My Cousin

David Matthew Merrill November 22, 1977 - November 30, 2013

David Matthew Merrill
November 22, 1977 – November 30, 2013

I was not sure if I wanted to write about this, but as I lay restless last night I realized there was no other way to get all the images out of my mind. To somehow make peace with the fact that the aorta was ripped right through the center of two families beginning September 26, 2012 and ending in a motel room on November 30, 2013.

The futures these two families had imagined for themselves were forever altered.  The living are left to deal with the aftermath.

My cousin died yesterday.  I will spare the details here, mainly because I do not know them all for certain, and if you want to know more you can just Google his name.  It’s all out there, and if you live in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, you have undoubtedly heard the story.

There are several versions to the story, but from where I am sitting they all wreak havoc and end badly, so I choose to focus on the moments that were real; unaltered with substance abuse.  Those moments I had with my cousin I want to remember.

His ending was not one that would garner much sympathy, but I know he had a family that loved him in spite of himself.  When not many kind words will be written, I want to make sure there is one place that remembers the David Matthew before the drugs.  Before the gun.  Before the chaos.

To me, the story on the internet reads like a bad episode of Homicide: Life On the Street.

How could this be my family?

My desire today is to remember my cousin, not only for myself — but my family; his children.

The meth addict who shot himself in a motel room.  I actually did not know that guy, so there is not much I can say about him.  I did not love him.  In fact, I would go so far as to say I hated that guy and all he had done.  That guy was not anyone I would know or socialize with — and hadn’t since July of 2011.

But that guy in the picture with me on my wedding day (August 12, 2007) — I would hang out with that guy any day of the week.

That guy I loved.  That is the guy I want to remember.

Life is about choices and it’s fair to say my cousin did not make great ones, especially over the past several years.  I’ve always hated drugs, and though I never imagined it could end like this for my family — I knew all too well how their devil-like grip could overtake a person; rendering them unrecognizable to those who loved them.  This was the case with my cousin.

My David Matthew was unrecognizable to me as I scanned the stories on the internet.

He was born two days before Thanksgiving in 1977 and left the world two days after Thanksgiving in 2013.

I remember the day he was born.  I was eight.  I was hoping he would be a girl.  I already had a boy cousin — and being an only child myself — I was ready for a girl.

This was his first Easter.

Terry Merrill Wilcox, David Matthew Merrill and Tommy  Easter 1978

Me, David Matthew and Tommy
Easter 1978

I quickly got over the fact that he was not a girl and fell in love with him.

There were five of us.  Five cousins.  I loved them all like they were my little brothers and sisters because I had none.  I still do, even though distance and life keeps us apart most of the time.

David Matthew Merrill, Terry Merrill Wilcox, Lesley, Tommy and Jenny Lea

Tommy, Me, Lesley, David Matthew and Jenny Lea

The David Matthew I knew was sweet.  He was smart.  He was thoughtful.  He was loving.

He was a great cook.

We both loved Dr. Pepper and milk (not together).

We both loved The Avett Brothers.

We loved to laugh about our family together.

He was freaking hilarious.

Before the drugs, he would call and we would talk for sometimes hours about everything and nothing.  I could always talk to him and always wanted to.  There is a story about our grandfather and a tamale that still makes me laugh out loud when I think about the first time he told it.  He was always making me laugh out loud.  He got that from his father.

I was with him the first time he saw the ocean.  It was in 2010 when we went to San Diego to see TCU play in the Poinsettia Bowl.  They won.

David Matthew Merrill and Terry Merrill Wilcox December 2010

David Matthew and Me
December 2010

After our trip, David had expressed how he loved my husband’s top-siders.  Jonathan bought him a pair and had them mailed to his house.  David wrote the most beautiful thank you note.  I’m glad we still have it.

The sweet guy I loved and remember was in that thank you note.  When I read it I can hear his voice.  I can feel his hug.  I can hear him telling me that he loves me.  He did.

There was a part of him that always wanted to please me.  Always wanted me to be impressed with him.

We went to an Avett Brothers concert at Red Rocks in July of 2011.  The drugs had already crept into his life, so the visit was not a great one, in fact it was awkward.  But he loved the Avett Brothers from that night on.  He could not wait to get home and introduce the band to his wife.  For a brief moment that night, he was there with me.  He went and bought us all food and drinks.  He knew I was irritated with him and he wanted to make it up to me.

The last time I talked to him was over the summer while I was pregnant with the Dumplings.  We talked about the Avett Brothers new album.  There was little else to talk about.  His favorite song off the new album was ironically, Life.

I hope — as everyone in my family wades through this nightmare — we can each look back and find the pieces of David Matthew that were awesome.

There were many pieces of him that were.  Too many to write about here.

Those moments when he was there.  He loved his kids fiercely.  He loved his parents, his grandparents, his sister, his nieces and nephews.  He loved his family.  He wanted to be just like his Uncle Roy.

I want to remember this sweet boy.  The boy and the man I looked forward to hanging out with every time I came home.

David Matthew Merrill and Terry Merrill Wilcox

David Matthew and Me

The little boy I used to love to babysit.

The little boy that hated Santa Claus.

David Matthew Merrill and Terry Merrill Wilcox Christmas 1979

Christmas 1979

Oh, David Matthew.  I love you.  I will miss you.

