Monday, August 19, 2013

Remembering Mattie Stepanek July 17, 1990 - June 22, 2004

One of the most interesting people I have ever learned about was a young man by the name of Mattie

If ever there was an "angel on earth" it was this 13 year poet, peacemaker, and challenged little boy who lived his life more full than most people who have lived to be 90 to 100.  Mattie suffered from a condition known as dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, a genetic disease that impaired his heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and digestion and causes muscle weakness.

Mattie was often seen on talk shows including the Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live.  Although his young body endured much pain and suffering, his spirit was so alive and he authored such beautiful poetry about peace known as "Heartsongs" that would raise the spirits of all who read it. Mattie's mother, Jeni also suffers the adult onset form of the disease and following Mattie's passing, he would be laid to rest with his deceased siblings that include Jamie, Katie, and Stevie, also victims of the disease.

Mattie with President Carter
Mattie's funeral
Mattie went to be with God on June 22, 2004.  Over 1500 people attended his funeral and wake that included Harley bikers, celebrities, friends and neighbors.  A packed St. Catherine Laboure Catholic Church held the funeral of young Mattie on June 28, 2004.  Among those who spoke about him were the former U.S. President, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and friend of Mattie, President Jimmy Carter who summed up Mattie's life best when he said "in my decades of meeting with world leaders and legends of the world, the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life is Mattie Stepanek."  Oprah Winfrey also eulogized Mattie by saying "I found him magical"  "Every one of us who knew him...will feel the glow for the rest of our lives."

Mattie's funeral program
One of Mattie's many loves was firefighters and fire trucks.  Following Mattie's funeral, his pallbearers (firemen) placed his small casket on a huge red firetruck that carried Mattie to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in a mile's long funeral procession while his own "Heartsongs" echoed as the beloved child poet was laid to rest.
Mattie's prayer card

Will Bowen, the funeral director with Robert Pumphrey Funeral Home said afterwards "the funeral service for Mattie J.T. Stepanek was the most memorable experience in my 20 years in funeral service.  Mattie's funeral program (pictured) included several poems written by Mattie including his Prayer for A Journey

Thank you, God
Not just for life,
But for our journey through life.
Life is a miracle.
And a journey through life
Is so full of so many more miracles
Mattie's resting place
If we travel with our Heartsongs.
Thank you, God,
For blessing me with the
Gift of Heartsongs,
So that I can enjoy my miracles.

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