13: Puzzle Pieces

13: Puzzle Pieces

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Puzzle Pieces

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

~Maya Angelou

“Just do what you do.” That’s what Matt would always say to me when trying to decide what to do in a situation, but this is not the only phrase that is permanently engraved in my mind....

Matt and I met through friends, and there was something about the way that he made me laugh that made me want to see him again. The next time we hung out, we spent hours talking interspersed with some kissing. He walked me to the door, kissed me goodnight, and ended by saying “I can’t wait to call you tomorrow!” with a giant grin on his face. As I walked home at four o’clock in the morning, I thought to myself, “Crap, I’m going to fall in love with this boy, and I’m pretty sure I could spend the rest of my life with him.”

After a first date, and two weeks of hanging out almost every day, Matt was officially my boyfriend. A week later, he said those three little words that I had been waiting to hear all my life: I love you.

We were crazy in love. Like two pieces to our own puzzle — a perfect fit. We were that couple; holding hands all the time, making out in public, dancing too much, unable to keep our hands off each other. Most important was our constant laughter, even when I was curled up in his arms watching a movie. I was genuinely happy. Not just because I was in love, but because I was me, and he loved me for me. I didn’t have to play stupid games or put on make-up or shower after I went to the gym. I didn’t have to put on a show. I was just being myself, and I felt more secure in my own skin that I had ever felt because of Matt: my Matty.

Summer break came, and in the fall he was going to spend the semester in France. But that didn’t scare us. We spent the summer months traveling between his home and mine, eating great food, and doing absolutely nothing together. We talked about the upcoming semester, and at this point we both knew that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.

He called it a “serious, serious” relationship — and I was done. Done dating, done with the mind games. I had given my heart to him completely. I had met the person I was going to marry, build a family and grow old with. Throughout all of that, I knew that Matt would love me no matter what.

We spent the day before he left in Manhattan, running errands, having lunch, and enjoying each other’s company. We had decided to take a break for the semester, knowing very well we would get back together when he returned. We knew the time distance and our different schedules would put a strain on our relationship, so it was not worth ruining something that we knew was great and would last a lifetime.

We kissed goodbye in the middle of Grand Central Terminal. His arms wrapped tightly around my waist, and mine around his neck. His last words to me were “I’ll always love you, don’t forget that!” He dropped his sunglasses over his eyes, and I did the same as tears rolled down my cheeks. We turned and walked our separate ways. I described that day as the perfect goodbye, and it was. Little did I know it was the last time he’d ever hold me in his arms.

We talked via Skype, and I sent him e-mails reminding him that I still loved him. On Monday, September 29th, we video chatted, and I walked away from the conversation feeling great, knowing that everything was going to work out okay. That was the last time I ever spoke to my Matty.

I’ll never forget Friday, October 3rd. My friends sat me down in a bedroom, telling me I couldn’t go into work yet. I knew something was wrong. We waited in silence. When the door opened, my good friend, who was the president of Matt’s fraternity, came into the room, and I knew. Brad sat down on the edge of the bed, and looked at me with such sad eyes.

“Amanda, I have some bad news,” he said. “Matt passed away this morning.”

I shook uncontrollably, sobbing into my best friend’s arms. The next two weeks were a blur. I could not function. I did not understand. I was in a daze, and still cannot recall a lot of those days. I did not go to class. I passed most of my days in his fraternity house with boys who had become my family. My friends told me when to shower, eat, and sleep. When I showered, I washed my face with my body wash, or washed my hair twice because I couldn’t remember if I had washed it or not. I wore all black, my face pale from my emptiness.

The day of the funeral shattered my hopes that it had just been a dream. It was a Jewish funeral, so they lowered him, my Matty, the boy I was going to marry and love forever, into the ground. I shook uncontrollably, clutching my friend’s arm to remain standing. I cried hysterically, and I can’t remember when I took my turn to shovel dirt onto his coffin.

The next thing I knew, I was digging my nails into my friend’s suit and sobbing into his shoulder. I couldn’t feel my legs, and attempted to use my arms to hold myself up. As my tears started to slow and my breathing returned to normal, I looked around to see all of his fraternity brothers crying, most of whom could barely look at me. I was given many hugs, and slowly it was time to leave.

Almost three months have passed, and I’m doing better. I’m still in love with him, and I know I always will be. How could I not always hold a place in my heart for someone so incredible? Matt brought me to life; he sparked something in me that made me want to be a better person. Even though I lost the love of my life, I gained an entire fraternity of boys as friends and family.

“Just doing what I do” wasn’t the big lesson that I learned from loving Matt, and then losing him in the worst way. It taught me to live my life, and live it to the fullest. I’m grateful for every moment, and I make sure to do what’s going to make me most happy, which means laughing as much as possible with people who are important to me.

Don’t let life pass you by. It’s way too short and in an instant it can be taken away. Try something new, even if it’s as small as a tasting new food — or as great as falling in love.

~Amanda Romaniello

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