today would have been the 34th birthday of our son's namesake, Matthew Seth Shubzda. since 2003, every time the calendar rolls around to september 17th, ken and i get very sad because matt's not here anymore for us to wish him a happy birthday and help him celebrate. we miss our dear friend so much. when we found out our first-born would be a boy, we called matt's parents and asked if we could name him after big matt. we wanted to honor our friend in this way.
for some of my new friends out there; i should really explain how big matt fits into both of our lives. matt and i were best friends who grew up together. when i first moved to texas in the fourth grade he was one of my first friends. he was the kind of friend every girl would want. through all the trials of elementary, middle and high school, matt was a consistent, loving, and inspiring friend anyone would be lucky to have in their life. i was always grateful to have a friend who encouraged me and stood by me. i went off to texas tech and matt went off to the naval academy so he could pursue his dream of flying jets.
matt's roommate and eventually one of his best friends at the naval academy was ken. whenever i would talk to matt i would hear about how wonderful ken was and matt endorsed him as a "good catch." i told matt that was nice but i was nowhere near interested in dating someone who would have a military career ahead of him.
fast forward to june 29, 2002 for matt and kim's wedding in dallas. i was in the process of moving from chicago to new york city but i made sure i was there. i did meet ken and matt was right. he was adorable, kind, and gentle. i could tell after only meeting him a few hours before, he was some kind of wonderful. he was living in south carolina but would be moving to california in october. we exchanged numbers at the end of the night because i thought i might go down and visit my friend angie who had just moved to south carolina.
ken called me in early august and i told him i wouldn't be able to come down to south carolina to see my friend. i didn't have a job in nyc yet and i thought it would be irresponsible of me to spend money to go. he sounded a little disappointed and we didn't talk much longer. i would later find out that ken thought i was kind of being short with him so he ended the conversation. i expected that he might call again but he didn't.
i left matt a message on his birthday, sept 17, 2002 and even told him that i had a nice conversation with ken but he hadn't called again. i said this in my message thinking maybe matt might knudge ken a little. :) a few weeks later, ken made plans to stay with matt and kim for a couple of nights in california on his way down to port hueneme.
our worlds were turned upside down on october 18, 2002, not even 4 months after matt's wedding.
ken was taking his boat out for the last time in south carolina when he got a call from one of our high school friends. matt's superhornet F/A-18 was involved in a mid-air collision with another F/A-18 in a training exercise off the coast of california. the coast guard was searching but there was no sign of the four missing pilots.
that evening i got a call from my mom and i knew immediately something was wrong. i was standing outside my apartment waiting for my friend to pick me up in the cab for a concert. when my mom told me, i broke down. i had never lost anyone so suddenly. those family members who had passed were older and sick, and it was expected. this was my best friend growing up. and now he was suddenly gone.
ken and i both made it to dallas a few days before the funeral. afterwards at the shubzda's house we started talking and we recognized how painful this was going to be for both of us. we decided we would need to be there for one another to get through this, so we made plans to keep in touch. we started talking on the phone from nyc to california 3-4 nights a week at first which quickly became almost every night. even though i thought ken was wonderful i didn't think anything but friendship would develop. we had so many things working against us: the military, the long distance, my dream job.
eventually a relationship started blossoming and we had our first date weekend december 6-8 when ken came to nyc and took me to the army-navy game at giants stadium. this was just the beginning. from that point on, we racked up the frequent flyer miles seeing each other almost every other weekend. in august of 2003, the distance got to be too much and i moved to california. 13 months later we got married.
so that's the story of our friend matt and how he introduced us. of course he never knew about our relationship on this earth, but as we were reminded by his parents, we have the most special guardian angel friend looking over us. and when our son joined him in heaven, we know he was immediately cradled, kissed, and hugged by matt. matt himself loved children and didn't have a chance to be a father before he went to be with Jesus.
i borrowed this picture from our friend john's facebook. john is standing with the threesome on the left. matt is standing on the far right. (ken is sitting down next to matt.)
happy birthday dear friend. we miss you very much. our lives were forever changed because you were such a caring, loyal, and supportive friend to both of us. we couldn't think of a better way to honor you than to name our first-born son after you. we are comforted by the fact that matthew phillip has matthew seth to love and watch over him in heaven.
love, ken-dog and bo