When I was nineteen, I felt like I had the world at my disposal. I had just finished a successful freshman year at UNC Charlotte, made tons of friends, had a life plan, a great family, and a boyfriend I imagined having in my life- in one way or another- forever. His name was Matt, “Mattbear” to his mom and me. His favorite foods (read: the only foods he really ate) were pepperoni pizza, Bo*rounds from Bojangles, hamburgers with mustard only, and Mountain Dew. He went to UNC Wilmington and is the smartest person I’ve ever known. He amazed me daily with how incredibly smart he was and he could do anything with computers. He was weeks away from joining the military, an incredibly gifted swimmer (his breast stroke was phenomenal), and great with kids. He was funny, smart, annoying, mischievous, genius, handsome, charming, lovable, talented, and dangerous in a way and I was drawn to him for all those reasons and more. When I stayed overnight at his house, he brought me midnight snacks of Kajun Krab dip on bread rounds, and watermelon when it was in season. He loved my dog Minnie (RIP), both of our families, the movie Happy Feet and pretty much every sci-fi show/movie/book he ever encountered. We celebrated two anniversaries every year- the day we started dating secretly, and the day we said I love you (I said it first, though he would tell you he made the first move to kiss me the first time). No matter what he did to upset me, he could always make me smile but pushing the squishy tip of my nose- my “happy button,” as he called it. He always held my hand in the car and let me take an annoying amount of pictures of him and us (which I am even more grateful for in retrospect). I’m not saying he’s an angel, because he wasn’t- none of us are. He had his faults, just like everyone else but I loved him deeply, and he loved me, possibly even more than I did him. Even when we got to be at each others' throats, I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
Matt died August 8, 2008- overshadowing opening day of Summer Olympics, he was never one to let anything get more attention than him.
His birthday was today. He would have been 23. Twenty three.
He’s been gone for 1188 days now and not one of them has gone by that I haven’t thought of him. All those cliché things you hear like “it seems so long ago and like yesterday at the same time,” and “I miss him so much it hurts,” suddenly become real feelings. I think about him every day but sometimes weeks can go by without me getting sad. I can think of the time we were driving back from the lake with our friends Carrie and Blair and they told us that us holding hands in the front seat reminds them of our parents and we went into a full skit where Carrie and Blair were our children for the remainder of the drive home. I can remember how I felt sitting in the first booth in the smoking section at Brick Oven while I watched him laugh with a mouth full of pepperoni pizza covered in crushed red peppers. Sometimes I get sad, but it’s fleeting- it subsides to another happy memory of him, or I drift out of the day dream that got me there just as quickly as I drifted into it. But sometimes- and it’s these times that make me question my strength- the sadness floods over me, sweeps me away into total sorrow and it can be overwhelming, crippling. It can be breath taking, cloud my mind, make my stomach turn, attack my nerves and senses. I can become careless, anxious, reckless, irritable, reclusive, self-pitying.
My friend Laurel found an article while Stumbling and sent it to me a couple of weeks ago: It Happened to Me: My Boyfriend Died. Without even reading the article, you can probably guess what it’s about. I brought myself to read it and just cried. I felt for her, I understood her absolute sorrow- she was me. Sometimes in feeling sorry for myself, I forget that there areother people who have been there, who have experienced (and are still experiencing) the same kind of great loss. The story of Greg and Lela was different than mine and Matt’s of course, but it was equally as tragic.
Matt had a sore throat. He went to a doctor who started treating him with medicine that would have helped make him feel better had he actually had mono. But the doctor was in a hurry and experiencing some life-changing things of his own at home, so he started treating him for mono before the test results were back. Since Matt had acute tonsillitis, the prednisone he was given worked against his body, made him septic, and ultimately killed him in a matter of hours.
I wouldn't trade the 573 days I had with him for anything and I’ll never understand it, but I have accepted it. There’s nothing I can do to change it. No anger or resentment or constant questioning will bring him back. He was someone who could have changed the world. His friends, family, and I will never stop missing him. I started writing letters to Matt a long time ago. I know he’ll never read them, but it’s therapeutic to me and makes me feelclose to him in a way. I wanted to share one:
I hate saying it, but there was a possibility wouldn’t have spent forever together, wouldn’t have gotten married and had the kids we always talked about. It would have broken my heart to see you with anyone else, but it would have paled in comparison to the hurt my heart feels, even now, to know that I can never even speak you again. It kills me that we can never run into each other and catch up over pizza and burgers, that we never got to even have a legal drink together, that we can never drive your mom crazy because of our cigarette smoking, that at some point in the future your parents are going to be at my wedding and it won’t be to you, that they’ll meet my kids and they won’t be yours. Everyone says life isn’t fair, and after losing you, I know that it really isn’t. But the most unfair thing in life is death. Especially yours.
I know I have to live the rest of my life knowing that Matt isn’t alive, and I wish it wasn’t the case, but J.K. Rowling said, “To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” I always used to say “love you more than air” and he’da nswer with “can’t breathe without you” (or vice versa) and sometimes I really feel like I can’t breathe without him; but Matt is my guardian angel, and I know that he will be with me forever.
xo .Happy Birthday Matt, miss you always. xo
|Yes Matt, I see the orb on the right side of the picture. Thanks for showing up for yet another photo shoot of us.|