The sudden death of a well-known 18-year-old on April 18 left members of the community of DeLand grieving once again, and his mother struggling not only with a tremendous personal loss, but the pain of publicity about her son’s death.
Matthew Buth died after leaping from the Beville Road overpass into traffic on Interstate 95 in Daytona Beach, after leaving the home of his girlfriend where an argument had turned violent. The incident and his death, his mother said, must not be allowed to overshadow Buth’s life.
“I just want him to be remembered for who he truly was,” Mary Buth said. “Anyone who knows him knows what a loving, genuine, and caring soul he was.”
The supportive response from the community — a Facebook fundraiser raised more than $10,000 for funeral costs in less than 24 hours — validates her statement.
“The outpouring — I cannot believe — the outpouring of love and support from the community,” Mary Buth said.
Matthew Buth was an employee at The Table Restaurant in DeLand, and was an active participant in DeLand’s music scene.
Friends and family have shared stories of his generous and giving nature, his mother said.
“Oh, I’m hearing new stories by the boatload. But that was typical Matthew,” Mary Buth said. “He was such a kind, gentle person. A healer, a nurturer, and very patient. If he was trying to learn a new guitar riff, he would sit there and practice over and over until he got it. If anyone needed help, he was there.”
Attending Easter service April 21 at Collective DeLand was a healing process, Mary said.
“The message of Easter Sunday is one of resurrection, of course. And hearing about Mary’s son giving his life, the sacrifice of Mary’s son, it hit me a little hard at first. Then we’re sitting in front of all this beautiful food and [Collective Pastor] Ben Collins said something to me — and this is really important. He said, that tomato had to die to nourish your body. That chicken had to die; that lime that’s a garnish in the drink had to die so you could live. Life and death are not opposites — life and death are yin and yang. They work together; they need each other. Death is necessary for new growth.
“His life here on Earth has ended but his energy is going somewhere else to nourish that place. He is needed elsewhere.”
After Matthew’s death, DeLand High School Principal Melissa Carr presented Mary Buth with his graduation tassel, Buth said.
“Because they know how hard he was working toward graduating,” Mary Buth said.
Ross Cawthon, assistant band director at DeLand High School, knew Buth well.
“It was certainly a complete shock,” he said. “Sometimes, when things like this happen, you kind of see people who might be at risk, and I never would have assumed he would have been that way, just by knowing him. He was always a very upbeat person, and in a very sincere way. You never thought he was putting up a facade.”
Cawthon said Buth was known throughout the school as a friendly, caring person with a larger-than-life personality.
“It’s interesting, talking to the students — we’ve obviously had a lot of discussions — a lot of people, if they didn’t know him, they knew who he was, for very good reasons. He had a big personality, and you always felt like he was in the spotlight, but you always felt like you were kind of there with him,” Cawthon said.
The school is taking it day-by-day in dealing with Buth’s death.
“Everybody kind of is trying to do the best for the students,” Cawthon said.
Buth played tenor sax in band, Cawthon said, but he also played guitar and bass guitar. He remembered Buth as a talented musician who participated in marching band and jazz band, and as someone who took an interest in how the people around him were doing.
“He took care of the people around him, whether they were a kid or an adult,” Cawthon said.
In the aftermath of Buth’s death, Cawthon encourages students and others going through difficult times to not be afraid to ask for help.
“I think the first thing is to encourage people to talk about these things,” Cawthon said. “If there’s some kind of thing you’re dealing with, or your friend is, it’s OK to talk and ask for help and ask for advice.”
Making it more normal for people to speak up about things they are going through could help save lives in the future, he added.
A GoFundMe created by David Buth, Matthew’s father, is intended to establish a scholarship program for DeLand High School Marching Bulldogs members in need of financial assistance to defer the cost of band dues.
“He was a four-year member of the Bulldogs band. It was certainly a big part of his life. And to continue his memory, what better way than to establish a scholarship?” David Buth said.
Mary Buth wants to assure the community that it’s rough, but she is OK. She repeated Collins’ comforting words — that Matthew was needed elsewhere.
“I’ll know that someday,” she said. “I don’t know that right now. Right now, I miss him and want to hold him.”
The Beacon spoke with Allison Bankston of New Beginnings Counseling and Wellness Center in DeLand to learn more about suicide and how to prevent it.
Q: What are some of the signs a teenager might be at risk of suicide? What should a person’s family and friends look out for?
A: Identifying whether someone is actively suicidal can be tricky depending on the individual. One of the biggest warning signs is a sudden change in behavior. Some of these behaviors may include: talking about wanting to die, talking about or looking for a way to kill oneself, having a plan to kill oneself, searching for ways to end one’s life, talking about feeling hopeless, talking about being a burden to others, talking of feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, alcohol and drug use, or other reckless behaviors, withdrawing or feeling isolated (from activities, family, and/or friends), showing rage or talking about seeking revenge, displaying extreme mood swings, sleeping too much or too little, giving away prized possessions.
Suicide warning signs vary per person and are not limited to those on this list.
Q: If someone thinks a friend of theirs is seriously considering suicide, what should they do to help?
A: Reach out! Assume you are the only one that has noticed something seems wrong, and talk to them. Do not wait for someone else to do it.
Talk to them privately, and check in on them. Listen to their story, and ask them directly if they are considering suicide. (Asking about suicide will not put the idea in their head if they were not already thinking about it.)
Encourage them to seek treatment, reach out to their doctor or therapist. Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problem or giving advice. If they refuse to reach out and seek help, and you are worried they will commit suicide, call 911.
Q: What can family, friends and society as a whole do to help support kids who are going through a tough time before they get to the point of considering suicide?
A: The biggest support for kids is openly talking about mental health. Not just mental-health problems, but mental wellness, the stress of being a teenager, adjustment to life changes, day-to-day life; it’s all relevant.
By normalizing conversations about mental-health issues like anxiety, depression, adjustment issues, etc., we send the message that, one, it’s OK to talk about these things; two, a lot of people feel this way; and three, there are resources out there to help. When we readily talk about how a person’s day is, what was good and what they struggled with, we have the ability to identify issues and find a way to address them before they become major problems and potential suicide factors.
Q: What are some things that can help friends and family grieve a lost loved one?
A: When tragedy does strike, it affects the entire community. The best thing you can do is reach out to someone whom you know is grieving. If they want to be alone at that time, they usually will not respond, and that’s OK; they will reach back out to you if and when they are ready.
Grief affects everyone differently. Some people want to be surrounded by friends and family; others need some time to themselves.
– Bankston is a state-registered mental-health-counselor intern.