Matthew Garber

July 2nd, 2008

Matthew GarberHere is a space to share thoughts on the life of Matt Garber, a 2008 EMU nursing graduate whose untimely passing on July 1 is mourned by many. Matt provided light, warmth and friendship to many on campus and beyond. His caring leadership, deep faith, and love of music will have a lasting impact on many.

Return to news article on Matthew Garber’s death for information on the July 13 memorial service

A family friend is requesting your photos of Matt. Please send her any you can or see what others have uploaded.

137 Responses to “Matthew Garber”

  1. Doris Yoder-Neighbor and Bosslerite,

    I am one of the Garber famly’s closest neighbors. I have known Matt most of his life. How I enjoyed spring days when Matt practiced hymns for Sunday Worship and I could hear the piano through the open window. Matt, as well as his brothers and sisters, have done my mowing over the years. Matt was amazing as he did little extras that he noticed needed to be done. He grew a wonderful, very productive patch of strawberries on my hillside for quite a few years.
    Thanks Todd and Debbie for cultivating Matt’s many talents that enriched our lives and for your part in helping him grow to be the man of God he was (and IS!). His memory will always challenge me to live life 110% and to seek to bring light and cheer where ever I go.

  2. Cheri Garber,

    Several of you have asked for the letter I wrote to Todd and Debbie and family (seen at the memorial) to be posted here. With their permission I will add it here.

    Dear Debbie, Todd, Justin, Janelle and Bradley,

    I wanted to share something that was special to me this week. It may not hit you as it did me, but I hope that these words are a gift to you.
    Wednesday, the day after we got the news about Matthew, I came home to find that our wheat field had been harvested. I felt unreasonably upset because Jay had told us it had to wait at least a day or two before it was ready. “What were they thinking? It’s not time. It won’t be any good.” When Joel came home he told me that not only had the weather made the wheat ready early but that the harvest was much more than we had hoped.
    Later that week I hand cut some stalks that were missed. My thoughts were on Matt and his life as so much of my waking hours were. As I gathered that wheat I felt that God was speaking to my heart, that Matt’s life was like that wheat field.
    Matt was God’s creation. Matt’s life started like a kernel of wheat full of gifts, potential and promise. His life could have stayed like a kernel but it didn’t. He was nurtured and encouraged; he grew, matured and flourished. He didn’t hold on to the gifts that had been placed in him. As all gifts are meant for giving, he gave them freely. Whether his joy, smile, intellect, musical or acting talents, love of people, the church and his Lord, he used his potential and shared his gifting. He in effect, sowed his kernel and more wheat popped up around him.
    I felt God was saying “Your reaction to Matt’s death is also like your reaction to the wheat field, “It’s not time, what were you thinking God?” Matt’s life is like a field of wheat because of the encouragement, blessing and challenge his life (and now his death) is to others, he has helped many in their walk as well. As I read about the impact his life has had on others I realize how the “harvest” is bigger than my human eyes can see.
    Some how I think Matt would want to cheer us on, “Go ahead, embrace life, live life to the full, use what ever God has given you. It’s worth it, it’s worth a life of joy!”
    We love you all dearly. We not only grieve along with you but grieve as we see your broken hearts.
    Our love and prayers,
    Cheri, Joel and Family

  3. Heidi Witmer,

    I have slowly been reading these entries written by all of you about Matt. It is a blessing to know he has touched so many lives. I had the privilege of knowing Matt about as well as anyone could and I also had the honor of speaking at his memorial service. All week I struggled with what to say and how to say it. How do you define a friendship? God narrowed everything down for me. I have been trying to write it down for a scrapbook that is being made and I thought I’d put it here too. Before I do that I feel like there is one important point to be made. Since Matt’s memorial I have heard the statement from a couple of people that they “feel like they haven’t done anything.” Matt never got up in the morning and said, “Okay, today I’m going to be extraordinary and here’s how I’ll do it.” He simply turned over every day to God. This didn’t mean spending every hour at the piano or reading the Bible, but he did devote time to God. It was because he turned over his life to God that his life has had the impact you’ve all spoken about. I was blessed to be a part of his life and I will always be thankful to know him.

    from the memorial, ” This is the hardest thing I’ve ever been asked to do. Matt was a part of every area of my life so when I look out at all of you today I see friends from high school, people from the church where I grew up, my church family now, and Matt’s friends from EMU who have become my friends.

    I have been struggling to figure out a way to describe Matt and I for you. How do I help you understand us? As I was trying to figure out how to do this I asked God to give me some way to describe us for you. This week early one morning as I struggled to sleep God gave me the picture of a lightning strike. We’ve all seen lightning strike but few of us have experienced its power first-hand. Lightning has force and power, it has a unique beauty as an act of God. This was my friendship with Matt. It was forceful and powerful and beautiful. It was an act of God. And now, just like lightning, it stretches from heaven to earth.

    Neither Matt nor I could have earned or deserved the friendship God gave us to share. I was blessed to know all of Matt’s little quirks, the way he laughed, his long skinny fingers as they pointed, and my personal pet peeve the way he stuck his neck out at me when really trying to get his point across. Even more so I had the joy of knowing Matt’s heart. Through hours of conversation, singing and worshiping together, arguments and easy laughter, I came to know Matt and he came to know me.

    Although I am struggling with Matt being gone I have not been angry with God. How can I be angry with God for taking away what was a gift he never had to give me? I believe God’s heart is broken now as mine is. He is rejoicing to have Matt home but He suffers with those of us here who now need to figure out life without Matt. I don’t have answers and I have not yet found great peace. I will always miss Matt. I know only two things for certain. I will see Matt again one day. When it is my turn to enter heaven he will be waiting there ready to give me one more hug. I also know that God is carrying me. Now when I don’t know how to move even one step forward I know that God is carrying me and He will carry me until I’m able to start taking even small steps.”

  4. Jean Glick,

    My family got to know Matt when he stayed at our house during the EMU choir tour in the midwest as a freshman. Our daughter, Kara, had asked if we could keep five of her friends overnight after they sang in Normal, IL. These five friends added a lot of laughter and music to our home druing the brief time they were here. The choir had been on the road for a few days giving several concerts already and yet when they got here (after eating some snacks) they all went into the living room and began singing. Matt played the piano, as did others, and the rest of our family enjoyed the impromptu concert. Matt kept things lively that evening with his incredible zest for life.
    Every time we came out to EMU to see Kara, we would often run into Matt and he was always so frienldy. We enjoyed hearing him sing during the few times our paths crossed musically.
    Our prayers are with his family and friends as they adjust to Matt’s death.

  5. Anna Smith,

    Although the most I knew of Matt was seeing him around the nursing department and around campus, I am too very saddened by this loss. I cried when I first read the email about Matt’s death, and I cry each time I open EMU’s page and see links regarding Matt’s death. Why? Because I grieve for family members and friends who Matt truly touched. I grieve because Matt’s career as a nurse never began..simply hearing Matt’s laugh, knowing his intellectual nature, and knowing his passion for nursing gave me confidence that Matt would be an amazing nurse. I’m so sad to know that so many needy patients will be missing out on Matt’s great care. I grieve because for so long, I have taken many things in life, and life itself, for granted.
    I feel that I have such a different outlook on life now. I am given a greater desire for nursing and for the care that I can give to my patients. I thank God more than ever for every new day He gives me to grow closer to Him and live life to the fullest. I realize the importance of not taking anything or anyone for granted. Finally, I have the desire to end each day at peace with myself, my life, and my relationship with my Savior, because I never know if I’ll be given another day.
    I am very grateful for Matt’s inspiration on my life, and happy to see how many other people he has touched in many various ways. Thanks Matt.
    We here on earth have lost an amazing nurse, friend, and family member, but God has surely gained an angel.

  6. Barbara S. Ellis,

    Matt Garber was a shining star that illuminated lives, guided souls, and steadfastly offered his God-given light to everyone within his glow.
    As a director, working with the Elizabethtown Area Music Foundation, I am happy to know that when I cast Matt in one of his earliest stage performances, (around age 8 or 9), as Louis in “The King and I,” that I played a small part in his growth as an outstanding performer. In the next six years, he grew to be a tall lanky high schooler, who was one of my “cowboys” in the Music Foundation’s production of “Oklahoma.” Over a period of at least 15 years, Matt has come in and out of my life, always with that fabulous smile and a “thank you” for my friendship and encouragement. What he did not know was how grateful I was for working with and knowing him.
    I am deeply saddened by his death. I pray that we can all be strengthened by his example in faith, in works, and in pursuit of God’s plan for our lives. Thank you Matt for being a star. I look up, I see you shining, and I have hope.

  7. Kevin L. Biddle,

    I met Matt Garber on the bus lot here some 11 years ago. Teacher Frank Telenko kept saying to me, “Have you met Matt Garber yet?” Frank knew that Matt was performing in The Sound of Music at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater and because I direct the shows here, I just had to meet him. Frank found Matt and introduced him to me. Little did I know then that this tall, scrawny boy with an infectious laugh and huge smile, would grow to be someone I was proud to truly call my friend.
    It would not be long before Matt started peforming on the Etown stage. While in the Middle School Matt played an engaging Ebenezer Scrooge, a role that could not have been farther from Matt’s own personality. On this very stage he sang in the HS choirs, played in the band and performed in such shows as, Arsenic and Old Lace and Oliver!; he played Motel the Tailor in Fiddler on the Roof- a role in which helped create a dance move we still use here today and is affectionately called “The Matt Garber”- in which the performer runs around the stage with their arms spread like an airplane; he played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz; Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! and finally, a role that he was destined to play- Harold Hill in The Music Man.
    One of my favorite stories that I tell to casts when I give my, “The show must go on!” speech is the story about Matt in his final performance as a student at EAHS in The Music Man. Between the matinee and evening performances of our Saturday shows, the cast went to a local restaurant for dinner and unfortunately, Matt got a touch of food poisoning. The illness hit towards the end of the first act that evening. I knew and his Mom knew that something was wrong. The audience didn’t.
    I met Matt in the wings at intermission and he was green. During intermission Dana Baxter and Rich Winey literally prayed with Matt, while I went for trash cans and Sprites. During the second act, Dana stood on stage right and I stood on stage left armed with those trash cans and Sprites and Matt would go onstage, perform his part, exit, get sick and go right back out on that stage. He never once complained or said, “Sorry Mr. Biddle. I can’t do it.” The audience was never the wiser, because Matt still turned in an amazing performance even though he was terribly ill.
    That’s the kinda student, performer, person and Christian that Matt was. He gave a 110% to everything he did in his life. He was smart, kind, caring, talented, funny, goofy, loving, compassionate and a true gentleman. He loved God, his family and his friends with all his heart.
    Playwright Alan Bennett says in his play, The History Boys: “Pass the parcel. That’s sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That’s the (lesson) I want you to learn. Pass it on.” And that’s what Matt Garber did. He took the life he was given and he shared his gifts faithfully each and every day of his life.
    The final curtain may have fallen on Matt’s earthly performance, but I am sure that he is in Heaven singing and smiling and making everybody just as happy up there as he did for each and every one of us down here. As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, ” Hey scarecrow, I think I’m going to miss you most of all!”

  8. Steven Barraclough,

    I feel blessed to have been one of Matt’s teachers in high school. I can honestly say that he was one of the finest students that I have ever taught. Matt learned tuba at an astounding rate and was strong leader in the tuba section for two years. However, Matt’s true talents lay in his piano skills and a glorious voice that I only wish that I could have. It was amazing to watch him sing as Motel the tailor in Fiddler on the Roof, the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz and as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man and in so many choral events. On many occasions, you could hear the sounds of someone playing piano on the stage. You would walk in and find Matt playing in the dark and it was music that was just “coming to him”. As I think back to that, I truly believe that it was God speaking through him.

    To all of Matt’s family, I hope that you will find peace in the knowledge that Matt is in the presence of a loving God who has a plan for everything. I feel certain in reading all of the testaments to Matt that while his life was short, he lived it fully and touched many people in such a way that you can be proud of the man that he was.

  9. Giovanna Salazar,

    I have great memories of Mathew here in Costa Rica, God called him ahead of us, so I have to accept that.
    I will have him in my memories, I enjoyed his friendship while it lasted.
    I won’t ever forget him.
    I pray to God asking HIM to give strength and peace to his mother especially, family, friends and anyone who loves him.
    Nunca olvidare su sonrisa encantadora.

