Anyone who knows Matthew knows that becoming a pharmacist was a longtime goal of his. He faced battle after battle to make headway towards this goal. He started in 2006 at Appalachian College in Virginia until he was diagnosed with Leukemia a year later. When his physical strength finally caught up with his will to continue, he was forced to restart another pharmacy program, this time at Creighton University. Even backtracking on his degree didn’t break his persistence. He labored over his studies constantly to become a pharmacist but unfortunately, he passed away just shy of completing his 2nd year.
Matthew’s time at Creighton University was a bittersweet journey. His acceptance into the Distance Pathway program allowed him to study remotely and stay in California to continue his treatments and be with his loving family. In his yearly trips to the Creighton campus, he was able to meet friends and faculty that became an extension of his own family and, subsequently, his legacy. But unlike many of his classmates, his breaks between studying and exams didn’t consist of an afternoon at a local coffee shop or a movie night. Rather it was a battery of tests, chemo treatments, and being relegated in a hospital room.
Matthew took this challenge in stride. He did what he needed to do to keep up and pass his classes. It was probably more than an average person can handle, but he persisted, and never complained (at least to anyone other than his wife). He even cured his “open-book syndrome” that he used to joke about while in undergrad. In his younger years, his self-diagnosed “open-book syndrome” would cause him to fall asleep each time he opened a textbook. There was no time for that at Creighton. Even while he was at City of Hope undergoing treatments and fighting infections, he still took midterms – all within the confines of the hospital with a proctor. A week before his passing, he was still trying to schedule and study for finals. Simply, he never gave up.
The support of the Creighton faculty and students played no small part in propelling Matthew forward. He consistently expressed how much he appreciated the love and kindness of those he met and got to know at Creighton. It was apparent that the appreciation was not one-sided when Matthew’s Creighton classmates decided to hold an on-campus memorial service to honor him. Not knowing how much Matthew meant to his classmates, his wife and family were moved to tears upon receiving the invitation. The effort put into the memorial was just another example how much Matt inspired those around him (even from a distance).
Since Matthew was remote from campus life, his immediate family didn’t have much opportunity to meet his amazing Creighton family until this memorial. Only a small group of Team Matthew were able to attend the memorial at Creighton, but they carried enough love for the whole group. Upon attendance were his wife, Chloe, a dear friend, Tiffany, and two cousins, Christine and Janette (who strung along two adorable kids). Tiffany literally flew in and out of Omaha within a 24-hr span, and Christine & Janette drove 7-8 hours each way from Oklahoma. Matthew was truly surrounded by an incredible group of family and friends.
The memorial exceeded any expectation. Not only did the students & faculty organize a beautiful ceremony, they also sold Team Matthew t-shirts and wristbands, which practically everyone in attendance wore. The sea of Team Matthew t-shirts was overwhelming. The memorial started in a classroom with prayers, readings, thoughts from fellow students and a beautiful slideshow. An impromptu bone marrow drive was also held at the memorial, which resulted in 17 new potential donors!! That day, Matthew was probably looking down, beaming with pride.
After the indoor ceremony, the group headed outside for a balloon ceremony. Again, in honor of his love for the Lakers, gold & purple balloons (seems like Matthew’s love for the Lakers wasn’t a secret) were decorated with personal messages and released to the heavens above where Matt can read each one. The location of the balloon release was particularly meaningful because Matt had taken many pictures of the fountain and church when he was visiting Creighton. It was obvious that it was one of his favorite areas on the campus. Even though the temperature hit a excruciating peak, there seemed to be even more people that joined the group during the balloon ceremony. There were no limits to what his Creighton classmates and faculty would do to honor him.
The memorial was an example of how wonderful Creighton is and how they take care of their own. It was incredibly touching and such a wonderful way to remember our hero. Thank you Creighton University!!