But I will remember the good times and the sweet moments.

Those are the ones I will carry with me.

Love, Terry

*** UPDATE *** My cousin’s liver was a match for his step-Mom’s sister, Loretta.  This is something good to come out of all of this, as she has been on a liver transplant list for some time.  I am not sure if any of his other organs helped anyone, but I do know his liver helped someone he loved.  David would be happy about that.



  1. thanks tootles I think we all needed this love you. Aunt Paula

  2. Marilyn Elia says:

    Thank you for remembering the real David Mathew. I didn’t know him, but through your writing, I think I would have liked him too! And I know he would have made me laugh. Peace be with him.

  3. Bridget merrill says:

    Thank you toots

    • Terrilox Terrilox says:

      So grateful his liver is a match for Loretta. Your sister is getting a great gift out of this nightmare — and for that I am happy. Happy tears of pain, so to speak. He would have wanted that, I am certain. Love you so much!

  4. Linda Lee says:

    Terry – When I saw the report in the paper, I was hoping it was not your cousin. Sadly, I now know it was. Your response to this tragedy is so heartfelt – I hope it brings you some peace to know that you have given him a tribute that few would offer. Hold on to his memory as we hold on to you. We love you. – Linda

  5. Roy Merrill says:

    Thanks T, That’s the nephew I want to remember as well. I didn’t know or understand the other one. I know his boys will be fine and come to remember the good and no longer worry about the present. It will take some time, but we will all be there for them. Love, Daddy

  6. At this moment in time, all I can say a beautiful trubute to the “real” David we once knew. Love, Sandy

  7. Becca Pafford says:

    I will also remember the old David. The funny and outgoing one. His smile always lite up tge room.

    Praying for the family.

  8. Melissa Spraul says:

    That was a beautiful tribute. People don’t think about “the other side of the story” when they hear about things like this happening. I know the people that knew and loved him will appreciate this.

    • Terrilox Terrilox says:

      Thanks, Melissa. I wrote it as my own private (yet public) closure. My own way of making sense of this horrible tragedy — but also because now I have lived the other side, and watched my family live it. The side that garners no sympathy in the media (and in all honesty, if it were not my family, I have no idea what I would think just reading the story) — I wanted to give the other side some perspective and my cousin a face beyond the shell he became.

  9. John Cox says:

    Thank you Terry. That was the little David I remember and I will always remember him that way. Breaks my heart and I love him and will miss him.

  10. cody west says:

    beautifully written. I know there are different sides to every person, and every story. nice to see this side of him, and keep in our memories.

  11. Lynda Blakely says:

    Beautiful tribute Terry, your thoughts and the sweet pictures made me cry. We all
    loved him and will miss him so much. There are so many more wonderful memories and shared moments we clung to and always cherish in the days ahead

    • Terrilox Terrilox says:

      Oh, Lynda — thank you. There are many wonderful memories and I know you and your family have them as well. I wrote this to keep that David alive for myself and others that loved and knew him.

  12. Cindy says:

    David and I worked together years ago. I was actually the manager that hired him with Staples for a computer tech. He was hard working, friendly and kind. He had a great smile and a good sense of humor. I was saddened to hear of his passing and all of the strife that he and his family have gone through. My prayers are with you all.

    • Terrilox Terrilox says:

      Thank you, Cindy. I remember when he got that job at Staples. He loved that job and was so proud of it, as I think it was the first one he had either while he was finishing or after he finished getting his degree. I appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers.

  13. David Atkinson says:

    Terri, I got your blog post virally. I do not know you or your family but I am very moved by your writing. God bless you all in such a hard time. I have been around this kind of situation before and I have seen the helplessness of the loved ones who have “tried everything”. It makes me wonder what might have happened if your cousin had read this blog years ago. Maybe nothing, but your words and memories and your desire to hold onto the good things, so beautifully expressed – might just be enough to cut through my addiction and kick me into rehab.

    • Terrilox Terrilox says:

      Thank you, David. I appreciate your kind words and thoughts. Oh, if a blog could have turned him around, I would have written 100s of them professing how much I cared about him. But one thing that struck me in your comment … sometimes we wait to say our most profound protestations of love and caring towards the ones we love for the aftermath and not so much during the storm of life.

  14. Jenny Lea says:

    I love you, T.
    Thank you to everyone for reaching out. Your words bring us a soft peace during this darkest hour of our lives.

  15. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I don’t know David’s immediate family, but I’m a third cousin of David’s father (Jones line) so I dropped him a note of support when I heard. I hope that the waves of grief are becoming gentler for all who knew and adored David. daniel@danielnorton.com

    • Terrilox Terrilox says:

      Hi Daniel —
      If David’s father (my uncle) is your cousin, then that would make my father, Roy, your cousin as well! ;-)
      Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. We truly appreciate it.
      All my best to you — terry

  16. Tamatha Marie Lint says:

    I met David while he was going through the ordeal, he was a good person, with alot of talent and a very funny guy, i fell very much in like with him and i miss him every day, i can remember him walking through the house singing, cause he had a song in his head., he had good days and bad days and i believe in my heart he could have bet the whole thing….I am just sayin….He is very much missed and i think about him everyday…..To his family I am so sorry for your loss…but now we have our own guardian angel…..

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