  10. MRF,

    I did not have the priviledge of knowing this remarkable man. I can not stop thinking about him and his grieving family and friends. I continue to read the comments written by the people whose lives he has touched and now I am one of those people. I cry as I type this, for his life cut short and for his grieving family and many friends. There is nothing we can do for Matt for he is with the Lord, Our Savior. My prayers are with Todd, Deb, Justin, Janelle and Bradley as you face the most difficult times of your lives.
    God Bless Your Family.

  11. Michael Dezort,

    I had the immense pleasure of playing opposite Matt in EMU’s production of the Music Man, as well as singing in Chamber with him. Late at night in Lehman Matt always had a positive attitude that was truly contagious and much needed. I feel blessed that I was given the chance to learn, grow, and perform with Matt, who was an amazing talent but would never say so himself. As soon as I heard of Matt’s death I opened iTunes where I have the Chamber Singers’ concert from spring of my senior year. I was stung at the irony of Matt’s solo in that concert. The first line reads, “Lord, I keep so busy praising my Jesus, ain’t got time to die.” Praise on, Matt. You will be missed.

  12. Cindy K. Auker,

    Seventeen years ago, my family moved away from Elizabethtown and my very dear friend Deb Garber. This, obviously, curtailed our ability to get together as families and share like experiences physically, but it did not deter us from sharing our experiences vocally. Deb and I spent many hours on the phone sharing the delights and challenges of rearing our families. I always missed her and all of the opportunities I felt that I had given up through the years because of the move. Deb has been my friend since our meeting in sixth grade at a band festival; that was a long time ago. I, too, have four children and our schedules did not permit much time to visit each other’s children’s activities. She has always been like another sister to me, which is an irreplaceable gift. The last time that my family was able to see Matthew was when he performed in The Music Man. I will never forget it, and I will be forever glad that this was one activity that we could make. Matt’s performance was astounding, and once again, I grieved in my heart for what I knew we were missing because of distance. Deb and I had so much in common with our families.

    Unlike many others, I do not accept things well, and the passing of Matt is no exception to the rule of who I seem to be. I still think it is a dream that I will wake up from and Deb will be calling me to share some more exciting news about her Matthew. I hope that Deb and Todd will find comfort in the fact that they were such wonderful parents to the life that God had loaned to them. Many times I found myself wishing that I could have had the patience that my girlfriend Deb did; I didn’t, and I still don’t, and I never will. I marveled at her ability to meet the aspirations of each child and encourage them in the area that God created for them to fulfill. We had many conservations about Matt’s ability to sing and play that piano and the joy that he brought to so many others because of it. In an athletic family, his gift of music was encouraged 100 percent and valued by Deb as much as any athletic event. I loved that about her (and I still do)! I am so sorry for all of you as I know that there will forever be a void in each one of your lives; I wish I could say some forever healing words, but I know that there are none. I don’t understand why a person as beautiful as Matt had to be taken from a world that is absolutely thirsting for people who have so much to offer. Matthew was a testimony to the kind of parents that Deb and Todd are as well as are Justin, Janelle, and Bradley. As I was lamenting the passing of Matthew and conversing with my husband about the unfairness of all of this, he did say something that I have been contemplating ever since: “How many people, Cindy, impact the world as much, if not more, in their death as they did in their life? His passing has led me to examine my own life and what will be said about me. The coverage on Matthew’s life is unbelievable; most people have a little obituary blip in the paper. Matt’s life is impacting more people than we will ever know.” It is true; each one of us is, every day, writing our obituary, for the good or for the not so good. Matt, in his youthful wisdom, wrote one that will, no doubt, far surpass anything I or most will ever produce in this life. He had such a love of people, which is what we are called to have. “By this shall ye know that ye are my disciples; that ye have love one for another.” I memorized that verse a long time ago, and if it isn’t perfectly quoted, please forgive me. I can’t even remember where it is at in the Bible; I just know Matt fulfilled it.

    I doubt that much of this will comfort Deb and Todd’s hearts because no parent wants to lose a child for the benefit of the world, but we do have to cling to the fact that these children are God’s and He, who is all Supreme, can do what benefits his Kingdom, which is in the end all that matters. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of HIS saints.”

    “To him who is about to faint and despair, kindness is due from his friend . . .” Job 6:14. I don’t have any answers Deb, Todd, and family. I just know that as your friend I will walk this road of grief with you. Matthew was a light in a dark world who left a lasting impression. May each one of us aspire to walk as authentically as Matt did while God still permits us time to do so.

    With much love and empathy to my dear friends-

  13. Naomi & Gene Lemmon,

    Matt was one of the many talented, Godly grandchildren of our friends, Katherine and John Garber. We have enjoyed hearing about Matt’s accomplishments, and those of his brothers’ and sister’s and cousins’ love of the Lord and their exceptional hard work to reach goals to serve others. Along with Katherine and John, my husband and I saw Matt in “The Music Man”. He gave an excellent performance while his stomach churned and his fever climbed and he hoped he would not faint. He endured the evening for the sake of the other cast members and crew who worked so hard for that weekend. One trait of the Garbers is unselfishness and Matt portrayed this especially well.
    Katherine, John, Deb, Todd, Bradley, Janelle and Justin: please know that our prayers continue to be with you all. May God Bless You and make you a blessing to all who come in contact with you at this time of many questions. Matt blessed so many lives in just 22 years and you may never know the full extent.

  14. Curt Zeager,

    I never knew Matt personally, but I did know him and his family as a neighbor in the Mennonite patchwork of Lancaster. Even from a distance Matt, and his family, are easily recognizable as genuine, warm, intelligent and earnest. How incredibly sad it is to have such a light taken so suddenly! It is a true and difficult lose.

  15. Cheryl Heatwole Shenk,

    Matthew, we miss you. You were our brother, someone that we knew we would stay in touch with for the rest of our lives. I can’t help but cry each time I let it sink in that you are really gone.

    I got to know Matt well his first year at EMU because I was Rebekah Good’s roommate. He spent many hours in our room pleasantly distracting us with conversation, or entertaining himself with Dilbert’s “The Joy of Work,” with frequent bursts of his distinctive laughter. He also was with Timothy Shenk (now my husband) a lot – I found a journal entry from that fall where I lamented that it was hard for me to find any alone time with Timothy because “it seems like the two of them are joined at the hip!”

    In the following years, I was the one spending many hours with Matthew as we worked together as co-commissioners of YPCA’s “Y-church” program, discerning vision together and discussing the role of church in the lives of college students and in the world. I distinctly remember a conversation we had his junior year at EMU – in response to my question he was reflecting on how he’d changed over the past several years. I remember so clearly being struck by his genuine honesty and how he had grown and matured in just the few years I knew him.

    One of my last memories of Matthew was his role leading music in our wedding – May of last year, right after he returned from Costa Rica. I received the email below from him two days before the wedding, and couldn’t help but laugh and read it to others:

    “Cheryl, Thanks for your flexibility. I appreciate it even more now because our flight home was cancelled and we´re getting back a whole day later than we expected. As of right now I´m in the airport in San Salvador, slowly making my way home. Don´t worry, I´ll make it.
    Thanks, Matt”

    He did make it there the morning of, and even noticed an hour beforehand that we were missing the last line of one hymn in the program – enough time for quick copies to be made!

    The Sunday several days before his death, someone from my home church (who had only seen him at our wedding a year before) commented to my mom about what a gifted song leader he was. Matt, you were a gift from God to us all, and I pray that we will carry the gift of your life with us in our memories and in all the ways you shaped our lives.

  16. Fred and Linda Garber,

    Our gratitude to Matt’s parents for showing us all how to “let go and let God”. Thanks, Todd and Deb. Your faith filled attitude in this has paved the way for Matt’s life to touch ours even more deeply. Those verses in John 12 keep ringing. “Unless a kernel of wheat dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”. As Matt died to himself even as he lived, he produced many seeds. Now, in his physical death, may we see even more.

  17. Timothy Heatwole Shenk,

    Matthew, you are extraordinary: you’re making me cry and laugh at the same time. Right now I’m writing through tears. (I was especially impacted by reading your grandma’s thoughts, and realizing that they and your parents lived to see the death of their grandson and son.)

    I learned of your death when my wife called me in tears. I was standing beside a swimming pool, caring for a little two-and-a-half year boy that I nanny for. I was able to cry behind my sunglasses while I watched this little kid, a gift of life from God. When he fearlessly jumps in the pool, I catch him and hold him up. I wish I could do that with you. I don’t want to have to picture you struggling in the water.
    I remember the words of Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).

    I first learned of you through my “sister” Rebekah Good, who kept talking about you and saying to me, “You’ve got to meet Matthew Garber, you two would get along so well!” Since we were her brothers, I considered you a brother from the beginning. I love joking with you about my first impression of you. I was sitting in Rebekah’s living room, and this guy walked in: he had these cool sunglasses on, looked like a jock, was handsome, loud and confident; I was intimidated by you. We later laughed about that. I love the way you would throw back your head and cackle in laughter.

    The last time we saw you was at our wedding. You led singing. I want to see you again. I remember we sang a duet at Crossroads Mennonite Church with this refrain: “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine.”

    For my own life, I have often taken the following words of Scripture to heart, and I know it is true for you as well: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1). Whether by death or by life…Matthew, we are still brothers, exalting Jesus Christ.

  18. Ashley Wills,

    I had the wonderful privilege of working with Matt for one summer….I believe it was 2 years ago that Matt started working on our floor as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Masonic Village in Elizabethtown. I have worked at Masonic Village for four years…and I too had been in nursing school at the time that Matt was. Matt was a year older than me…so, we had a lot in common. Both of us would pal around together when he worked and we often talked about our futures as being nurses. Matt was just working on our floor for the summer, but I knew that Matt was not like the rest. Matt stood out. He could walk into a room with a big smile and just light up the faces of many. I remember one of the last times that I worked with Matt….we had a piano in our dining room for anyone to play while our residents ate their meals. The only person that ever really knew how to play it…was Matt. He would play the piano and sing songs during mealtime. I won’t forget that. He made us all laugh and smile…and most importantly..he was doing it for others to enjoy. Matt was a brilliant kid…and he will definitely be remembered by many. Prayers to the family of the Garbers…your son is an inspiration to many..and thank you Matt for all that you did.

  19. kln392,

    One of the most dreaded aspects of my job at EMU is getting called when a student is killed or seriously injured. After putting down the phone, I felt waves of denial- No, it can’t be. OUR Matt Garber? Maybe it was someone else with the same name. Maybe he just got swept away by the riptide and surfaced somewhere else. Unfortunately, denial didn’t work very well, and the harsh reality eventually set in.

    Matt stood out to me as a student leader from his first year. I particularly appreciated his willingness to take on challenges as a CA (Community Advisor) in Residence Life where his floor could rely on him both to be supportive and to hold them accountable. He bravely showed the courage of his convictions as he agreed to represent one of the more conservative viewpoints on a panel discussion in Common Grounds, and he did that respectfully without condemning those who disagreed with him. He had the art of coming into a room and making whomever he was greeting feel important. We traveled together in a van to Lancaster for a meeting with the Constituent Conference Committee where he and several other students were sharing. On the way he asked me about my role in student life and how I found my calling. By the end, I felt he knew enough about my vocation that he might consider going to graduate school in psychology or student personnel-related work, but I already knew his passion was nursing and caregiving. That was Matt’s genuine humility, more interested in others than himself. That’s also part of the reason nursing was such a good fit for him: the relationship between a nurse and his or her patients is a necessary part of the healing and therapeutic process just as it is in counseling/ psychotherapy. In that way he serves as a model for all of us in the helping professions. Thank you, Matt, for reminding me of that. My prayers continue for his family and friends as we all continue to mourn his physical absence from us.

  20. Donovan Tann,

    Having grown up alongside Matt at Bossler Mennonite Church and then having the privilege of attending the same college, I’ve known Matt for a long time. I always appreciated the energy and joy that he brought to everything he did. His enthusiasm for life, particularly its weird and hilarious moments, was perpetually infectious. I always admired his concern for others and his ability to connect deeply with all kinds of people. As a lifelong friend, Matt has challenged and encouraged me to seek God, to ask the necessary questions, and, of course, to sing.

  21. Casey Flora,

    Matt was such an amazing person. We traveled to Costa Rica last summer and it was there that I grew to love and respect him as an individual of pure greatness. We also graduated from the nursing program together. He always knew how to ask the hard questions whether it was related to our nursing curriculum, God or life itself. In addition to asking the hard questions, Matt had some amazing answers to those of others including myself. He had a tremendous amount of knowledge, love, wisdom and strength to share. I will miss him greatly…

  22. Heather Empson,

    I only met Matt a few times, but nell often told me about him. I just wanted nell and the Garber family to know that my thoughts and prayers are with them and i’m so sorry about your terrible loss.

  23. Cyndra from OC,

    I never met Matt but through a friend of his father’s have now read about a young man that sounds like he was a very special, spiritual, kind, caring and loving individual. I’m sure that he will be missed by everyone that ever came in contact with him. It sounds like Matt was a wonderful person and I wish I could have met him. To Matt’s family I pray that you find comfort in knowing that Matt is in heaven now with the Lord and that you will meet again someday. God’s blessings to you and know that you are thought about and prayed for by people that you’ve never met.

  24. Maria Minnich,

    Matt was a good friend of my husband Phil. I only met him a few times, when I would visit Phil at EMU.
    We are grieving the loss of an inspiring, talented, people-loving and compassionate friend. May we, who are still here not run away from God with all our “whys” but may we run straight into God arms with all the “why and what for questions” we have. To Matts family and friends: We are holding you up in prayer all the way from Germany.

  25. Adam Schmid,

    I’ll never forget the story Matt told us of the time he was studying a physical exam video in the library when he came to the portion explaining how to give a breast exam. He was taking meticulous notes, as many level 1 nursing students do, and pausing and rewinding to get everything. He had his head phones on and failed to notice the class in the computer lab had been let out, and was noticing Matt focusing, writing, pausing, rewinding. He turned around to find no one could get out of the class room because everyone was stopping to check out Matt taking notes on the unattractive, topless lady on the screen. He could tell a memorable story. All those normal interactions with Matt now seem larger than life in memory. I feel like I could write pages and yet i still like I’m at a loss for words.

  26. Kerstin Glaus and family,

    I dont really know how to even put this in words,on how much Matt Garber has touched so many peoples life and what a blessing it was knowging such a wonderful young man! His smile could light up any room and what a great family the Garbers are! It’s a pleasure knowing them and calling them”friends” is what you like to do as soon as you meet them!
    Although it was terrible news,when my son Stephen informed me about his death,I know now how important it is for anybody,all of us ,that we know “Jesus” as our personal Lord and savior. You just never know ,when he calls us home!
    We do know for sure and it helps to bring piece,that Matt is right there on the side of “Jesus” at this moment.
    Cant wait to see you again one day Matt Garber! Thank you for bringing so much joy!
    To his family,you are truly “loved” we as a family are praying for you and are here for you if you need anything!
    May the lord surround you with his Love right now and comfort you
    Love
    Kerstin and family

  27. Brian Charles Hackman,

    MUSICIAN: Matt underestimated his musical talents. Sometimes I had wished he majored in music. I was in awe at his many musical talents and proud that I could call Matt Garber my friend.
    ACTOR: One of my first memories w/ mat is walking to the Exxon (Harrisonburg) for a free cup of coffee. Matt did a scarecrow impression. It was hilarious. He was the scarecrow in the wizard of oz.
    THEOLOGICAL Discussions: Matt was always up for a theological discussion even if had to take a break from his studies. His thinking was logical and practical. Matt rarely (if ever) spoke on something he did not know much about.
    TASTE of Thai: I went with Matt to taste of Thai for MIPers meal (lead by Wendy Miller) and on another occasions with our friends. Matt loved Taste of Thai.
    HANDS: Matt was a master at talking with his hands. I remember having an intense discussions driving home from church. It was difficult for Matt to keep his hands on the wheel.
    ER: Though I don’t know much about nursing: Matt was made for the ER. He is very calm and can think practically and quickly in stressful situations.
    WILBUR BUDS: Matt’s mom often sent a big box of Wilbur Buds back with Matt. We enjoyed eating this wonderful chocolate together.

    RED BOOK BAG: I could see Garber from a mile walking with his huge book bag filled with nursing books. I miss Matt’s walk.
    OPPOSITES: In many ways Matt and I were opposites. However, our faith and passion for church and community brought us together.
    BRIAN REGAN: Matt was a huge fan of Brian Regan. I have a vivid of memory of watching Regan with Matt’s Parents and brother. We all laughed extremely hard together.
    ENCYCLOPEDIA: Matt was like a human (Mennonite) encyclopedia. He could answer many of my questions especially if it had to do with the Mennonite Church. He knows what is happening in the Mennonite Church inside and out.
    ROTTEN CHICKEN: One time I put chicken in our compost container. Matt discussed with me never to put chicken in the compost container again. This horrible aroma filled Hillside.
    TALKING ON THE PHONE: I could hear Matt talk to his mom on the phone for long periods at a time. Matt set a good example for me this area. Matt and his mom had a special connection on the phone. I can hear Garber laughing.

    GOOD SISTERS: When I think of Matt I think of the friendship he had with the Good sisters. Rebekah Good introduced me to Matt & we hit it off right away. Matt always spoke highly of Rebekah and Ester. In many ways he was like a brother to them.
    APPLE CIDER and Settlers: I remember when Matt made hot apple cider and invited students to play Settlers in our room. I did not play that time but this is just one example of Matt spreading his hospitality.
    ROSELAWN: My junior year I lived in Roselawn. Matt periodically would come and visit me and also Ben Butcher. Matt lived in Roselawn his sophomore year. We both shared a special appreciation for Roselawn.
    BABY GRAND PIANO, This is the piano that Matt has at his house. Matt’s mom told me the story behind this piano and how she so badly wanted to get her son a piano he deserved. The regular type piano Matt had previously he would open the top of it to get more sound.
    EMU: Matt was dedicated to his school. He served EMU in so many ways. Our school is so blessed to have known Matt Garber.
    ROOMMATE: I had the privilege of being Matt’s Roommate Fall 07 in Hill Side. I miss praying with Matt at meal time. I miss Matt and will always have a special place for Garber in my Heart.

    My heart circles with confusions…. I imagine going into Matt’s Room (as he rocks his chair back), I lean my shoulder on the archway of Matt’s door and say “Why Matt, why you”??? Matt puts his hands together behind his head, he slightly grins… and I listen to the wonderful practicality of Matthew Garber. Matt’s spirit lives on.

  28. David Craig,

    I met Matt my first day at EMU – I was so excited to meet another male nursing student! He quickly came to represent to me the best EMU has to offer. His faith, humor, humility, and dedication to service truly made him a man after God’s own heart. He spent hours helping me and other Level 1s through our first semester of the nursing program. He encouraged me to remain in orchestra. We remember his preaching, singing, jokes, and laughter. We are now empty, and he is the infinite gainer. Matt, we look forward to seeing you on the other side.

  29. Abby Fuhrman,

    Although I did not know Matt, infact I’ve never met him before…i feel like he has inspired me to do something great with my life, like he did with his. I also feel like in some way I have met him, the way his brother and family talked about him. So I send my deepest hope to the family and friends that you will break through this saddness and remember that he is where he wants to be, forever and ever.

  30. Annie Dutcher,

    I first met Matt at a barn party my senior year of highschool; I went with his first cousin, my dear friend Joella Garber. We laughed and had a wonderful time; only to meet at another gathering later that year. I remember being very impressed by his love for God, and his commitment to caring for others. I was elated that he was going to EMU too. I thought to myself, “If all of the guys are going to be like this at EMU, I am going to have such a fun time!” Matt embodied compassion, love, and joy. His life will never be forgotten- just as I grew to admire and love Matt, so did all those he met and fellowshipped with. From barn parties to singing together in University Chorale and Chamber Singers to my last memory- eating a casual, throw-it-together spaghetti meal the last week of school; Matt is forever ingrained in my heart as a fun-loving, compassionate friend.

    Thank you Matt for the joy you showed to others, the love you shared, and the memories that we cannot forget.

  31. Janet Beiler,

    As a former member of Bossler Mennonite Church, I knew Todd and Debbie since they got engaged and saw their family grow as each of their children were born. Since I usually made sure to at least once hold a baby, I am sure I held Matt in my arms too. I have missed the last number of years of his life since I moved on to Calvary Church. But already before I left, I knew that Matt had very strong gifts in music. I remember when he and his mother would occasionally lead us in worship on a Sunday morning. I remember being inspired by that interest in music he had since I also have a great love for music.

    Now, I am so heartbroken at this loss of life. I’ve been found crying very frequently at my job but then have a chance to share with other young people that work with me who do not know the Lord about what it means to have a “calling” from God and following it. I have asked questions of God – “WHY???” I know I am selfish to ask that but God loves the honesty of our hearts even though he already knows our thoughts. I believe that the songs Matt sang (especially those recorded) and the stories we all share from our knowledge of his life on earth will inspire many who doubt God’s special plans for them. Maybe that’s the answer to “why” . . . God needed our many voices to carry what Matt alone was doing. Let’s make four-part harmony as we work together in spirit to spread the joy, the passion, the fervor that Matt used to make a difference in these few years of his life.

    Todd and Debbie, Justin, Janelle and Bradley, I am so sorry that you have to go through this time of grief. I only wish I could say something to you that would dry the tears of our hearts, heal the hole in our hearts, and give us strength to daily face new days and other challenges. I hope to give you all hugs soon. I doubt vocal expressions will be available from me but we can certainly share our tears.

    John and Katherine, I think of you also and pray that you too will be comforted by the words of so many people who were touched by your grandson. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to see your son and daughter-in-law go through such a tragedy let alone face your own grief from this loss.

    And all the cousins I knew from Bosslers, I know you were a close family. I know each of your lives were impacted by his life and will be impacted as well with this final chapter even though there was not a special message of “good bye” from him. May God give you the peace and special memories that will contribute to your commitment to God and building His Kingdom.

  32. Dan & Pam Coon,

    Deb, Todd, Justin, Janelle & Bradley,
    We remember Matt coming down to Justin’s little league ball games….loved to listen to him laugh with all his friends. Remembering his friendship with Annie and how special all that seems now. We know that she was there to greet him in Heaven.
    We know your loss is great. We also know that God is carrying you through this grief. We pray for God to comfort you and give you a peace.
    Deb our son Tommy said how he remembered playing you all in church volleyball league this past winter. He said that he was glad he got to see Matt again. He will be greatly missed but always loved.
    Many prayers coming to you all!

  33. Staunton Mennonite Church,

    Matt attended Staunton Mennonite Church as leader of the Y group for several years.
    He came with many developed gifts: music, leadership and a caring attitude toward people
    which he shared in an exemplary way.
    We feel grateful and honored to have had his presence in our worship and fellowship times.
    Peace and consolation to family and friends at this time of loss.

  34. Paul & Fanny Reider,

    The Garber family has our deepest sympathy and our prayers. We are long time friends of John and Katherine Garber, Matt’s Grandparents. May you have the peace of God that passeth all understanding.
    Imagine
    stepping onto a shore and finding it heaven
    Imagine
    taking hold of a hand and finding it God’s hand
    Imagine
    breathing new air and finding it celestial air
    Imagine
    feeling invigorated and finding it immortality
    Imagine
    passing from storm and tempest to an unknown calm.
    Imagine
    waking and finding it home.

  35. Gini (Espenshade) Roskam,

    In 1991, Deb Garber and I signed up for the same Kindergarten carpool at Bainbridge Elementary. That year, my daughter, Annie Espenshade and Matt became best buddies. Each time we picked them up from Kindergarten Matt and Annie would beg to have a playtime together. It was such fun to watch them play. There was lots of laughter, along with a few mischievous moments. In July of 92, Annie was diagnosed with AML Leukemia. Matt was still a huge support and friend to Annie during the 9 months of her illness. Maybe that was the beginning of Matt’s interest in the medical field? Words can never express what it meant to have Matt and Deb come to visit Annie when she was hospitalized in Madison, Wisconsin. In April of 1993, Annie died at the age of 7. Matthew had been a true friend through it all – coming over to play on one of the last days she was up to playing. The Garber family was incredibly supportive of my family through this tragedy. A few years later I moved to Colorado, but heard bits and pieces of Matt’s talent and fame. I am so proud to read these notes and hear of his many accomplishments. I know the Garber family will continue to hear about the impact that Matt’s life had on others for many years to come. I rejoice that Matt was greeted in Heaven by his Heavenly father and by his Kindergarten buddy. Heaven is even sweeter with the home going of Matthew Garber.