Special thanks to Dean J. Chris Bradberry, Director of Student Affairs Shawn Cook, Tara Boren, Grace Kim and other members of “Team Awesome” (Matt’s close group of friends at Creighton) for putting together such a memorable event.
In the last decade, Matt spent almost every Memorial Day weekend with his close friends and family in the Bay Area over lots of laughter, delicious food, and reminiscing through plenty of story-telling. For the Memorial Day that just past, it seemed appropriate to continue on with this tradition. Matt’s loved ones wanted to show that they were keeping his spirit alive and celebrated exactly how he would have wanted.
Even with very short notice, there was a huge turnout of Team Matthew devotees at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont for a picnic at the park. Once everyone gathered, the grey clouds quickly dissipated, revealing ample rays of sun – an act that can seemingly be accomplished only by a higher power. Many people battled schedule and distance constraints to be there. As if Matt spoke to everyone’s heart to gather there that day. It was simply perfect.
For that day (and for the years to come), Memorial Day had a different definition for those that loved Matt. It was a day for us to remember how Matt lived – a passion and love for life that we should all aspire to. Heed his lesson to simply “live your life and be happy.” One of Matt’s close friends took Matt’s advice to “do something out of the ordinary to make yourself happy” and the picture below represents the result (read definition of Memorial Day).
For a few moments, Wikipedia was updated (or “vandalized” according to Wikipedia) to show how much Matt has impacted us and is truly missed. The remnants of that update can still be seen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Memorial_Day&oldid=494309831
To celebrate Matt’s life, there were various activities that ensued through the afternoon. Of course, it wouldn’t be right to not have the food dedicated to Matt. Most of the food were chosen based on what he liked to eat. From, pastrami sandwiches with sauce on the side, to a ton of McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets (which he once ate 42 of in one sitting on a friendly food challenge), and even fried rice mixed with sour cream and Ruffle’s chips – his Morrill Middle School classic.
Everyone was encouraged to bring some items that reminded them of memories that they share with Matt. These items quickly came together into a scrapbook of Matt’s life. It’s a long way from being finished, but it was beautiful to hear all of the great memories people had with him.
Before everyone left for the day, we wanted to leave something behind for Matt. Each person wrote a personal note to Matt onto balloons. The idea was that we would collectively release these balloons and let them float up to heaven where Matt can read how much he is loved and missed. As a nod to his and Chloe’s love for the Lakers, the balloons were, of course, purple and gold. The video below show this amazing gesture (Quicktime plugin required).
Overall, the event came together beautifully. Everyone did their part in making Matt’s Memorial Day perfect, which is a symbol of how much we all loved Matt and would go to great lengths to keep his spirit among us. He would have been proud.
Special thanks to all those who attended and contributed to this special day. See you all next year!
Andy is Matthew’s cousin and helped take care of Matthew when he was younger. The “big brother” mentality seemed to have never left as Andy was right there by Matthew’s side during his last few days in the hospital, still taking care of him and doing everything in his power to keep him comfortable.
A huge showing of people gathered at Holy Spirit Catholic Church to celebrate Matthew’s life yesterday, including family from across the nation, friends from as far back as elementary school, and even people who had a brief encounter with him. As the family and friends were mourning, Andy comforted the entire room with a powerful, uplifting, and touching eulogy.
It was exactly how we all should and will remember Matthew. Here it is…
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Theres not enough time today for me to talk about all the things that made Matthew so special to me. We grew up together. I was around when he was born.
When he was a baby his sisters and I took care of him while our parents were off at work and everyday we’d ﬁght over who would get to hold him.
I could tell you so many stories about the fun we had. How we made him wear his sisters dress for Halloween one year; complete with hair clips and a purse. I could also tell you about the time he and I went out bike riding as kids and he came back with a broken arm. I could also continue to claim that it wasn’t my fault. But since we’re at church I might as well admit that it may have partially kind of been my fault.
We can spend some time discussing all his hairstyles from the fade to the faux hawk to the Vietnamese comb over. I’m not even going to mention the different colors, shades, and hues that he experimented with.
