Matthew Stewart died last night.
Matthew was 24 and he died after a long fight with Batten Disease.
Today I learned that Matthew was amazingly connected with God, and always had been.
Matthew brought his parents to church. It was not one of those pressures of parenthood where mom and dad feel compelled to get to church in order to have a child baptized. In pre-school he asked his mom if she would take him to church. Diane had been raised in the Episcopal Church back east and sought one in Palm Springs. They found St. Paul’s and about 3 years later he was baptized.
Matthew loved being in the church and with church friends and always exuded gratitude, joy and peace.
The presence of God he experienced was not just in church, but throughout his life. As he grew, the disease took it’s toll on him and he gradually went blind. When someone asked him about being blind he responded that “Jesus is my eyes.”
Over the years, his spiritual connection grew. When the children from Sunday School entered church for Prayers and Communion with their families, Matthew would say the words from memory. He did not say the words his family was saying, but the words the priest was saying – right along with the priest. He had no question that they were his as well.
He lived in a place where angels were his companions. Some of them were the angels his mother could see and some were known only to him. One of the angels was a care giver who was with Matthew for many years. She began transcribing his thoughts and poems and essays.
Sparky liked to eat bread,
dog food, and cat poo, too!
He died and went to heaven
where he will have a good time
chasing skunks and jack rabbits.
Now he can have his whole life
up in heaven, always happy.
Grampa and Bryce loved Sparky,
too. But they know it is OK that he
died because he was really sick and
now he is in heaven.
Heaven is a good place for dogs.
Matthew Stewart (approximately age 13).
I found this poem in a book on my desk before I went to visit Kevin and Diane this afternoon. Reading it with them helped tie my thoughts and my feelings about Matthew’s death together.
The loss of Matthew from the fabric of our parish family opens a wound. Reading Matthew’s own and oft repeated reflections on the world in which he lived and the God and people he loved, starts the healing. It allows me to rinse the wound with tears of joy.