Most of you know that our son, Matt Villines was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma (Kidney Cancer) in June 2014. It was a long two years for him and us, yet filled with so many blessings. We lost him on July 9th. He fought the best fight, doing everything right including a very strict diet which my beautiful and talented daughter-in-law Linda Tan Villines made possible for him. Matt and Linda married just 2-1/2 months before his diagnosis. She nurtured him and cared for him with such tender love and devotion. She is our angel.
Matt had an exciting and creative life, always following his dreams. He arrived in LA young and broke. Matt was a director for Saturday Night Live (SNL) for three years until the New York City winter of 2014 proved much too difficult for a person battling cancer. He finished the season and moved back to Los Angeles in summer 2015. He was part of the directing duo know as Matt and Oz. Oz (Osmany) Rodriguez and Matt met while at the LA Film School, which they graduated in 2003. They have been business partners since. Oz is still at SNL and has been the most wonderful friend to Matt and to our family. Before SNL, Matt and Oz worked for Funny or Die and before that Super Deluxe.
We have had many blessings among the illness and overwhelming sadness. The biggest blessing, besides Linda, was Matt’s refusal to give up or give in. He carried us through on his shoulders, always smiling and upbeat, always reminding that giving up was not an option. He wanted smiling faces around him. Another was his ability to continue to work through while enduring vile treatment periods. He took both traditional treatments and alternative but by the time he was diagnosed his cancer was in an advanced state. He did two additional SNL shows after moving back to Los Angeles, one of which was the SNL 40th anniversary show. He loved the cast and crew at SNL and I believe they loved him back. The amazing people at Caviar Content, an international ad agency, kept the offers to direct commercials coming. When he could accept a job, it was a victory — a wonderful thing. Being able to work throughout periods of the two years was an amazing blessing but the best blessings were his friends who rallied around, and were always there for support, encouragement and love.
Although his last day was not expected so soon, dear friends were gathered around him on that last day. Strong men reached out and touched him and said “Matt we love you.” Josh Martin and his sweet wife Mandy drove to San Diego to bring him back to LA after treatments in a vehicle that made the drive more comfortable for him provided by Caviar Content. Luis Sanchez, Sean Boyle and David Neher, an Oklahoma boy, and his wife Marissa who took him to numerous doctor appointments, as did Josh and Mandy Martin, and David Neher, and Jenny Pierson of David and Ginny Comedy Sketches for Matt & Oz and David’s production company, Honor Student. Until the end these incredible men and women stayed with us and played his favorite playlists, put his fav movies on the TV, and whispered encouragement to him. In the darkest moments he knew they were there. Some of these men gave up their time to drive him to doctor appointments, to the hospital, giving Linda a chance to take care of necessary business. She never left him alone in the last few weeks.
Caviar Content helped us with an apartment in New York City when Matt had surgery, and helped in so many ways. Mr. SNL, Lorne Michaels, was supportive, generous, and caring including giving us a referral to an oncologist in the City and offering encouragement.
We never plan to bury our children but our lives didn’t go as we planned, and we are only one family among many. I want to share some photos and I’ll have more in the future. The first above is Matt’s online profile pic courtesy of Oz. Matt’s tagline on this pic was “There is absolutely no photoshopping in this photo.”
For 37 years before his diagnosis, we never expected to live a single day without our son, but here we are, so blessed to have had him for 39 years. He and I shared a love for books and movies. He was my go-to-guy when I finished a book and needed a recommendation. We talked for hours about books and movies and Game of Thrones and Apple products, and when Oklahoma University (his alma mater) was playing football, he and his dad were on the phone for much of the game. For a number of years, he always came back to Tulsa each October to be with his Dad when OU played Texas U.
His longtime Tulsa friends Matt Vandaveer, Blaine Nelson, Tony Romanello, Jay Jegethesan, Ryan Hendrix and so many others kept in constant contact. And his childhood friend, Dr. Aaron Kallsnick and his parents Judge Richard Kallsnick and Fran Kallsnick, were an important part of his life. Also in Tulsa, his aunt Nema Book who never stopped praying, cousins, Brett Book and Coni Book, Holly and Pete Edwards, Heather and Mike Horton and Hanna Hubbs, Connie and Jeff Cope, and Mike and Linda Hilsabeck, and Aunt Donna and Uncle Tom Reed who recently relocated to Tulsa and prayed so faithfully, as did so many we didn’t know personally. Uncle David Hubbs and Aunt Rachel Hubbs of Bradenton, FL, Uncle Don Hubbs and Aunt Sheryl Hubbs of Mustang, OK. and cousins Dr. and Mrs. Kim and K.C. Lewis of Grand Junction, Colorado who kept the prayers flowing. I’m sure I’ve left someone out.
Matt’s sisters Renae Ost and Audrey Villines of Kansas City, KS and one of our two granddaughters, Chloe Sherkat were with Matt at the end, or Chapter 2 as Matt and Linda referred to the future. We were a family blessed to spend quality time with each other over the years. Renae and Audrey, Chloe and Katie were precious to him, along with our fine son-in-law Jeff Ost.
God blessed us with Matt in our lives and we are so very grateful and grateful that he is no longer suffering. Every mother believes their son was the sweetest boy and the finest man, ever. I know mine was. RIP dear one.
Update: Matt donated his body to the UCLA cancer research program. He has always loved sharks. His ashes will be sprinkled over the Pacific ocean. He will finally get to swim with the sharks.