I could ask his high school friends to share stories about his water polo days, his Viet Legit crew, or his HOMECOMING King campaign.
Or we could try to solve the mystery of why he loved that beat down old Honda Accord of his so much.
Better yet maybe some of his college friends could share some stories about his UCLA days BUT again we’re in a church so…you know maybe those stories should come at another time.
You know I could read you all his positive reviews on eBay or recount the stories about his camping out for autographs from his favorite Lakers.
But Matt was so much more than just fun stories.
Special doesn’t come close to describing what type of person Matt was. He was smart, kind, gentle, and talented(if you haven’t seen any of his photography you need to and see how blessed he was). He was thoughtful and generous, and most of all he had the heart of a lion.
But you all ALREADY knew that. That’s why you are all here.
I can guarantee you that there’s not a person here THAT WAS NOT HELPED by Matt in some way. Not a person here THAT HE DIDNT MAKE smile or laugh. Not a single person here that he didn’t inspire. And if you didn’t know Matt you lost out.
Matt was a rarity. IF he ENTERED your life, he CHANGED your life.
Like a work of art that EVOKES emotion, a piece of literature that PROVOKES thought, or A WORK of music that TOUCHES your soul and BRINGS you happiness and makes you want to get up and dance, Matt was all of that. Matt was a masterpiece. He was a force. He MADE you want to live life.
His eternal optimism and strength never let you pity him despite all the hardships he endured.
His outlook on life opened your eyes to the simplicity and joys of life that you were overlooking.
His generosity and selﬂessness inspired you to do more to affect the world around you.
When you were around him HE just made you want to live life to the fullest.
His legacy is here today. His legacy is all of us. It’s everyone he inspired.
Because of our love for him his lessons will go on.
We WILL slow down and enjoy life.
We WILL look for the beauty around us that he so easily saw through the lens of his camera.
We WILL try harder to think beyond ourselves and lend a helping hand when it’s needed. We WILL simply…do more.
We WILL register more people into the bone marrow registry.
We together, with Matt’s story, will save more lives.
We will FIGHT ON with Matthew.
We will, as Matt so elegantly stated “be like Kobe”.
You know, perhaps more APPROPRIATELY, I should say we will “be like Matt”.
Because that’s what he would have wanted. That was his goal. We were his purpose.
We love you Matthew. We’ll never forget you. Thank you for everything.
Your wonderful wife said it best, “you’ve set the bar really high”.
Rest in peace my little brother.
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Matthew’s friends and family have been getting inquiries on donations, so we thought it’d be best to post the information here. If you would like to make a donation Team Matthew, we welcome donations by check. Please make checks payable to “Chloe Nguyen” and mail to:
P.O. Box 10124
Westminster, CA 92685
To donate on-line, please use the Paypal donate button below. Paypal is an easy and secure method to send donations without setting up a Paypal account.
All donations are used towards Matthew’s funeral service and furthering the goals of Team Matthew. “Team Matthew” strives to raise awareness of leukemia and other blood-related illnesses, the impact of these illnesses on the community, and most importantly, conduct bone marrow drives to increase the chances of finding a matching donor for blood cancer patients and patients with blood-related illnesses.
Please be advised that all “Team Matthew” donations are considered personal donations to Matthew Nguyen. “Team Matthew” is currently not an exempt organization as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Accordingly, your generous gift, while appreciated and valuable, is unfortunately, not tax-deductible. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
For those that are interested in attending Matthew’s funeral services this weekend, below are the details. If you are not able to attend, your warm thoughts and prayers would be very much appreciated.Viewing:
Friday, May 18, 2012
9am – 8pm
Heritage-Dilday Memorial Services
17911 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA, 92647
Saturday, May 19, 2012 9am – 10am
Holy Spirit Catholic Church
17270 Ward Street Fountain Valley, CA, 92708