What Others Have Said About Matt

From: Peter Coombs
Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2009
To: Pamela Cameron

Hi Pam,

I met Matt when he came to join my Peace Corps training group in Mali in November of 2005.  We were in the same training village, so I got to know him before we were sent out to our sites.  A number of times, we sat in one of our huts at the training center, or in the cafeteria, and would play our guitars and harmonicas.  We both liked Bob Dylan and Dan Bern.  Most of the time, though, we would make up songs.  One, I can remember, was called "Dinosaur."  Another was called "Brown."  The lyrics didn't make sense, I can remember, but we and everyone else there had so many laughs during these jam sessions.  Matt was someone who everyone wanted to be around, because he was such a positive person and had such a great sense of humor.  I remember that on his first day of language training in Mali, he learned how to make jokes about farts and big butts, and he had a bunch of villagers in tears laughing even though he only knew a few words of Bambara.  He really knew how to make someone laugh, I think because he really had a gift for understanding people, even after knowing them for only a short time.  He had a lot of empathy, and I think that's why he loved his time in the Peace Corps.  I always looked forward to seeing Matt when I came back into Bamako.  One night, when we were out having some beers at a Bamako restaurant, we convinced the band that was playing to let us play their instruments at the end of their set.  Matt and Justin and I played a few songs on their guitars, with their drummer backing us up in front of a crowd of Malians, Peace Corps volunteers, and expats.  I think everyone there loved it – I know Matt did.  We played Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen and Matt played a solo during the bridge.  One of my favorite memories of Matt, looking back, is when we were playing our guitars in the hut at the training center.  He asked me, "Do you want to learn a really cool song?"  I said, "Sure."  He taught me how to play Soulshine by the Allman Brothers.  I attached the lyrics of the song for you.  I think of this song whenever I think of Matt.  The lyrics are really fitting.  Matt was the kind of guy who really let his soul shine.  I still get choked up when I think of Matt – he left us way too soon – but the other part of the song is letting your soul shine when you're sad or down – so when I get sad thinking of Matt, it picks me up a little bit, too.  I can't think of a better way of remembering Matt than with a concert.  When I think of him, I always think of him playing music, and I think it's really perfect that we're playing a little music for him.  I won't be able to make it to the concert again this year, but hope to in the future and hope to meet you someday, too.

All the best,

Pete Coombs

Soulshine – Allman Brothers Band

When you can't find the light,
That got you through the cloudy days,
When the stars ain't shinin' bright,
You feel like you've lost your way,
When those candle lights of home,
Burn so very far away,
Well you got to let your soul shine,
Just like my daddy used to say.

[chorus]
He used to say soulshine,
Its better than sunshine,
Its better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Hey now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometime,
Got to let your soul shine, shine till the break of day.

I grew up thinkin that I had it made,
Gonna make it on my own.
Life can take the strongest man,
Make him feel so alone.
Now and then I feel a cold wind,
Blowin' through my achin' bones,
I think back to what my daddy said,
He said boy, in the darkness before the dawn:

[chorus]
Let your soul shine,
It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Yeah now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometimes,
Gotta let your soul shine, shine till the break of day.

Sometimes a man can feel this emptiness,
Like a woman has robbed him of his very soul.
A woman too, God knows, she can feel like this.
And when your world seems cold, you got to let your spirit take control.

[chorus]
Let your soul shine,
It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Lord now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometimes,
Gotta let your soul shine, shine till the break of day.

Oh, it's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine,
Damn sure better than rain.
Yeah now people don't mind,
We all get this way sometimes,
Gotta let your soul shine, shine till the break of day.

From: Rebecca Musarra
Sent: Fri 7/31/2009
To: Pamela Cameron
Subject: A few thoughts from an RPCV

Hi Pam,

We met at Matt's funeral and then again when you came to Peace Corps headquarters a year later.  I served with Matt in Chad from 2003-2005.  He was such a wonderful guy (as you, of course, know).

Matt died during my first semester of law school, and it was then that I learned he was planning on applying to law school himself, to work on human rights law.  Over the last three years, I have often thought about him.  Remembering his humor, kindness, and energy brought me real joy when I was working long nights in the library.  Keeping in mind how blessed I am to have had him as a friend, and how lucky I was to be able to go to law school in the first place gave me a sense of perspective I think some of my law school colleagues lacked during those three intense years.  Matt really was an inspiration to so many of us Peace Corps Volunteers – he was the real deal.  As a student, I kept that in mind, and I too tried to work to be the best that I could be, working with joy, an open mind, and a sense of obligation to help others.

You should know that, when us Chad RPCVs who are in D.C. get together (which isn't often enough because of crazy schedules), we invariably talk about Matt.  Sometimes we talk about how much we miss him, but we always talk about the funny stories he was involved in, his sense of adventure, and his persistent optimism. 

I was angry for quite a while after Matt died.  I just didn't understand, and I guess I still don't, how it can be that someone so full of life would die so young.  And I didn't want to accept it, because I didn't think I should accept something so unfair.  In calmer days, though, I know that he accomplished so much more in the short life he had than most people would dream to accomplish in many life times.  How many people did he make laugh?  How many songs did he play? How many children did he inspire in two different countries?  All the things he saw, the sandunes he climbed, the friends he made.  And I am just referring to his Peace Corps service!  There was so much that came before…  What a life, crammed into such a short period of time, with such meaning and significance.  His legacy to me, and to others, is a long to-do list of what we should accomplish in our lifetimes to achieve even some of Matt's impact.

I remember one night in training we were all gathered around, and I had put up a tent and was resting in it to escape from the mosquitos and he improvised a hilarious song, using my name, Reba (a nickname which Lisa had given me), and I wish I could remember the words, but I just it made us all crack up.  …. I am glad I have these memories, and I'll hold fast to them, because they bring me such happiness sometimes.

I graduated in May.  Two days ago, I sat for the NY bar exam, and I wore my Music for Matt t-shirt.  It gave me a sense of peace in a sea of crazed law grads.

I hope, as Matt did, to work in international human rights law someday.  I just want you to know how much he still means to me, and to all of us RPCVs.

Best,
Reba

 

Name:  Will McClain
Date:  18 Apr 2010

I was great friends with Matt Costa during freshman and sophomore years at Tulane University.  I had come from a small town in north Texas and Matt taught me a lot about seeing people and the world in different ways.  We lived on the same dorm floor freshman year and I recall hearing his guitar strumming anytime I walked the halls.  Matt was full of ideas and he always acted on them.  He was full of wit, humor, humility, compassion, intelligence and, most of all, love.  I heard a Bob Dylan song tonight and it made me think to search for Matt on the Internet because I had lost touch with him after I transferred from Tulane back to Texas.  I am heartbroken to learn of Matt's death, but I am not surprised to see that he has changed lives in such an extraordinary way.  Matt performed at the cafe on Tulane's campus shortly before I moved home.  His picture was in Tulane's newspaper and I had him sign it as a joke.  Now it will be a prized possession!  Long live Mo' 9!