  36. Andy Loehr,

    I have watched Matt grow up over the past few years through the eyes and stories of his father. I can remember the part in the “Sound of Music” and when the family needed to get Matt a real piano because he was getting so good. It was never bragging, it was just our discussions always ended up being about what our children were up to. Todd and Deb I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am and how proud you must be to have raised such a wonderful young man. This message board is a true testament to how many lives that he has permanently touched. Please know that your entire family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  37. Doug Nyce,

    My prayers and thoughts are with the Garber family. Here at EMU, Matt was appreciated almost beyond description. His desire to participate and to lead when that was called for will always be remembered here. His voice, his personality, and his wit will all be remembered. About two years ago or so, I came to learn that we shared a great interest and fascination with Lancaster Conference Mennonite history. Matt was not just interested in it, he knew it thoroughly! He was practically an expert at age 21! He was so gifted in just so many areas of life. It is difficult to accept the news of his passing; so incomprehensible! Matt, we all know that this world will miss out on a person who could have contributed so much to it. You are missed terribly.

  38. Olivia,

    I did not know Matt well, but we were in the nursing program together. He was friendly and helpful to his classmates. I wish I got to know him better. My prayers will be with you and your family.

  39. Katherine Garber,

    I am Matts grandma. Matt, we loved you so much. We will miss you so much when the family gets together. Your singing, piano playing, laughter and everything else you did will be greatly missed. We are so thankful for a grandson like you. You were a friend to everyone and loved the Lord so much. we do not know why God meeded you , but know he did. grandpa and I will miss you terribly, but know you are singing in heaven.

  40. Jolene Kratz,

    Many of you have said so many wonderful things about Matt and while I didn’t know him that well, I do know that God’s choir has added a beautiful voice. I’m sad that we can’t hear it anymore but I can just imagine the spectacular music that is being performed up above. I am continuously praying for all those that knew and loved Matt.

  41. Ral Nwankwo,

    The impact Matt made in this world was felt by everyone who ever as much as walked by him. I don’t remember ever noticing a frown on his face. His voice was witnessed numerous times as he sang out his heart to the lord. One did not have to say as much as “Hi” to Matt to be inspired by his drive, motivation, his love for God, his dedication to church and his love for people; but then, imagine if you did…. Matt’s presence was always felt in class, and everywhere he was. I always used to think; “that’s the model student; that’s the model young Christian; how does he do it?” Your life has set the path for many young people to follow. This hit home for me and I am saddened that such a bright light has been dimmed on earth. I remember seeing you at graduation and thinking to myself, “I’ll see him at a reunion”. I should have said “hi” or “bye” but I take heart as we all should, knowing that your light is shinning in a higher place so we can all see better. As we each maneuver through life, we are constantly reminded of the impact Matt made on earth. Matt, the world has been stripped of your many talents but what you left behind with us is indelible and greater. You have saved so many just as Christ saved you from the worries of this world. Rest in His Bosom faithful servant of God.

    “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
    — Thomas Campbell

  42. Ronald and Mim Friesen,

    We are so thankful that we at Staunton Mennonite were privilaged to have Matt be a part of our church, enriching our lives with his willingness to serve, sing, and worship with us. As a freshman we noted his maturity and willingness to particpate in our “old” peoples SS class. To Matt’s family we send our sincere condolanses as you grieve; yet NOT WITHOUT HOPE and rejoice in his life LIVED FOR JESUS! This just adds another question I’m going to have to ask God about when we reach Heaven. Like the song says: “We’ll understand…bye and bye” I, at age 70, am inspiered to be more faithful in my witness for Jesus Christ, Thanks Matthew!

  43. Wendy J. Faust,

    I am still in shock over it all as this young life was taken from us way too early. Matt was such a dear person and I feel lucky enough to have gotten to know him through the musicals with the Music Foundation. From his portrayal as “Anna’s son” in the King and I up to last summer playing in “State Fair”. I know I will miss him dearly and will remember fondly the memories we have of the PB40 gang. My thoughts and prayers extend to his entire family. With fondness – Wendy

  44. Becky Horst,

    One of my favorite memories of Matt, as many of you share, was having meaningful, thoughtful conversations anywhere. Many of those, for me, came during our three week cross cultural in Costa Rica. As I look back though the many photos from the trip I am reminded of so many memories but one that sticks out was at the top of a mountain above the Gorton farm where we had many deep conversations with Chris. We hiked up to one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen and some of us stayed and sat as we watched the clouds come in to engulf us talking about spiritual issues with Chris. I can only imagine the number of additional conversations Matt and Chris have had over the past two months. To the Garbers you are in our prayers and also to the Gortons thanks for opening up your home to Matt and all of us and we’re also praying for you and your family.

  45. Jim Melchiorre,

    I never met Matt, however I have known his father Todd through business for the past 20 some years and it does not surprise me to see what kind of a person Matt was. Over the years Todd and I would share our stories of our families and by that I knew Todd had/has a great love for his family and God. You family will be in my prayers.

  46. Sumatha Thalathoti,

    It was one off my blessing in my life that i meet Matt at Plains Chruch, we can see the joy off the Lord in him, throw is singing and worshiping the Lord, i was blessed to invite him to our house for a Indian meal, we had a good time , he left our Chruch such a impact that we can not forget him in our life. May the Lord’s comfort be with mom and dad and his brother and sister.But one day we all going to see him singing the same way and playing the piano in the heaven.

    Sumatha Thalathoti
    Plains Mennonite Chruch.

  47. Ryan Detweiler,

    I can still hear the laughs coming from the other end of the hall of Hillisde 2nd…I could always tell when Matt was on the hall (which was very rare because he was usually studying for a nursing exam, attending a bible study, practicing piano, CA on duty, cooking, or just hanging out with friends)…but when we was there…we would always know it. Matt you were an blessing to all of us! Thank you for the inspitation you were to us AND WILL BE in the coming years. I regret not getting to know you more as a friend while at school…but from the short time I did have to get to know you…as stated by many people before me, you were a great guy. If there is one thing that I have learned over the past 4 years it is that every day is precious and our life can be changed in a matter of seconds. We are not guaranteed another step, another breath, another day. Make the most of everything that you do and do it with a purpose and a SMILE. Everytime I saw Matt he was doing that…living life and doing it with a SMILE while serving his Lord at the same time! Matt, you will be missed my friend.

  48. Jim and Melanie Nell,

    Jim and I feel very blessed to have known Matt. We went to Bossler Mennonite Church with him and were able to see him use his amazing musical talent for God. His enthusiasm for life was contagious. Matt was a young man who put himself wholeheartedly into everything he did. When Matt changed his major to nursing, Jim and I had many talks with him about the opportunities he could have using his occupation to glorify God and share the love of God with others. He shadowed both Jim and I in our nursing jobs and we were honored and proud to introduce him to our colleagues. Being the parents of three young boys, it was wonderful to see a young man with such a focus on the things of heaven and not of this earth. I have often thought, “What a great example of a Godly young man for my sons.”
    So, Todd and Deb, we thank you for sharing your son with us and for being such Godly parents. You are both such wonderful examples to us. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and Justin, Janelle, and Bradley. We love you and will contine to walk this road with you.

  49. David Horst,

    I believe the first time i had the opportunity to meet Matt was when i was in Hillside visiting his roommate Brian Hackman. I proceeded to enter the apartment and Matt and i ended up talking for about two hours. I had the opportunity to share a suite with Matt second semester because Brian was on cross cultural. I’m glad that i had the opportunity to get to know Matt. Matt was a person of great morals, principles, and above all he loved and served the Lord. Out of his love for the Lord he cared deeply for people and the relationships he had with others. Matt i can’t believe that you’re gone. I wish now that i would have taken more time to enter into conversations with you. It’s just amazing how life is so fragile but i know that you are at a better place. Thank you for blessing my life. You will be missed.

  50. Kasey Sharp,

    I don’t think that I need to sit and express just how wonderful of a person Matt was, the 86 posts before mine and all the many people Matt has blessed on this life’s journey explain that without words. Matt was like a ray of sunshine where ever he went. Not only was he talented and gifted but he was such a well rounded gentlemen even at the age of 14. Matt and I were in many musicals together and it was always a blast. From being a poor boy in Oliver, the man stuff with straw in the Wizard of Oz and my faithful “son in law” in Fiddler on the Roof, it was always a blessing to be in Matt’s presence. He had a voice of an angel and would go out of his way for anyone. Even though we had lost touch after I graduated I could still look back at pictures and remember those great times and be thankful for them. I am sure that the EMU community is at a great loss as well as the Elizabethtown community. Matt may have only been 22 years old-but the Lord lead him to do great things and touch many peoples lives in many different ways. There was a plan for Matt and although it is hard for us to see now-God full filled his plan here on earth. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–” Ecclesiastes 3:1
    To the Garber family-I will hold you near to my heart in this time of need and in your extreme loss of a blessed angel of God. I am deeply sorry.
    Kasey Sharp and Family

  51. Lucy Barber,

    Matt was the my freshman orientation co-leader and he was one of the first non-freshman EMU students I met. I also am a nursing student, and was able to study and interact with him there. Every time I talked to Matt, or had classes with him, it was a fun experience. He was a very friendly and kind person. I offer my condolences and grief to the Garber family for their loss in this tradgedy. He was a bright young man and we will all miss him terribly.

  52. Jonathan Keener,

    I’m writing this from around the world in China, and the shock of the news has still not worn off. While words are difficult at this time, here are some of my thoughts.

    I had the privilege of being Matt’s suite-mate my senior year. I will never forget Matt’s laugh, his love for discussion, his famous “Garber stew”, his love for singing, and ability in piano. We would laughingly tell each other how before we met each other (but knew who each other was – and knew we were both pianists) we thought the other was stuck up and proud (we conjectured that this was a pianist’s trait). But nothing could be further from the truth for Matt. While Matt was ambitious, he was caring and friendly. While he was deeply rooted in his faith, he was willing to listen to others’ views.

    I know I will never forget Matt. EMU will never forget him. Bossler’s Mennonite will not forget him, Staunton Mennonite, Mount Clinton, RMH, the Garber family, the Table, Plains Mennonite, the missionaries in Costa Rica, the list goes on. I hope, however, that we not only remember is wonderful personality traits, but most of all his love for the Lord. Though Matt was taken too early (in our eyes), I believe he had no regrets. Matt died in service to the Lord – I can’t think of a better place to die. While I will sorely miss him on earth, his memory inspires me, and I know he is with the One he loved more than anything on this earth, and I have the Hope that I will see him again someday. Let us mourn, but also celebrate Matt’s wonderful life.

  53. Nate Hoffer,

    I just learned about the accident today in the local news. I’ve known Matt since like Junior year in High School. He was going into medical, I was going to do law enforcement. We always joked he would be there to fix me up if I were ever shot in the line of duty.
    I’m kinda at a loss for words. There is so much I want to say but can’t put it into words. I did not know how he was at college, only when he was at home. He was very caring, loving, and frankly the best friend a person could hope for.
    Matt you will be missed by many, and by me.

  54. Josh Chaudoin,

    It is with sadness that I send my condolences to the Garber family. I had the fortune of graduating high school with Matt. throughout middle and high school Matt graced us with his incredible musical talent and inspired us through his commitment to his faith. Matt will forever be remembered for his humor and his unending stage presence. I had the privilege to be on stage many times with Matt in the shows Oliver, Fiddler, and Hello Dolly and countless concerts. He inspired me to continue my musical ambitions. Matt was a friend to all and I know his loss will be mourned by many in the EMU community. My thoughts and prayers are with his many siblings and parents as they have lost an amazing son, brother, and friend.

