Matthew Zeppieri: The story of love, loss and learning to live

Matthew Zeppieri will never forget the day last year when he met someone who showed him the world.

It was the day he met someone who taught him to look at the sky as a way to see the ever changing world around him. Her name was Fellize Arcenal.

“She was a hidden gem,” Zeppieri said.

Following their meeting, their fondness would grow and blossom into the start of their romantic relationship. However, just before their one-year anniversary, their budding romance came to an abrupt end.

Arcenal suffered from mental illness that eventually led her take her own life on Jan. 25.

On the morning of her passing, unaware of what occurred, Zeppieri awakened to a spiritual presence next to him.

“My body moved to its side without any control,” Zeppieri said.  “My world just went black, but I could feel and hear still. There was a weight that mimicked my girlfriend come across my back, come across my shoulder as if her head was on my shoulder, talking into my ear. It was a very pure voice.”

Zeppieri said the experience lasted around nine minutes. He said he believes she gave him a message that he carries with him still as a driving force to keep him going.

“This was the most peaceful, genuine voice of hers. The voice said two short sentences to me but it felt like a lifetime,” Zeppieri said. “It was: ‘I’m always with you. I’m here with you.’”

Zeppieri said after the two sentences all of the weight he felt during that moment transferred to his heart. After this moment, his senses returned and he could see again. The experience confirmed to him the reality he would later face.

“That was the confirmation for me that she had made it to a better place,” Zeppieri said.

He heard the official news around six hours later.

Zeppieri’s experiences in life led him to want to pursue a career in social work. He spends his time interacting with people and learning about them. He looks to find ways to help them and he hopes to use his experiences and memories with Arcenal as a way to reach others.

“I just want to help people,” Zeppieri said. “I am looking forward to doing that through an initiative that I hope to start here on campus before I graduate.”

The next step for Zeppieri is keeping a promise to Arcenal that he made to her as she was being lowered into the ground.

“I want to make sure that your biggest fear doesn’t come true,” Zeppieri said. “Your legacy will live on. Your story and your spirit, Fellize Arcenal, will make an impact on millions. I am determined to make that a reality.”

He is ready to take the next step in creating an initiative called Sora’s Pinky Promise. The philanthropic endeavor was founded by Zeppieri with the help of Arcenal’s former roommate and aims to advocate, authenticate and validate.

According to Zeppieri, the initiative is named Sora’s Pinky Promise because Arcenal did not like her first name. Her birth name translated to “happiness” and that was something she struggled with. She preferred that her friends call her Sora, instead.

“The greatest event of my life, with the love of my life passing away to suicide, I want to intertwine my own vision with her story,” Zeppieri said.

Zeppieri said he has a history with suicide himself.

“I attempted twice in 2014 and, luckily, I failed,” Zeppieri said. “It’s the only thing you want to fail at in life. That’s a good failure to have.”

Three years later to the day would start his relationship with Arcenal. He said the commonality of these dates is an example of his life going full circle.

“It’s taught me that there is good and bad in life; there’s a balancing act,” Zeppieri said.