Even more typical than his smile that day, before Matt could be taken from the restaurant in my father’s arms, he belted out “But I’m not gonna be able to finish my hush puppies!” Even as a small child, he demonstrated a positive and sincere attitude that has, and will continue, to influence my family and myself for the rest of our lives.
It’s no secret that Matt and I were best friends. We did everything together – according to his Facebook page, he even studied at the University of Alabama (I know… I was surprised we weren’t roommates, too.) He was like a mini-me. He managed to “coincidentally” get the exact same haircut as me, “purchase” all of the same clothes that I had in my closet, and even find himself a girlfriend that had red hair. I know that technically I’m the older brother, but in all honestly, I’ve spent my whole life looking up to and aspiring to be half the person that Matthew was. I admired him for everything that he had become as he got older – he was finally growing into the gentleman that my parents taught him to be.
I really do believe Matt was supposed to be my twin, but God just needed a little extra time and precision while creating the child that would so positively impact my life. It is through the roads Matthew has paved for me that I have made it here today. My mom even mentioned yesterday that I am “a carbon copy” of Matt and that “he lives in me.” I have felt Matthew’s strength more than ever these past few days and it has led me to stay resilient just like I know he’d want me to.
Nothing could have separated us from each other - not the 4-year age difference or the 794 miles between Tuscaloosa and Great Falls. As a matter of fact, those 794 miles brought us closer together than we’ve ever been. Even though we couldn’t physically be together, he and I matured and shared a bond that couldn’t be broken by age or distance. While I know the road ahead seems long and steep, I also know that my brother is going to be with me wherever I go. Matthew lives in all of us. In every life he touched here on Earth, he’s left a profound legacy. He was a special soul, meant for much greater things than this world had to offer. I know that we will get to see our MVP again in the future and I can’t wait for that day. You motivate me to be the best person I can be for Mom, Dad, Lindsey, and Ryan, and of course for you, my own guardian Angel. I love you so much and I can’t wait for our reunion, where I’ll finally get to see that smile again.
As you can tell from the vast amount of baby pictures we’ve shared over the past week, Matthew was always the kid with the ear-to-ear gapped tooth smile that he loved to show to everyone. He was a bundle of joy since the first day we met in Morristown Hospital. He’s always been my anchor for as long as I can remember. There’s even a picture on our dining room table of me sobbing on our old boat with my hands in the air, while Matthew was giggling and patting me on the shoulder cheering me up as he usually did.
He was the most optimistic and selfless kid I had ever met. Some of you may have seen the photo of Matthew in a beach house with a mummified pinky finger the size of a baseball bat. Of course, you’d never know that his finger had been gushing blood a few minutes prior to the picture due to the enormous smile that was covering his face (Matthew realized that day that a toddler probably shouldn’t try to open a restaurant door by themselves).