  55. Shelby Greider,

    I cry and cry, but I should not. You are in a place where we all want to go someday. I cry because I miss you and cannot understand why you, a person who has touched so many lives and could have touched so many more, had to leave us. You always made me feel special and welcome in your family even as a younger child. You listened when I talked to you and were always interested in what I do and what I said. Family was important to you and you included me in that family. Thanks for having lunch with me three days in a row at LGH when you were working in the ER. You weren’t embarrassed to have lunch with this old lady in the cafeteria. We may never know why you were taken from us, but there’s no doubt about where you are. Thanks for the joy you spread on this earth for the short time you were here. Our lives will go on but won’t be the same without you. Todd, Debbie, Justin,Janelle, Bradley—-thanks for sharing Matt with me . I love you all and my heart aches for you.

  56. Colleen Gross,

    Bainbridge Elementary, birthday parties, t-ball games, baseball games, High School musicals, choral concerts the wonderful times shared flood our thoughts over the past few days since dear Matt has met his Savior face to face. Debbie, Todd, Justin, Janelle, and Bradley we can not comprehend your grief…..let your loving heavenly father hold you. We are lifting you up in prayer. ‘Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” Lamentations 3:22

    Death did not get Matt Garber—-Jesus did!

  57. Gene and Rachel Tann,

    To Todd, Deb, Justin, Janelle and Bradley,
    We were honored to have Matt as part of our church family for 22 years. We remember when he was born, and watched him grow to become a fine young man. We enjoyed getting to know him as part of our youth group. Matt always portrayed a Christ-like attitude, enjoyed discussions and interacting with others. We will dearly miss him.
    We are praying for you all and will continue to walk with you through this difficult time.

  58. Lee Martin,

    Matt’s time with us at Mt. Clinton Mennonite was far too brief but so appreciated. His musical gifts, which he shared so joyfully and freely, truly assisted others into God’s presence. Our prayers and love go out to his family and to all of his many, many friends, among whom we count ourselves. We join you in grieving and we join you in celebrating a life lived to the fullest in Jesus. May Matt’s deep love for Christ and His church fan the flame of our faith and love.

  59. Jennifer Sweigart,

    Although my heart is broken, my terrible sadness is lightened by my memories of Matthew. I was his First and Third Grade teacher at Bainbridge Elementary School. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but Matthew had a very special place in my heart. Even as a child, Matthew could light up a room as he entered, cheer up anyone who needed kind words and befriended everyone he had contact with. He was an amazing human being. As his teacher, I learned some very unexpected things from him that have stayed with me. His positive attitude and love of life were so rare, but also very contagious.

    I will never forget how Matthew Garber touched my life! I am so lucky to have known him.

  60. Dave & Donna,

    We were really inspired by his leadership in the music and hymns and and his beautiful voice as he lead us in hymns. Did not know him long but we will surely miss him dearly and know that he is in
    the presence of Lord our God in Heaven

  61. Rebekah Charles,

    I had a great fondness for Matthew that grew since I met him when we were living in Lancaster for 2 years during my middle school years. The only way I figured out how to express it was to say that he was my brother. I had grown up with sisters so I only imagined that one would feel very fondly of a younger brother, especially one who you were good friends with. I loved to talk with Matthew about church and medical things. We shared a common call to ministry and health care. While Matthew was a pre-med major I would often tell him that nursing was a profession that incorporated his call to ministry and his love for medicine. I think I had my own selfish reasons for wanting Matthew to be a nurse. It would mean I would have more opportunities to see him during the busy nursing schedule in college. I also truly did believe that he would enjoy nursing. When I found out he had changed his major I was elated but surprised because I knew he had wanted to be a doctor since he was very young.

    I wish I didn’t need to be writing how proud I felt about him. How I loved to introduce him to my friends when he came to EMU and how I hoped everyone would see how special he was. I wish I could just go on feeling like a big sister who is so impressed with the accomplishments he made and the gifts he used. I thought Lancaster County was so lucky to have him coming home and how I would miss having him in Harrisonburg. Now I will miss him for a very long time.

  62. Jim Clemens,

    One of my favorite things about Matt was his willingness to enjoy unexpected things. Before a church service one Sunday last spring, my ten-year-old daughter spotted Matt at the door, ran over to him while gleefully shouting his name, and gave him an enthusiastic hug. He smiled and said, “I think everybody should be greeted like this on Sunday morning!” And I’ll always remember the time when he stopped in the middle of a sentence, pointed, and blurted out, “Hey, look! A cardinal!” My family and I deeply appreciate the times we spent with Matt, and we will miss him greatly.

  63. Benjamin Bergey,

    Only having known Matt for a year, we had a deep friendship based around a love of music. From singing tenor together in Chambers Singers and sharing soli in Lux Aurumque to hymn sings to meals in his apartment, I will never forget his lively spirit, his contagious laugh, and his willingness to talk about anything. I will carry with me these many memories and his model as a student, a steward, and a Christian–a great legacy to leave behind.

  64. Ken Nafziger,

    In spite of Matt’s tragic death this week, there are important things that death cannot take from me. The space that Matt occupied in my life cannot be occupied by anyone else. The memory of his laughter is mine forever. His love for music and for singing and for playing offers encouragement to engage others in making music. His love for God is written indelibly in my experience. His insatiable hunger and desire to add more richness, more experience, more knowledge, more soul, more friends is a model for any life well-lived. When I told him after graduation that he would really be missed in the year(s) ahead, I could not have known the real good-bye I was bidding him. I just know that in my memory and in my spirit, Matt lives on. And, in reading the words that others have written, I am not the only one for whom this is a tribute that comes from the deepest places in the heart. Well done, good and faithful servant…

  65. Cheryl M. Lehman,

    Yesterday afternoon, July 3, I played “Keep me safe, O God” (from”Sing the Journey”CD) for a small group of persons gathered for a 6 day silent retreat at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Wernersville, PA. I saw that one of the solists for that song was Matt Garber. I fondly reflected on what a lovely young man he had become. I remembered a short conversation with him in January 2007 and the passion with which he spoke. I heard his love for the Church and his interest in issues such as ordination of women. At that time I was struck by his outgoing energy, his delightful disposition, and his passion for life! I know Matt’s parents and grandparents and other extended family members. My heart breaks for their sadness and this HUGE loss…of their beloved son and family member. Debbie, Todd, Justin, Janelle and Bradley…may you be held in LOVE during these difficult days.
    As the words to the song “Keep me safe, O God” ….”You are my hope, O God.. You are my only one…and God will keep my life secure….”
    May everyone affected by Matt’s death be surrounded by God’s loving comfort. Amen.

  66. Lavonne Lehman,

    Todd & Deb, My heart goes out to you as you begin to deal with the loss of your son, Matt. Although I didn’t know him well, he touched the lives of my children, Peter & Renee. He’s the kind of guy you want your kids to be around. We would have loved to learn to know him better. Please know we are grieving with you.

  67. Michelle Kennel,

    Throughout my freshman year, (Matt’s sophomore year), I could always pinpoint his table in the cafeteria because it was constantly erupting with laughter. Sitting with him guaranteed an intellectually challenging and entertaining meal time. Although I didn’t know Matt as well as many of you, I too feel keenly the hole that his passing has left in the world. As I read over the reflections left on this page, I am reminded of how intricately entwined our lives are. Matt has left behind so many communities that are seeking to remember him and support each other in their grief. Matt was a much admired and ever loved individual.

    I was not in Chamber Singers with Matt, but one rehearsal this fall the Chamber Singers joined Chorale to prepare for the homecoming concert. A song we sang that day brought tears to every eye in that room and I am reminded of it today. The last stanza reads:

    “Nothing is lost to the heart of God, nothing is lost forever; God’s heart is love, and that love will remain, holding the world forever. No impulse of love, no office of care, no moment of life in its fullness; no beginning too late, no ending too soon, but is gathered and known in its goodness.”

    Matt, we keep murmuring “too soon,” but we know that your death does nothing to lessen the beauty and joy of your life. We are grateful for you.

  68. Jennifer Cooper,

    I am struggling deeply with the loss of such a beloved, talented, essential young man. I am not yet in a place where I can offer such beautiful sentiments as the ones I’ve read so far, as I am too sad and too angry. When that passes, I’ll do better. For now, all I do know is that Matt will be deeply missed not only by those who knew him, but even by those he never met. Matt, sing on and smile on. Maybe your spirit will find a way to bring peace to the broken hearts left behind.

  69. Karra Black,

    This past year, I had my Senior Seminar with Matt at EMU. One assignment we had in that class was to write our “final words.” I looked back through what each of my classmates had written and found Matt’s. Here is what he wrote:

    “Matthew Garber was a man after God’s own heart. It gives his family and friends hope to know that he is now worshiping his Lord and Savior forever in heaven.

    Matt sought to serve others in every way that he could. He was a committed husband, father, brother, son and friend. He graduated from EMU with a degree in nursing and has used his nursing skills to help others throughout his life. Matt loved practicing nursing and working in the hospital because of the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to nursing, Matt loved music. He enjoyed leading singing at church as well as playing the piano and singing in choirs. He always hoped that his music would be used to glorify God and bring joy to other people.

    Matt cared deeply about his family and friends and loved spending time with them. He always felt that relationships were one of the most important things in life and he tried hard to make them a priority. Matt tried to live simply and show God’s love to everyone he met. The influence of his life is not finished with his death, just as he had hoped. The love he showed will live on in the hearts of the people he touched.”

    The last sentence Matt wrote has proven so true. It is obvious that the love Matt showed to everyone he came in contact with will not be forgotten.

  70. Brenna Beck Hostetter,

    Most of my experiences with Matt involved intense discussions, usually around a lunch table in the caf. Along with many other people, including my now husband, groups of us would most frequently discuss politics, faith, and denominational issues and ideas around lunch tables in the caf. Matt was often one of those people, and one of my favorite ones.

    It is true that, most often, I would voice perspectives quite different than Matt’s, which meant that good-natured but extremely heart-felt arguing would ensue. It is also true that he is one of few people who made me feel as if my differing opinions didn’t make me less Mennonite, too liberal, or completely crazy. I actually looked forward to random discussions with Matt because I would have to really think through things during and after. They prompted intellectual and spiritual growth.

    The conversations that included Matt were few, but they are marked in my life. I have quietly worked at releasing my need to always be right, and to learn to stay open and loving to those I encounter who disagree with me. While I never consciously decided to do this based on Matt, I know he modeled it in those times. My life is fuller as a result. Matt was someone you could certainly never write off; I respected him a great deal. In Matt’s honor, I commit myself to continue interacting with humility, love and great thoughtfulness.

  71. Sara Wenger Shenk,

    Matt lit up the room when he was present. He participated at The Table church toward the end of this school year and had been in our home from time to time with groups of friends. I remember his bright beaming face; his effervescent, irrepressible joy. I truly believe Matt’s joy was a gift of the Spirit. Thanks be to God for this shining gift that “dwelt among us” for a season. We cry out in dismay that Matt is no longer with us, but the joy that he embodied is the joy of the Spirit that does continue with us; the Holy Spirit also known as the Comforter. We are not left desolate.

  72. Twila K. Yoder,

    My life intersected with Matt’s in September 2006 when he agreed to take time from his very busy schedule, along with two other students, to represent the EMU student body at a day-long meeting of EMU’s Constituent Conferences Committee. Normally this meeting takes place on campus, but that year the meeting was held in the Lancaster, Pa. area. It was on the way back to campus after the meeting that Matt rode in my van. My overwhelming memory is of Matt talking enthusiastically and at length about his family that he obviously adored; his siblings all excelling in various sports. Sports wasn’t his thing, but he had gifts of his own, excelling in music and theater and ministry and academics. I marveled that such a young man could be so comfortable in his own skin. No doubt his family had a huge part to play in his amazingly mature, clear self-perception. He talked at length about growing up in the Bossler Mennonite Church and how that shaped his desire to serve the church. Reading here about the impact of his amazing life is an inspiration to me. I believe we will honor Matt’s memory the most when we strive to live our Christian faith and calling as passionately as he did. When I asked Laura Yoder how Matt’s death will impact the community in Costa Rica she really had no words to describe how devastated they must be. And so I pray for you, Matt’s dear family, for all those in Costa Rica who are devastated by the loss of Matt, and for all those who knew Matt so well and loved him so deeply, the Elizabethtown and EMU communities and beyond. May God’s grace and comfort sustain us all.

  73. Bernadette,

    Garber Family, I did not know Matt, I am also a nurse, I work with Orpha and she was so upset telling us about your wonderful son. I have read some of the things written about him. He seemed like an absolutely tremendous human being. We all would benefit from having more people like him in our lives. I just wanted to let you know there are people out there (even strangers) who are praying for all of you. You must be so proud to have helped Matt become the great man he became!

