to the floor with concrete screws.  One of our crew members, “Donk,” usually did this for us, so we called it ‘donking the wall.’

This past year – and many years since Grisly – while building the Chamber of Horrors, I found myself checking walls and telling Bones, “No no, we have to Donk this panel, too.”


“Well, let me tell you about someone…”

donk 3

Donk is the fellow sorta in the middle of the photo, lounging in front of the fireplace.  This is a crew shot from Grisly, and in many ways I think it describes Donk.  He’s in the middle, but on the edge. He’s almost easy to miss….but only because you’re not there in person.

Donk was a member of our core group, our “Skeleton Crew.”  He was incredibly reliable – I can’t think offhand of him ever missing a performance – and while he refused to take on any sort of management title, he wore a radio for me because he was unofficial security. I knew that if he was in the haunt, my nearby female cast members were safe from any possible mischief or accidents.

When I think of Donk, I always think of his laughter first, his quiet determination to keep people safe second, and his mugging for the camera third.  Although he was generally camera shy in his day to day life, he had so much love for his characters and his special effect contacts that I honestly never realized he was known for avoiding photographs.

donk 4

And – as is so common – I didn’t know much about Donk outside the haunt.  I knew he was Wiccan – we discussed it on Facebook a few times – and I knew bits and pieces of his life, but I’m realizing now how little that actually was.  For example:  he wasn’t Dave to me, he was Donk.  He was gloriously DONK.  He loved to bellow “DAH-OOOOOONK!” – I can still hear the sound echoing down Philadelphia streets – and then laugh.  But it was only recently that I met the person that gifted him with that nickname.  It’s a quiet little reminder that, so often, we can love someone and consider them family, and never know every story that makes up that person’s life.

Last month, a stranger responded to a photo I’d posted and tagged Donk in, saying he had passed away.  A large part of me still can’t believe it.  I’ve been wanting to write a memorial since, but it’s an impossible thing to really believe the news.  I’ve found myself reading through old emails…like you do…and found this, which had been a response to my talking to him about my struggle with depression:

“…been there ,but i realized ,that’s when you need to embrace your friends (real friends ) not to shy away cause that’s when the loneliness causes you to do things ..out of character . besides your too sweet and hot to get depressed…”

I remember laughing and feeling wrapped in his affection and understanding.  I read that now and wish I’d had the chance to return that love.

donk 2


I don’t generally believe in angels.  I make an exception in Dave’s case.  Most of us never know how much we affect other people’s lives and stories.  Donk’s influence went so much further than he ever knew, and he’s one of those people that just brought joy to others’ lives.  I hope he knew, on some level, how much of a positive he was to the world around him, and I find myself believing wholeheartedly that not only does his joy continue, but that he’s protecting and loving us from wherever he is now.


World Suicide Prevention Day..


..is September 10th, and I missed it.  Which is aggravating because it’s something I think is pretty dang important to talk about.  So..I’m sliding in just a bit late to do that.

First off?  Go visit http://www.iasp.info/wspd/.  Great information there.

And really, I’m going to reshare something I wrote last year in my other blog, because after looking it over, it still says everything I have to say on the subject.  Except this… If you are struggling, if you’ve hit your fill line, if you have your out plan and you’re ready to implement it, please talk to someone.  It doesn’t have to be a therapist, or a crisis line.  Find someone you trust, and talk to them.  I owe eternal gratitude to my dear friend Nikki because she was the one that took my call and kept me talking, and at the time?  She didn’t know she was saving my life.

Random acts of kindness and love, y’all.  You may never know how much it really truly means.
This wasn’t much on my radar today, until I saw a tweet from The Bloggess about Wil Wheaton posting about depression after she posted about depression/suicide, and so – la, here’s my post on the subject.

So I struggle with depression. I’m pretty open about it, both in my virtual and physical lives. And sometimes it’s over my family, and sometimes it’s because of my anxiety – I apparently suffer from anxious depression, which is ever such lovely news – and sometimes I am depressed for no reason I can actually map out to anyone. Sometimes it’s the startled realization that my body is exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety all by its lonesome and I wasn’t catching on fast enough because I was too caught up in the noise in my head and life to notice.

A few times in my life, I have found myself hitting my mental/emotional fill line. And the only logical reaction is to contemplate suicide.

People say that’s a selfish thought. I disagree – quite strongly, and with many colourful NSFW words – because what I hear in that sentiment is ‘you’re thinking about suicide and that will seriously screw up my life’..which may be true. But imagine you’re back in school and you’re running that fucking mile for gym class and really, you hit a point where this seems like the stupidest thing ever, you don’t care about the clock or the task or the judgmental looks from the jocks..you start walking, and if you could, you’d just sit down and stop because you really really really don’t give a damn about anything except not running anymore.

You’ve hit that fill line. You are DONE.

And that’s pretty much what it’s been like for me at those times.

What gets me through it? One person. It’s always been pretty much one person. One person that answered the phone and gave me the gift of hours of talking. One person that wrapped his arms around me and quietly held me through the night. One person that wrote something on Facebook that hit me just right at just the right time.

None of them knew they were saving my life.

And so as this day of awareness ends, I think that’s the message I really want to express..that you can save someone’s life completely by accident. Just by caring.

Never underestimate the power of your words, the power of your random acts of kindness.

Jenny asked people to share what gets us through the dark days. Often, it’s been my cat. Lurk deserves to be safe and fed, and the one time he saw Death, it freaked him the hell out…he howled for a week after Hades passed away. I won’t do that to him.

She also asked that we share what music helps us. When I’m dealing with family crap, most of Poe’s “Haunted” album does the trick (even if I do cry through parts of the songs). When I feel shaky, VNV Nation is my musical drug of choice…”Fearless” is a really good one, as is “Epicentre.”

I’ll leave you with “Fearless” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pi_bAtUBtTk – and the reminder that if you struggle with suicidal thoughts, or anxiety, or depression…you dazzling creature, you are not alone.

And it does get better.

And yeah, I thought that was bullpoop, too.
..It wasn’t.