Lessons from Matthew


As most of you know by now, yesterday was a really tough day.  It started with a call that we had lost one of our beloved Orientation Leaders, member of our programming board, and UNE student Matthew Denger.  I spent hours with his family as they told the students, faculty and staff who were closest to him.  We spent hours as an Orientation family gathering, sharing hugs, telling stories, and remembering one of our own.  The day ended with a beautiful remembrance of Matthew at the Activities Programming Board meeting where we all shared stories and lessons we had learned from him.  Last night, trying to reflect and think of the words I could say to express how I was feeling and how much Matthew meant to me and this community, I looked to his blog for inspiration.  Matthew was a great blogger.  He shared everything from life lessons to music he was into and to his everyday struggles with Muscular Dystrophy.  I soon discovered after reading through each post multiple times, that I did not need to find the words to console myself or others; that Matthew had them there for us all along.  The following are some of my favorite quotes/lessons from his blog posts.

From Something New [First Post] April 6, 2012

“Sometimes I do wish some things were different but I can’t just sit around and expect it to happen. Change can come about when it is least expected but other times there needs to be a jump start in order for something to happen.”

From Growing Up April 24, 2012

“These are the years of my life that are the most exciting. I’m hoping I make them exciting and do all things that I want.”

From Time is In Motion May 26, 2012

“In life I believe we are supposed to see people and events again to be reminded of how important times can change and to experience things again so I can move on or be kept on the path I am on. I wish people could stick around longer but everyone’s life path goes different ways and sometimes intertwine into mine. It is hard to see people go there own way without me getting to stick around in there lives. Life has its ups and downs but I have to deal with its changing nature and watch people go while others stay. I can’t stop memories from becoming memories but I can still make the best of them.”

From I am a Man June 21, 2012

“I often deal with people who either don’t know how to help me out and do not offer to or just don’t want to be helpful because they don’t want to leave their comfort zone. Other times people are too helpful and end up doing something wrong. For me there is a middle ground that people need to go in order to help. Offering help and just giving the right amount of assistance is all that I want. I will often refuse help but my wishes, I hope, will be respected.”

“I say to these people, I am no different and getting to know me won’t be so bad. After all using a wheelchair is almost like wearing glasses, they are only there for help and do not define the person.”

“I understand that no one will ever know or be able to comprehend how I live my life. In that case it doesn’t mean that I can’t give people a chance to at least get an idea. I believe education is very important so the best thing to do is ask questions. People can change and leave their comfort zone and the best way to do that is overcome fear.”

From Life’s Journey and Orientation September 8, 2012 (Matthew read this post out loud to his teammates during our closing reflection for Orientation Leaders)

“Life is just one huge journey. All our paths go in different ways and we all go through different experiences that shape who we are. We all change in so many ways. Our lives change throughout our journey. Sometimes it’s a good change, other times it is a bad change. We all know where we came from but not all of us know where we are going. We have a chance to shape it in the present moment.”

“Without Orientation I would still be the same as I was before. Without it I would not have met so many great people who are 100% genuine. I would thank them every single day if I could. I hope they understand how much they have done for me. I feel welcome now. I feel like I belong and like people actually feel fine being around me.”

“Things have changed for the better and are about to get even better. Thank you so much Orientation Family (Team) 2012. You guys know what it means to help others. I hope you all know how important you are to me and that you have brought about the greatest change in my life.”

From My Inspiration for Pursuing My Dreams November 10, 2012

“Bottom line is pursue your dreams regardless of your ability. Let your inspiration build you up.”

From Year 2, Semester 1 Complete December 26, 2012

“I am a strong person and will do whatever I can to be there for those who need help. At the rate I am going there is no slowing down. Nothing can stop me from being who I was born to be. My body may have physical problems that keep me from being someone who is independent but I have a working mind and as long as it still works I will keep going becoming a mentally independent person even though I am not physically independent.”

From Goodbye 2012. Hello 2013 January 3, 2103

“Life will find ways to test me but I will make it past these tests with flying colors. We are handed certain things in life and we have to figure out what we will do with it.”

From The Happiest Place on Earth [Last Post] February 12, 2013

 “Walt created Disney so everyone could see what can happen. I think our society has forgotten what Disney’s dream was. Anyone who does hard work to get their dreams will get there eventually.”
I hope this blog post provides some solace for those who knew and loved Matthew in a way writing it has done for me.  For those who did not know Matthew, I hope this post gives you insight into the remarkable young man that he was.
Rest easy, Matthew.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Matthew

  1. I don’t make much time in my life for computers so I hadn’t read Matt’s facebook page. I knew Matt pretty well but now I know him better because of your post. l thank you for pulling them together and sharing them.

  2. Tim, this is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, and this is such a wonderful way to honor Matt and help process his passing. My thoughts are with you and the rest of your campus as you continue to mourn him.

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