  74. Emi Oda,

    Dearest Matt–
    There are so many people that I admired in our graduating class and you are one of them. My heart aches to think that I will not be able to hear what wonderful things you would have been up to with your many gifts. You were such a joy to talk to when I occassionally bumped into you. Your most precious trait that will remain in my mind is your wide grin that always filled the room.
    Until we meet again, rest in peace.
    With love, from my shattered heart.

  75. Lindsay Willing,

    Matt and I traveled to Costa Rica together in the summer of 2007 for our cross cultural. I did not know Matt very well before our trip. I soon realized that Matt was a very different person than I had expected. We spent over 3 weeks together in Costa Rica, learning Spanish, Tico culture, going on various small trips, and spending time with our host families. As I reflect on our short time in Costa Rica, I can remember many things about Matt that I never would have known if we had not been on the same cross cultural. He was very outgoing, very kind, compassionate, and very lively. He brought joy and laughter wherever he went. He was always willing to learn and more than happy to help with whatever was happening at any given time during our trip. I will never forget how well he meshed with his host family. They absolutely adored Matt in every way. When he told me that he wanted to come back to Costa Rica to visit, there were no doubts in my mind that he would one day return there. When I heard of the news of Matt’s passing, I was shocked. There he was, in Costa Rica, a place he came to love, and his life was taken. As I think of Matt tonight, I think of how mature he was not only mentally…..but spiritually as well. The love Matt had for his Savior was evident every single day. Many things come to mind when thinking of you, Matt. Whether it is the excitement you had every time we were experiencing something new in Costa Rica (even if it wasn’t the most pleasant of things!) or the way you would throw your head back and laugh at something out of the clear blue, or the way you carried yourself and all the amazing qualities you possessed. Joy, love, laughter, respect, passion, lively, compassion, responsible, motivated, friendly, dedicated. These are words that automatically come to mind when I think of Matt.

    Matt – you will truly be missed by many. I know you touched so many lives not only here in the U.S. but also in your time in Costa Rica. Your love of life and Jesus was an awesome thing to witness. There is no doubt in my mind that you are rejoicing right now with your Savior. Thank you for your incredible testimony. You were awesome. Love ya buddy, I will miss seeing you at our next Costa Rica reunion.

  76. Bryan Schmidt,

    Matt, you were my role model. You were my hero, you were my icon. I still remember walking into concert choir that first day of freshman year, and you took me under your wing. You told it me never to be afriad, to never let others imtimidate you. The time we spent in plays, musicals, choir, and much more i will never forget. Matt, your advice; your guidance; your friendship changed my life. Matt, i will miss you so much, and it is just so unfair that God has chosen to take you away from this earth. You will forever be in my prayers. The town of Elizabethtown mourns your lose, and there is not a place big enough to hold all your loved ones and all those who you have touched. Your memory will live on forever, Matt i will never forget you.

  77. A. D. Strickland,

    I did not know Matt long but I admired him from a distance. Matt was a part of the YPCA team that came to our church (Staunton Mennonite) and I was very grateful to have him there as a member of the congregation. His musical talent and the ease at which he spoke and sang was such a blessing to me. I will miss Matt.

  78. Mary Ann Shisler,

    Matt was warm and loving and connected easily with people. Matt often came into the library, and although I didn’t talk with him often, I remember warmly our first conversation. We were establishing our connections and the fact that my brother, Elvin, had been his Sunday school teacher at Bossler’s Church, and that Matt had worked as an intern with my brother, Bob, on the oncology floor at Lancaster General Hospital. “So, now I know you–and I know most of your family!” he said with a big smile. Later, as I was giving database instruction in one of his classes, he announced enthusiastically, “This is the most helpful explanation I’ve ever heard.” Well, I don’t know how many others–if any–he had heard, but he really knew how to make a person feel appreciated. I also appreciated his inspiring leadership of songs in chapel. It just felt good to be around Matt. We love you and miss you. God bless your parents and family for their part in shaping Matt.

  79. Beth Good,

    A tribute to Matt; a challenge to us all…

    Many of us have mentioned what a great leader Matt was and would have become. We esteem the complete authenticity of his faith and communion with others. Some of us had “plans” of how his gifts could be used and lives touched through his ministry. Now, Matt’s mortal body is no more. But the needs that we saw him filling are still here and growing daily.

    Can we, as a body, commit to seeking God as to our part in making certain that Matt’s example of steadfast faith and commitment not be left void due to his early entrance into eternal live? Will we allow Matt’s life to inspire in us the dedication that he had to seek the Lord’s will and walk humbly, yet steadily in what He is calling us to do.

    May our memories of Matt heal our sorrow and inspire us “…to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

  80. Laura Yoder,

    I remember being thrilled to learn that Matt Garber wanted to participate in the Costa Rica Cross-cultural course which I led with Naomi Gorton during May, 2007. (I knew Matt from teaching him in several nursing courses). Normally I would have had some reserve about encouraging a student who had not previously studied Spanish to participate in the 3-week course, but I knew Matt had studied another language (German), and that he had an incredible ability to quickly learn anything he wanted to. Moreover, I had no doubt that he had the maturity to easily handle the cultural differences he would find in Costa Rica, and that, in fact, he would likely become “one of them” in an instant. My predictions of his ability to cross over into the Tico culture came true. He formed a wonderful bond with his host family, who loved him so much that they called him their son, ‘nuestro hijo, Mateo’. During our final week there he began talking to me about how he could get back to Costa Rica…he just had not gotten enough and wanted more: more Spanish, more understanding of the people, more time to give back to a place that had given him so much. I was so excited for him (and a bit jealous!) when he told me his definite plans to return there this summer to live, learn, and minister with the Gorton family. Now I am devastated that this place that I (and he) love so much is the place where his life ended. Goodness, I could go on and on, but what I really need and want to say is that I am going to miss you so much, Matt. I believe you were one of the most amazing people I have ever met. I am only consoled by my belief that you are with your Lord and Savior and that He never left your side, even in your last moments.
    To the Garber family, may each of you find your way through this deep valley of sorrow in your own ways and in your own time, and may the Holy Spirit grant you the strength to journey on.
    May we all take our memories and love for Matt and let him live on through us.
    Lord, have mercy.

  81. Erica Lewis,

    My prayers are with you, Garber family and with Matt’s many friends and fellow students. Matt used his many gifts to bring glory to God.

  82. Bonita Garber,

    Matt, my dear dear cousin. I will always remember the way you made me laugh, or the songs that you would sing while leading worship at church, or wherever. I loved your facial expressions when you would laugh at an especially funny joke, like when telling about your dog chewed on your brand new shoes. There was never a dull moment around you. Even though you were 8 years older then I you always included me, or welcomed me with a great big hug. All the memories with you: At the Goods Cabin, or swimming in the lake, Christmas dinner, opening presents, watching you lead music as we all sang along, watching you wrinkle up your face as you laughed. Praying that you’d feel better as you puked during halftime in the Music Man…. I can recall countless stories, in which you were there, how you helped me and others with just your presence and ever-ready smile. I don’t remember ever seeing you mad, I remember you acting drunk in ‘State Fair.’ sick, disgusted about something, happy, or jovial, but you just seemed to never be truly mad. Matt, you were full of talent and joy. I always admired you for knowing what you wanted to do, and going after it with all you had. You were so full of passion, and life. I loved watching you play the Mennonite Game, or croquet at family reunions. I loved/love you Matt. You inspired me, loved me, helped to shape me, and for all that I am truly greatful. Missing you so much.

  83. Kayla Herr,

    Matthew Garber is my cousin. He was a wonderful singer, piano player, and cousin. He loved God with all his heart. Matt was only ten years older than me, and he has accomplished so much. I remember going to watch his musicals and productions. He was such a great actor and story teller. I was always excited to hear what was going on in his life. Matt was the type of guy that would always listen with his full attention. Over the holidays he would sing and play piano. It was one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Matt was always ready to smile and have a good laugh. Matt was going to be the best nurse in the world.He LOVED Eastern Mennonite University. A few years ago I went to see Matt sing “The Messiah.” It was truley amazing!! Also when the Chamber Singers did a tour in Pennsylvania we attended. I was looking foward to hear all the stories from Costa Rica. Matthew loved Costa Rica and the people that lived there. I will miss you Matt and your always big smile. I love you!

  84. Loren Swartzendruber,

    As so many have shared, Matt had special gifts and a personality that touched so many people. Our human desire is to know “why,” but our human limitations prevent us from fully understanding. As one EMU alumnus shared with Kirk Shisler and me this morning in Lancaster, “There are two important things to know in life,
    1) there is a God, and 2) we’re not God.” I’m sure Matt would want us to celebrate life, surround each other with care, and love more deeply. Matt brought much laughter and joy into his circle of friendships. And now we share so many tears as we face the reality of his absence from us until we meet again. May God grant Matt’s family, his Mennonite congregational families at Blosser, Staunton, Plains, and Mt. Clinton Pike, his many friends from school years, and all of us in the EMU community courage to live life as he did–with energy, commitment, humor, and compassion–and always with a song.

  85. Elie Schmidt,

    Matt, this is not easy to write what I am feeling and thinking right now. I was always very proud to say that I helped shape your voice as your voice teacher and as you were growing into this beautiful young man with a wonderful voice. It was an honor for me to be there for you in finding and developing your gift. You freely shared your voice and your soul with all of us who were blessed to hear and listen to you. I have very good memories and funny ones of practicing “pizza love” for the etown fair and then when you and Meg sang “the prayer” as well. I loved helping you get ready to audition for district and regional chorus over the summers during your high school years. I loved watching and listening to you in all your performances. I was proud to be there. I loved seeing your smiling face and getting a big hug when I’d see you anywhere in etown. You always did that…made me feel so special and respected as one of your teachers…thank you. I know and believe you are with God now and you are singing in the chorus of angels who praise Him. Thank you for looking after all of us now. I know you will. I believe I will see you again and I will pray for Deb, Todd, Justin, Janelle, and Bradley that the Lord stay very close now and help them to do whatever it is they need to do to keep going. I will never forget and I will always pray. I will miss you and I will try to accept what has happened. I am very sad right now. I am so sorry for all the Garbers. God bless you all. If you need anything please don’t hesitate to ask. I am here.

  86. Emily Benner,

    I keep hearing Matt’s laugh in my mind. Thanks for everything you gave this world, Matt. We’re really missing out by not having you here.

  87. Nancy Sabb,

    My son Michael and I are deeply saddened at the sudden passing of Matt. What a wonderful nurse he would have been. His caring and bright smile will leave lasting memories. The entire Garber family has been very special to Michael and myself these past 5 years. Our sympathy is with the entire family. You raised a great son Todd and Deb. From E-town with much love and sympathy.

  88. Ann Hershberger,

    Memories of Matt surface frequently and unbeckoned in the short time since I heard of his death. We shared a love of music as well as a call to the church and the world through nursing. Even though he was my student he was always probing around the edges of how I might grow, though I am not sure he was even conscious of that. One vivid memory at the moment is watching him pass out medications to prisoners during his community health clinicals with me several months ago. While warned by staff that he should be cautious in getting too close to the men, he could not help himself and reached out to touch and claim the blessedness of each human being- even through bars. I must imagine Matt that a hand reached out to you as you crossed through the bars of this life to the next. To Matt’s family and friends – I commit to hold you in prayer.

  89. Natalie Bonilla,

    Matthew Garber–I can clearly remember you were the ONE of the first ten people I met at EMU that summer of 2005. You great smile and introductions soon made me realize that EMU in fact was the right school for me. And for that I am truly thankful! You will be very missed…times spent together and all the memories built will never be forgotten. You will always remain in our hearts…

  90. Marisa Keener,

    I had the distinct honor of playing opposite of Matt last year in an EAMF production of State Fair. His talents were evident from the beginning, but it was his personality that made me adore him. I will never forget talking to him about how excited he was to become a nurse and how one day he hoped to find that perfect woman whom he could treasure forever. He truly loved life and people. I will miss him desperately and will treasure our time together and his contageous smile always.

  91. Erika Escalera,

    Although I was not friends with Matt, I remember having some classes at EMU with him since our freshman year. I remember his friendly smile and intelligence. He always brought great participation and discussions in classes I had with him. I am still in shock and disbelief over his parting. Matt’s family– you are in my thoughts and prayers. May God give you the strength to continue without your him. May it comfort you to know Matt is by our Lord’s side and watching over you forever.

  92. Mike Derstine,

    Matt’s contagious smile, infectious laughter, mature faith and gracious personality brought much joy and energy to the Plains Mennonite Church during his Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP) experience with us. In just 12 weeks during the summer of 2006, Matt became everyone’s friend. It seemed he always had something to say; often he began with a question, or a comment or an observation about life—but it would generally lead to one of his many and often humorous stories! Surely there was a level of wisdom and maturity beyond his years. His love of music, laughter and Mennonite history and trivia endeared himself to young and old. We had the sense then, and even more so today, that our lives, like so many others, were touched by the very presence of God. Together we grieve and raise our questions. Together we find our thoughts and prayers lifting you up: Todd and Deb, Justin, Janelle, and Bradley, and the larger EMU community. Together we give thanks for a life so well lived.

  93. Megan Baum,

    I first remember meeting Matt during the EAMF production of “The King and I.” Our paths crossed on and off for a few years before he ended up becoming one of my dear friends during our time in middle and high school. His quirky smile was so wonderfully infectious; when Matt smiled, you couldn’t help but smile back. He constantly had this energetic enthusiasm that just seemed to exude from every fiber of his being. I’ve heard it said that the eyes are the mirrors to the soul and you could honestly see that in Matt. His strikingly blue eyes sparkled with goodness, intelligence, kindness, and faith. He never turned down the chance to help me with music, school, or just by being a friend. The world has been blessed to have Matt as a part of it and I know my life was richer because I could call him my friend. My heart goes out to the Garber family and please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  94. James Hall,

    I remember first meeting Matt when I sat in on a Chamber Singers rehearsal as a prospective student. I immediately recognized the skill, joy, and confidence he displayed as he sang with the intent of praise. I was impressed at his devotion to the song and his strive for perfection, hastily writing notes in his music at every available moment. I remember relying on Matt’s ever present pencil when needing to make marks of my own. Matt’s keen sense of humor, hilarious laugh, and genuine kindness toward all he met made him a vital part of the Chamber Singers in addition to his unarguably amazing voice.

    When I arrived as a freshman at EMU I auditioned for Chamber Singers, but did not make the group. I was disappointed, ashamed, and decided by Spring semester that I would simply no longer sing. It wasn’t long before I got an email from Matt encouraging me to give Chamber Singers another try. I had greatly enjoyed singing Mozart’s Requiem and working on my parts with Matt, but I still resisted. Matt was relentless. He told me that I belonged in Chamber Singers, and that singing wasn’t something I could just give up; that singing was part of my being and a gift from God I simply wasn’t allowed to ignore. Matt always had a way of being very convincing, and this situation was no different. I arrived for my first Chamber Singer’s rehearsal, and Matt was waiting for me to make sure I would feel as though I belonged. Three semesters later, I can reflect and honestly say that being in the fellowship of the Chamber Singers has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, an experience that I never would have known if not for Matt.

    Matt, you are the reason I still sing. I know you will continue to encourage me each day to praise God with the gifts I’ve been given. May every joyful noise I make be a tribute to your strong devotion to Christ and the phenomenal way you lived your life with the time you had. Rest easy, sing strong, and know how much we love you.

  95. Brian Martin Burkholder,

    One other time I lost a friend so early in his life that part of my heart and soul has yet to fully heal. I carry the gifts and joy of shared experiences and mutuality from that friendship with me and ponder them from time to time. The sadness also lingers. So it will be when I think of Matt Garber – an inspiration and joy to me and others. Because of the way he cherished and engaged others and the church, and because his life was cut short in the prime, I’ll often think of him as I reflect on my ministry. His life, so well lived yet too short, continues to inspire.

  96. Nancy Heisey,

    I most often met Matt when he came into my office to talk about the course scheduling related to his Bible and Religion minor. Our meetings were always full of energy, and Matt’s sparkling eyes and bright smile. I was delighted by his deep understanding of the importance of being prepared biblically and theologically for a life of Christian ministry within his chosen career of nursing. But Matt was also just fun to talk with. He had the complete vivacity of youth along with a kind of steady maturity far beyond his years. We could laugh and joke, and also talk about the things that mattered most. I always knew that Matt would be offering gifts to others throughout his life. I am weeping now, that his time of gift-giving was far too short. But in reading all these tributes, I also note that his life of faith, music, laughter, and service, is an on-going model and gift for those of us who are left behind mourning.

  97. Carmen Schrock-Hurst,

    Helen Keller once said, “What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose. For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

    I did not know Matt, but reading the tributes to him, and reading the comments he gave at the nurse’s pinning I have quickly come to see what an extraordinary young man he was. My heart breaks for his family, and for the faculty and friends who walked with him closely. May you each discover in these days of deep grief, what part of Matt you carry within you, and may you find ways to spread his contagious laughter and passion for faithful living to those around you.

  98. Rodney Derstine,

    I will remember a young man with a beautiful voice and a kind spirit. I am so sad today and can only hope that his spirit will live on through the many persons he has so richly blessed.

  99. Liza Heavener,

    His bright smile was contagious and his outgoing & joyful personality changed the dynamic of any room he entered. Singing alongside of Matt for three years in Chamber Singers was an honor for me. He threw himself wholeheartedly into any song we were practicing. My most vivid memory is his solo “Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My People”. His voice sailed over the notes and surely touched the group of people gathered in Lehman Chapel that evening.

    Thank you Matt for your gift of music you selflessly shared. And thank you for the positive energy you passed along to anyone in your presence. You will be dearly missed.

  100. Angie Jewell,

    Matt…my capstone partner, my classmate, my study buddy, my friend. I remember spending countless hours with you in the computer lab this semester, doing research, writing our papers. I remember you pausing in the middle of everything, throwing your head back, and laughing out loud at something you had just read or thought of that may or may not have had anything to do with our project. I remember you deciding to make our presentation more attention-catching by saying “sexy” and having your phone ring halfway through. I loved hearing you sing in chapel, sharing stories about interesting experiences from that day’s clinical. Matt, as I drove to the nursing department yesterday, I kept thinking as other cars would go past, that they don’t know this is a sad day, that they don’t know to be sad because they never had the priviledge to meet you, to call you friend. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to have been your classmate and friend. I’ll see you again one day. I expect to hear you singing as when I do.

  101. Lisa King,

    Matt and I were in the nursing program together. I believe I speak on behalf of all my fellow nursing friends when I say that Matt was going to be one of the best nurses this world has seen. It is hard to know what to say and I only wish Matt were here to help me articulate it because he was so good at that. With everything Matt said and did there was passion. I was looking forward to working with Matt at LGH this fall. We talked about taking our breaks together in the middle of the night when we were working those crazy shifts. I will think of Matt each time I go to work and take my break. I will think of Matt everytime I sing a hymn because his beautiful tenor voice will be singing right along. Thank God for Matthew Garber, I only wish more people could have known him. This is a great loss to all who knew him and to humanity. I love you, Matt (I’m sorry I never told you)

  102. Brian Gish,

    I had done community theatre with Matt in Lancaster County for a few years. Such a talented, compassionate, intelligent and committed individual is so rare. Even rarer is when that same individual is so amazingly humble that he works solely to elevate those around him – never for his own glory. To say Matt will be missed is a glaring understatement. Knowing our present sorrow and loss though, the blessing is that all the choirs of heaven will sound so much sweeter with that familiar tenor voice singing God’s praises from up on high. Godspeed, Matt.

  103. Brian Ness,

    This is very difficult for me. I never know what to say after someone passes, especially an untimely passing like this one, but I feel compelled to respond. Matt graduate from E-town high school with my daughter Laura. I knew Matt through his involvement in EAHS music and EAMF musicals. I can’t think of anyone who had more to offer the world than Matt Garber. Matt was the kind of person the world needs to be a better place. I don’t know if Matt was a boy scout, but he certainly lived up to the values they teach. “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrift, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” May prayers are for all those that mourn the loss of a great young man, especially his parents.

  104. Pam,

    Oh Matt. If…if Heaven is a place where a pianist’s fingers never get tired and cramped…if it’s a place where a singer never wakes up with a sore throat and scratchy voice…if it’s a palce where you can finally spend every minute doing what you did best- singing and playing your heart out for Jesus…then maybe we can send you on with joy. Go ahead, darling dearest. Sing unto the Lord a new song, with your perfect new voice.

  105. Jonathan Charles,

    Why is it the perfect lamb who is sacrificed? Did God not know how much we needed him? His intellect, his sensitivity, his joy, his passion, his commitment to Christ and the Church, his leadership….Did God not know? Why is the perfect lamb sacrificed? What a joy to watch him develope during his high school and college years. We did watch him. We saw God’s hand on him. Today we still see him with God’s arm around him, howbeit, through a flood of tears. May God be with us all.

  106. Katie Derstine,

    Oh, Matt. My best friend. Who knew one body could hold so many tears? I took it for granted that we had a lifetime ahead of us, and now I am sick that I didn`t make more of the time we did have. You were an absolute joy and blessing in my life; a constant bright spot in my day. With you I knew, without doubt, that I could be myself and you would still love me. Our hours of laughter, our soul-searching and tearful talks, the countless songs we have sung together–I will hold these close to my heart forever. I know you are now singing with a much better choir, creating the most glorious sound you could never even have imagined, and that alone brings me joy during a time of great pain. One day we will meet again and share one of our famous hugs. Until then, Matt, know that I miss you and I love you.

  107. Jeff Boodie,

    Matt, Where should I begin? I was his CA freshman year in Oakwood and I can still remember Matt being the first one to get involved with Bible study. It brings tears to my eyes because I watched this young man grow up througout college and was with him through some difficult decisions. I’m going to miss you Matt. You were a bright young man, I can’t believe your gone. You had sooo much going for you and I’m torn as too why you had to go? I know you’re in a better place. Life has new meaning for me. My days will never ever be the same. Rest in peace Matt Garber. Rest in peace…..

  108. Roman Miller,

    Matt was a student in a couple of biology courses that I taught. I greatly appreciated his sharp intellect and inquisitive nature. His academic ability and keen insights enabled him to rank at the upper portions of the class. His caring and compassionate nature endeared him to many. I was challenged and inspired by his commitment to Christ. He was an excellent student and model. I trust he is rejoicing today in Paradise!

  109. Mackenzie Jones,

    I knew Matt first by his singing around the dorms my freshman year, and later through the nursing program. His 5-star smile captivated everyone he came in contact with. I am at loss in trying to reason why his life was cut short here on earth, but I know he is looking down from above and is understanding what we cannot. My prayers are with everyone who knew him, and especially with his family; may His perfect peace encompass you in your grief.

  110. Susan Grubb,

    I did not know Matt, but I have met his parents and extended family through my work and through my son’s involvement in baseball. God Bless You. My heart is heavy for all of you.

  111. Donna Garber,

    I will remember Matt fondly, even though I did not know him well. He would come smiling through the Wellness Suite door looking for information for a nursing project or music for a gathering. His contagious smile will be remembered by all who crossed paths with him because he wore it so often, so warmly, and shared it with so many. He was indeed a very special young man.

    Todd, Deb, Justin, Janelle, and Bradley I pray that God’s peace will bring you some comfort at this most difficult time.

    Wellness Suite Coordinator 04-07

  112. Dawn Ranck,

    I was blessed to supervise Matt when he did a summer internship at Plains Mennonite Church 2 years ago. Within a few weeks of his arrival Matt was one of us. He jumped in with both feet, relating easily to people of all ages — a 1-year-old girl fell in love with him and was always on the lookout for Matt.

    In his reflections about the summer experience Matt wrote, “I have learned many things this summer through my experiences and observations. First of all, coffee is a blessing from the Lord! :-) Second, I gained a better understanding of a pastor’s job.Pastoring is much more than preaching. Some aspects of a pastor’s job are appealing to me and some are not. (I also learned that this is ok. No pastor is gifted in everything.) Third, I learned that serving the church is something I love and something God has called me to do. Regardless of what career or vocation I end up doing, ministry will be a part of it.”

