Skip to content

All Stories End

Usually I celebrate the solstice. But my good friend Matt Gray died yesterday. While I very much want to celebrate him, I’m still reeling. Last week I was able to join a Zoom with Matt, to tell him how much I loved him and how much his friendship meant to me. Matt said he loved me too. One of the perks of working from home is I can cry at my desk without anyone noticing.

In March of 2005, I was married to a very nice man but we were struggling (it was a short-lived marriage). We’d both been laid off from high-paying tech jobs and were working lower-paying part-time jobs to get by. He’d taken a job at UPS for the health insurance so I could focus on getting my son the help he needed. At that time, my kid was in early childhood special ed and regularly seeing speech and occupational therapists. I hadn’t planned to return to full-time work just yet but an opportunity came up. A friend was working for a little startup called Clockwork. Taking that job changed the course of my life. My experiences there weren’t perfect. My people-pleasing tendencies were still out of control and I was clueless about boundaries. That would come later, with therapy. But my time at Clockwork provided many incredible experiences, the autonomy and flexibility I desperately needed as a single parent of an autistic kid, and a group of amazing folks. Many of whom are still close friends / chosen family.

On day one at Clockwork, in March of 2005, I met the amazing Matt Gray. We hit it off immediately (and worked together until 2015). Which was great, because we were sharing a smallish cubicle with our pal Marty. We called it the bullpen. At that time, Clockwork consisted of the four owners, five of us employees, and an intern. Over my decade with Clockwork, the company grew and so did we. Matt was a brilliant, thoughtful, enthusiastic, and kind young man. I had the honor of watching him mature into a wonderfully compassionate leader. And husband and father. The first time I met Carrie, the amazing woman he would marry, we went to see Andrew Bird at the Fine Line. We had seats in the balcony and dinner was involved. At one point Carrie intentionally flung some pasta over the railing to see what would happen. I had a laughing fit. I loved her instantly and gave them my blessing. Prior to that, Matt had been anxious about dating and worried he wouldn’t find the right partner. But he sure did.

There are too many wonderful memories but some highlights:

  • A group of us from Clockwork attended Pillow Fight Club in NE Minneapolis. I will always treasure the memories of Matt gleefully pillow fighting outdoors with my then six year-old.
  • When Clockwork took us on a surprise trip to the State Fair, Matt captured a shot of me standing next to the board ensuring I was tall enough to ride the rides. Just barely!
  • Matt and I shared a love of photography. We were constantly pointing our cameras at each other and everything around us. We went through a Polaroid-taking phase. We also co-ran the Twin Cities Flickr Group and organized a number of photo walks. At Como Park, in Lowertown, around the Stone Arch Bridge, at night in Dinkytown, and more. Flickr was a robust social media platform long before Facebook, twitter, etc. We shared so much community in the comments in those days.
  • Somehow we were offered the opportunity to take photos on the opening night of Edward Scissorhands at The Ordway. I invited along Matt and another photographer friend. We were allowed to snap off photos, sans flash, during the first thirty minutes of the performance. It was beautiful. The sets, the costumes, the dancers, the music. Absolutely perfect.
  • We enjoyed going out to view other artists’ photography. One notable evening we saw the work of Diane Arbus at The Walker, thanks to our friend Craig.
  • For a time, in 2005, Clockwork had me working on-site for one of our clients FT. It was a strange, lonely experience on a dysfunctional team. I even had a miscarriage on-site one day. Matt knew how isolated I felt over the six months I was stationed there. He did everything he could to lift my spirits. He hacked a sneaky solution that allowed me to reach Clockwork’s network to stay connected with my teammates. And he arranged a weekly lunch meetup and gave it an acronym I can no longer remember but it involved the words Sharyn and lunch and conspiracy.
  • One day there was some experimentation with dry ice in the kitchen sink. Another day, we melted some hard drives in the backyard with thermite.
  • Halloween is my favorite holiday and was always a big deal at Clockwork. Matt dressed up as a zombie a few times. And captured this shot of my “Hard Luck Wonder Woman.” Oof.

The rest is a happy blur. Matt had a love of unicorns. We enjoyed many board game nights and meals around the kitchen table. We saw Matt expand his incredibly limited, bland palate to an adventurous one. Though he always remained pizza-obsessed. We watched Apple keynotes and trailers together and went to movies as a group. There was so much knowledge sharing on a daily basis and on our Lab Days and at our annual Unconference and at Coder Dojo. We got dressed up for Clockwork parties and to celebrate our colleagues’ weddings. Matt was a constant throughout all of it for my decade at Clockwork. After his diagnosis, I’m so glad I spent many lovely evenings hanging out on his front lawn, catching up with our friends. But I’d hoped for more of those. There’s never enough time with the ones we love.

Matt Gray, nerding out
Matt, nerding out

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *