2004. That was the year that I first became any semblance of a writer. In the 15-16 years that have passed since that time, I have written in many different publications and about many different subject matters. I first began writing as a way for a shy guy to spread a message – to make himself known. To get noticed. While the latter two points were of importance to me at the time, the real reason I was writing – and the reason why I write to this day – is the first point. Spreading a message. Putting into words what may not be said in a forum otherwise.
For me, my first real message was about disability awareness and advocacy. Many who are reading this are aware of my family situation and the special, unbreakable bond that my brother and I have along with the circumstances that forged that bond. After my initial venture into writing in 2004 – which I will explain in a minute – I became a writer for a my high school newspaper, The Hawk’s Claw. At the time, I was a the Sports Editor, but I would occasionally cross into other subject matters. Disability awareness was the first. I have covered this in a prior article posting, but my first serious writing – aside from the fiction stories that you write for assignment in elementary school – was about stopping the use of the word “retard” as used in a derogatory manner. This was before the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign that would take off a few years later. While unrefined and a tough write, my messaging worked for the most part. I had used the power of words and rhetoric to make stand for what was right, not what was popular.
I have written many times about the power of words, of expression and of communication. As alluded to at the start of this article, I discovered that power in 2004. This revelation came about as a mixture of research and from a personal event. The research came from spending time in the school library. The event was the death of my pet cat. The reason that I keep mentioning 2004 is that it was June 2004 that my beloved cat died from feline leukemia. When we buried Kitty in the back yard, I read a eulogy that I had written. If you cracked a smile at that last sentence, I can’t say that I blame you. Who writes a eulogy for a pet cat? Me, apparently.
Well, this eulogy was more than a eulogy, looking back on it. It was when I discovered and applied a lesson I had learned from that school library – the power of words, thoughts and communication. Remember that last word – communication.
Much of my library studying came during art class in early high school. While it may surprise some who know me now, I was actually a lousy student until part way through high school. I wasn’t lazy, I was just…lost…indifferent at times, I guess is one way to put it. Sports is what I cared about and I lived and breathed sports – especially baseball. I could break down a baseball swing and relate it to Ted Williams Science of Hitting and I could tell you the batting average of Napoleon Lajoie from 1901 in Major League Baseball (.426 on the odd chance that you were wondering) but I wasn’t great at school work. I certainly wasn’t much of an artist, though my art teacher didn’t see it that way.
Somehow, I would manage to talk my way out of my art lessons to go to the library the next room over. I would sit and I would read. A book here about Jim Abbott, a one armed Major League Baseball pitcher, a book there about military strategy in World War II or about the history of NASA. One day, I picked up a book about Ronald Reagan and started reading. Political affiliation didn’t matter as I read about a public servant. I read about an actor turned public servant who was called “The Great Communicator” – see there’s that word – and suddenly it clicked. Words = Knowledge = Power. I was fascinated. That summer, my cat died. Though it felt silly, I decided to harness the power of my emotions through writing a eulogy for my cat.
From there, I kept on writing. After high school, I wrote for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the college newspaper of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. I wrote guest columns for local newspapers and started writing lyrics and poetry, self-publishing a I went along. And I am still writing. But it all started in 2004 with a eulogy to a cat and lesson from a Ronald Reagan book. Who writes a eulogy for a cat? Me. And here it is below:
Kitty Eulogy – June 2004
Matt Kushi – Read and written
Today, we lost a great and beloved family member in our cat, Kitty. We will never forget you, Kitty. You were part of a family. Not just any ordinary family, but our family. You were as much of a family member as anyone else in the family. We will never forget what you meant to us or what you did for us. You comforted us when we needed comfort and you were always helping us out by having a good and friendly behavior. We will always remember you for who you were, not your tragic ending. We will remember all of the great times we shared over the course of 8 ½ years. As your death has come on, I have realized that life goes on. We must grieve and move on as it is the process of life. You would have wanted us to be happy and carefree such as the attitude that you brought along to us. Thus ends a journey of life that began on November 26, 1996 as a tiny baby that defied the odds in surviving such a small birth size and ended here on June 14, 2004. May God open up the arms of his Kingdom to receive you. You will always be missed and you will always be a part of our family as Butterball and Inki are.
Your loving family,