The loss of a child is always one that is utterly heartbreaking, no matter at what age and the relational distance between yourself and the child.
The death of a stranger’s beloved child is still an event that signifies a bright future snuffed out.
Even worse, however, is when it is the impending death of your own child that is involved.
Considering just how much work and love goes into raising a child, no wonder their loss is a parent’s greatest fear.
This fear, unfortunately, is one that Ryan and Emilie Matthias from central Iowa had to face at such an early stage in their parenthood.
At the age of four, their son, Garrett came home looking like he had suffered a stroke, with the left side of his face appearing paralyzed when the boy tried to smile.
Alarmed, the Matthias family began the search for an answer, a journey that would require them to wade through multiple different possibilities from various doctors.
In the end, they finally found their answer – Garrett was diagnosed with stage four Alveolar Fusion Negative Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Often simply shortened as rhabdomyosarcoma, it is a rare kind of sarcoma – in other words, a cancer that affects soft tissue, tendons, or bone.
In Garrett’s case, the cancer had attacked the boy’s inner ear and temporal bone.
Over the next 10 months, doctors helped Garrett and his family fight what eventually turned out to be a losing battle.
Throughout the whole experience, Garrett had been an unstoppable force of joy and courage.
During his stay in the hospital, he became well-known for being a prankster, making jokes and pulling as many pranks as he could get away with on the doctors and nurses around him.
At the age of five, however, Garrett’s end was undeniably near.
Despite 30 weeks of relentless treatment, Garrett’s illness had only gotten steadily worse, to the point that he was wracked with headaches that were so intense, they stopped him from speaking.
As it turns out, the boy’s cancer had spread from the temporal bone to the lining of his brain, a part of the brain that is responsible for the regulation of the spinal fluid.
Disheartened, the doctors had no choice but to inform his parents about the grave news – his cancer was now untreatable.
In preparation for his inevitable passing, Garrett got the opportunity to travel to Florida, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Alas, by the time the opportunity arose, Garrett was too ill to take advantage of it.
Instead, his family went to meet the gorillas at the Omaha Zoo on a Friday morning. By nightfall, Garrett was no longer able to walk, due to the cancer having spread to his spinal cord.
With his sunny disposition, Garrett wrote what must be one of the most charming obituaries to ever exist for himself.
He then insisted that he didn’t want people to be upset at his funeral.
In line with his request, his funeral will be an occasional celebrating his life, complete with a viking-styled sendoff.