I remember going to work a year ago and just staring at the wall. I couldn't work, I couldn't focus on anything; all I could do was stare straight ahead of me and put my head in my hands. Nothing could compute in my brain because I could not wrap my head around his death.
That year I called November "the month of death," and it still seems to me to bring more hard things than any other month. Perhaps that's why Thanksgiving is in November -- a holiday to remind us that this life is so good, and how much we have to be thankful for. I'm fortunate too that Frank's birthday is in this month -- another reason to celebrate and give thanks.
A year ago today I was on the second day of a novena for my future husband. Matt's funeral was the last day of the novena -- and the day Frank fell in love with me, literally hours after I finished praying it. It might seem sacrilegious to say that Matt brought us together. It might sound depressing (and it sure sounds awkward when I'm telling the story) that we fell in love while driving to and from a funeral. But personally, I think it's beautiful. Death is a natural part of life and suffering is what makes life real. That start to our relationship put it on a more serious and thoughtful level from the first. Our emotions were raw that day and we were both very, very honest -- I don't know that there could be a better circumstance than that to get to know another person. To fall in love that way, while having hard and sincere conversations about religion and death and suffering, is in my mind the greatest gift God gave our relationship. We saw the most real versions of each other and we both fell hard for what we saw.
Faith is a funny thing. This past week I have seen so many little signs, guiding marks along the trail, pointing me onward. Together they add up to -- not that much. Just a half-dozen little coincidences and instances of perfect timing. But the timing has been a little too perfect and the coincidences a little too beautiful. It's enough to show me that "there's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." Or as Colleen likes to say, "You are not the author of your life story." You're the protagonist, maybe, but another hand holds the pen.
This morning we attended a Memorial Mass for Matthew at Caldwell Chapel (shown above). I shed some tears when the priest read aloud a message to Matt from one of his friends. It still seems so senseless a year later that a healthy 27-year-old died so suddenly of complications from pneumonia. Again I felt that resistance and rebellion that haunted me at the time: why, God? But I thought of what I have learned this year, about acceptance and grace and trust. Matt changed my life forever -- and I knew the man for less than six months. Just think what he meant to so many, many others.
The greatest thing I learned from Matthew is that other people matter most of all. Time spent with loved ones is never wasted. For Matthew's sake and in his memory, please hug someone you love today or tell them how much you love them. And let's give thanks for this life, which is so short and so very, very beautiful.