    Matt — your life was too short, yet impacted so many. We grieve your loss and we grieve the future ministry you would have had in the church that you loved so much.

  113. Lachelle Horst,

    I will miss you Matt. Thanks for the rides home during a difficult time in my life. I enjoyed our many conversations, especially about the Mennonite Church. I also enjoyed your crock pot suppers, thanks for sharing with me. I am particularly thankful for the first weekend I was at EMU. You called and invited me for curried lentils with rice eaten with chopsticks. I knew at that moment I was going to be OK with friends like you and your roommates. Thanks also for the Brian Reagan laughs. I wanted to hear about all that you had learned in Costa Rica. I am so proud of you for following God’s call there. Thanks for your friendship.

  114. Julia Disbrow,

    I first met Matt in the nursing department when I began level 1. He was immediately one of those upperclassman that a person looks up to simply because of their intelligence, kindness, and light. I am in complete disbelief that he is no longer with us on earth and while I can understand why the good lord would want his light in heaven, he will truly be missed as an amazing person and healer who would have undoubtedly saved and lightened the lives of those he would have cared for in Lancaster. You will be missed by all on earth, and loved by all above. RIP

  115. Marie S. Morris,

    I first learned to know Matt when he came to our home on Sunday evening of orientation weekend. I could tell from the start that he would make a difference on the EMU campus. I remember being impressed with how genuine he seemed to be – a young man of deep faith, eager to learn and explore the world, with compassion for others, and a bountiful sense of humor. As faculty and staff at EMU we have the opportunity to guide, influence, and mentor students over the course of their study. In turn, we are mentored and impacted by our students. We were privileged and immensely blessed to experience Matt as part of our learning community. I grieve that the world will now be robbed of that same experience. Matt was someone that was bound to bring healing and hope to our broken world. His passing is a huge loss. My prayers are with Matt’s family, friends, and the EMU community. As Matt’s deepest desire was to live a Christ-like life may his death serve to renew our own commitment to being a Christ-centered community of learning.

  116. Sylvia Hooley Meyer,

    I spent many hours around a cafeteria table with Matt during my first two years at EMU. The table he sat at was always crowded because we all knew there would be interesting conversation and laughter. Matt was never afraid to challenge people or speak out about what he believed, even at the risk of offending people. But, at the same time, he wasn’t afraid to express the gratitude and joy he found in life and the appreciation he had for EMU and the people around him.

    Matt was always so encouraging to me and thankful when I lead music at Celebration. As I lead worship in the future I will always remember him in the back with his hands raised, singing his heart out to God. And my only comfort is knowing that he is doing that very thing right now in a perfect place where tragedies like this will never happen.

  117. Linda Alley,

    I was the recipient of some of Matt’s leadership in Seminary chapels, and sometimes saw him around campus. I remember him as a positive, friendly person.

    As I read more about his life – which seemed to be packed full of good things – it made me wonder if there was a sense in which he did so much in such a short time BECAUSE he only had a short time. I doubt he knew that, but he certainly is an example of a life well lived – whatever the length.

    As another mother of EMU grads I especially send my sympathy to you – Matt’s mother – with prayers that you will always remember the impact your son had on the world. As long as someone remembers and smiles his influence continues to live.

  118. Heidi Witmer,

    Matt was my best friend. I haven’t read everything that’s been written here yet; but thank you for writing it. I think I can speak for his family when I say that they appreciate your prayers, thoughts, and love. Yesterday Matt’s dad said, “He wasn’t only our son.” Matt gave each of us a piece of himself.

  119. Jack Harbaugh,

    I am one who never knew Matthew. I am an acquaintance with Matthew’s father, Todd. Just from reading the articles about Matthew at EMU, I would say that he had a firm grasp on the hand of God, and held loosely to the things of this world. The fruits of his life, at his young age, have already given honor and glory to the One who created him. My prayers go out to Matthew’s family as they struggle with the question, why. May Matthew’s family find the same Peace in which Matthew now resides.Our hope is in the fact that we shall see Matthew again. 2 Samuel 12:23

  120. Keri Boshart,

    As a fellow nursing student of Matt, I was able to experience his many talents. Being a year ahead of me, he taught me many things and gave me advice that has helped me to grow and has fostered much of my learning. I am so grateful and so thankful to have had that opportunity to work with him in Nursing, music and piano. Matt was a wonderful person blessed by God and has touched many lives. I cannot express the emotions that I feel for his family and friends and all of the people who feel such great loss from his passing. He will forever be missed and forever loved and thought of. I am so thankful for my time to get to know you Matt, you’ve truely blessed my life in many ways.

  121. Greta Shenk,

    “Comfort ye,” he sang. “Comfort ye, my people.” There he stood, at the front of the stage in Lehman. All around him were musicians, family, friends, and he sang the words of Isaiah the Prophet with confidence and gentleness.

    I miss you my friend and critic, bright storyteller, debate partner, and brother. You stood upon the rock that cannot be shaken. Faith that lived, not to proclaim itself, but to proclaim God. An apostle’s faith, that cannot help but shine in the world. When you told me you knew you would go to heaven, I knew it too.

    God help me but I wish you’d just waited a little longer.

  122. Bill Seidle,

    I was not a great friend of Matt’s but did know him and interacted with him from time to time…words cannot even begin to express how much this earth is aching with the loss of Matt. His commitment to goodwill and education of himself and others in a genuinely holistic manner will remain unmatched. They say the good die young and with Matt’s passing we have unfortunately been given another example…R.I.P. Matt:)-

  123. Kevin Gasser,

    Matt was a part of the YPCA team that came to Staunton Mennonite my first year there and I was very thankful to have Matt as a part of the congregation. His musical talent was obvious. His personality was contagious. His faith was inspiring. I will miss Matt Garber.

  124. Mallory W.,

    While I was never very close to Matt I am not only shocked (and still in disbelief) but I am also sad. Matt was an amazing person with such a passion for music, God, and nursing among many other things. It didnt matter if Matt knew you or not he would do anything for anyone. Knowing that Matt was the CA on the guys side of the hall I knew that if I ever needed anything he would be there in a heartbeat. I will never forget his passion, personality, and his caring heart. My thoughts and prayers go out to Matt’s family and I wish you all the strength and support needed to get through the days and years to come. Your work, dedication and memory will always be with us and you touched many lives Matt; you will be missed. May you rest in peace.

  125. Emma Stahl-Wert,

    I barely knew Matt and yet I still cannot imagine a world where he is not striding around, laughing freely, and making sarcastic or just plain funny jokes. I know exactly what Sarah means about inconsequential conversations that are so much more important in retrospect.
    I’ll never forget the one evening Matt passed by David Showalter and I working on an Ethics paper for Dula. He sat right down and joined by Dave Gish proceeded to provide the best excuse for a study break, ever, by sharing hilarious emergency room stories with Dave. They had David and I almost falling out of our chairs in mirth for almost an hour!
    I know that I and many others mourn the loss of the laughter that Matt was so talented at spreading wherever he went.
    But for the laughter already shared, I am immensely grateful…Thank you Matt, and, well, bye, I guess

  126. Sarah Jones,

    Matt you brought with you an astounding presence whenever we passed. Your faith was admirable to say the least. I will not forget the conversations we shared — seemingly inconsequential at the time, now very impacting in hindsight. You will be missed dearly.

  127. MaryKate Serratelli,

    This is such a tragedy, although I didn’t know Matt well, being best friends and teammates with his sister Janelle, I learned what an amazing person he was and how many lives he touched. My deepest sympathy goes out to my dearest friend Janelle and the entire Garber family. Matt, I promise you I will help your sister through this and will always remind her you are watching over her. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  128. Jay B. Landis,

    I had the highest respect for Matt Garber. Campus Center 3rd striding to the nursing department, exuding the familiar friendliness; Matt at the piano in chapel; Matt leading the worshipful songs; Matt singing tenor in a quartet at a Park View Church hymn sing; Matt giving provocative speeches in speech class. Alfred Tennyson wrote his long poem IN MEMORIAM to honor his friend Arthur Hallam who drowned. We sing a few of the lines in #488 in the Hymnal/Worship Book: “Strong Son of God, immortal Love . . . Our wills are ours, we know not how–our wills are ours to make them thine. Our little systems have their day–they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of thee, and thou, O Lord, art more than they. We have but faith–we cannot know, for knowledge is of things we see, and yet we trust it comes from thee, a beam in darkness; let it grow. Let knowledge grow from more to more, but more of reverence in us dwell, that mind and soul, according well, may make one music as before (but stronger).” At Al Keim’s funeral on Tuesday, John Lapp wished for Al another decade. I wish for Matt a full life time. So needed.

  129. Cheyenne Sexton,

    Matthew Garber was one amazingly talented kid. His musical talent was just out of this world and his dedication to anything was encouraging to all. His death was such a tradegy and occured way to soon. His qualities are those that you would want every person to have. Matt had and used his talents to help the community around him. He was such a great person to work with on stage. He knew when to have fun and when to be serious. I know we all miss him greatly and I give all my prayers to his family. We love you Matt.

  130. Jonathan Bowman,

    Matt’s death is a tragedy. His dedication to Jesus Christ and his sensitivity to others combined in all too rare form. Every community of which he was a part grew in quality of character as a result. He had so much to offer his professional community, the world, and the Church. I grieve the loss of him, as I ache for the Resurrection. May his memory give us faithful courage.

  131. Jen Fulk,

    Matt was an awesome person who never seemed to meet a stranger!! I enjoyed getting to know Matt over the past years at EMU and will never forget how much fun we had joking around at graduation practice and during graduation. My thoughts and prayers are with Matt’s family as they go through this difficult time!!!! He will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him!!!

  132. Ben Butcher,

    As my CA in Roselawn, at the beginning of the year Matt and I had few things in common: male, like age, and both living in single-person rooms. Over the course of that year through my constant disruptive “let’s see what other people’s homework I can stop to have fun” mentality and Matt’s sincere and open commitment to engaging people of all types we became friends. And in many ways, Matt was the roommate I didn’t ask for, but was granted by magnificent grace.

    Matt, above all, you were a friend, even in the deepest Platonic realer sense: unfailing, present, and loving. I will live on with the memory and guidance of your example and friendship.

    Thank you,
    Ben

  133. Nate Yoder,

    The news articles being posted on the EMU website in light of Matt’s death highlight some of his many involvements. I add two more. As a faculty member at the seminary, I got to enjoy those times he was drawn in to assist with music and worship in seminary chapel. And in terms of his various congregational connections, there is also the Mount Clinton Mennonite Church where he attended the past year. His passionate faith, his playing of the piano, his leading of worship, his enthusiasm for life — so much to appreciate and now so much grieve.

  134. Patrick Reynolds,

    Immensely talented as a performer, he was also generous with praise and respect for his fellow artists, particularly with those for whom the art did not always come as easily. Many performers speak of a particular talent as a “gift,” but Matt used the term literally. For this ebullient child of God, singing and acting simply provided too many pleasures, challenges, and opportunities for his expertness to have come anywhere but from the his Creator. For this, Matt, always exquisitely balanced in equipoise between humility and self-confidence, was deeply grateful. In his passing the world is also robbed of his fiercely joyful devotion to being of worth. He wanted to serve, to create, to make things better, to ease pain. In times of trial, he worked. In sorrow, he comforted. In silence, he sang. In loneliness, he befriended. But mostly I’ll miss his smile. Matt’s smile could light up campus from a hundred yards away. Few took as much joy from the act of creating (or just being) as Matt. When we learned of his death today it made me think of an epitaph for Vitalis, a beloved medieval minstrel and mime:
    Always I laughed, for I thought, “If we cannot laugh and sing,
    What use is this silly old world, tired with its wondering?”

  135. Sharlene Schoenhardt,

    Matt was a wonderful person who lived, loved, and laughed to the fullest. He will be missed by those of us who knew him. I send out warm thoughts to his family in this time of grief. Know that your son touched many lives and enriched them.

  136. Alex Brodt,

    Matt was truly an asset to the EMU Community. His strong character, ability to make people laugh, and the example that he set for others will be missed.

  137. Andrea Wenger,

    Matt was a wonderful asset to the EMU community. We are so sad that he won’t have the opportunity to share his gifts with the world beyond his time here. We are inspired by the example he set for all of us and send our prayers out to his family and many friends. — On behalf of EMU’s Marketing and Communications department

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