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One year later, a best friend's tribute to Matt Weiner '02

For most of you, this day, March 22, 2000, is nothing more than just another fleeting day of classes, nothing special. But for the Princeton swim team and me, today is no ordinary day. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of my best friend, Matt Weiner, who died while we were playing basketball by the tennis courts.

Not a day passes when I don't think of Matt, his giddy, upbeat attitude and the relentless work ethic that was admired and revered by friends and teammates alike. I always wish he were still here with me enjoying his sophomore year of college. All my memories that day before he collapsed provide me with something tangible, something real to hold dear to my heart: from talking in our sweet Latin class, to discussing his newly christened, bright orange tennis shoes (the color of the school he loved), to hanging out with the buds, to hooping it up.


But in an agonizing instant, as the basketball ricocheted off the rim and Matt helplessly fell to the asphalt, I knew my life would never be the same. Every last detail of that horrifying nightmare haunts me today. Most of all, I remember the pain and emptiness I immediately felt when he collapsed. Matt and I shared an unspoken, subconscious connection that triggered an emotional reaction, telling me of God's intentions to take him to heaven.

The knowledge that Matt was in a far better place than this, however, did not stop me from being furious. I was livid. I couldn't control myself. I lost my mind. I blamed myself. Why couldn't I have done more? Why couldn't I have caught him before he fell? Why did it have to be Matt? Why couldn't it have been me?

But as the one-year anniversary approached, I wanted to share that in this sometimes harsh, cynical world, where cutthroat competition supersedes even compassion, Matt was the most genuine person I knew — loving life, always following his heart. Just imagine the clean-cut, All-American kid next door with his board shorts, chlorine-bleached hair and WWF shirts (boy, he loved wrestling and it was hilarious to hear him talk about it), always doing what was right, even when it wasn't the popular decision — that was Matt. He never drank, swore, smoked or had a bad word to say about anyone. He would have done anything for his friends, and he did. He loved his parents and twin sister and younger brother — witness, he called them everyday.

One important lesson I learned from Matt's passing is this: In the big scheme of things, the little things don't really matter — grades, relationship problems, getting that high-powered i-banking job at Goldman Sachs, sports failure, you name it. These things are so trivial in the road called life. Really the only thing that matters is trying your hardest and striving to be the very best person you can be, following your heart. Everything else will fall into place. If you can wake up every morning and look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person looking back at you, then you have truly achieved the ultimate prize — a happy life.

At Princeton, where everybody has this sport, that rehearsal or a zillion pages of reading, a lot of us do not take time to enjoy the present and appreciate the friends and the life we have. I used to worry about every last detail, too. Certain things just aren't that important. Every homework assignment gets done whether you spend ten hours worrying about it or no hours, so you might as well not worry about it because you'll lose out on the present.

On this one-year anniversary, I implore you to go the extra mile for your friends out of remembrance of Matt. Tell them how much you appreciate their friendship and their company because you never know if you'll get another chance. I never did. Life is precious so please do not ever take it for granted. Spence Miller is from Scottsdale, Ariz. He can be reached at