"Anything is Possible" My friend Matt died three years ago from cancer. He was a great kid, and it wasn't that I took him for granted, but I was used to having him around. After he died, I realized how much he really meant to me.
Matt was an ordinary thirteen year old who had everything going for him. He was athletic, bright, and had a loving family and friends. Matt played football and baseball from when he was eight, until he was thirteen. We were on the same football teams for three years as the starting running backs. A major part of why we became so close, was because I always pushed him to play sports. He often told his Dad that he wanted to take a season off, but then I would convince him to play for me at least. His father coached our football team when we were nine, and that's how our parents became acquainted.
Everything seemed to be going great in the summer of 1997, until my mom called me into the kitchen after school one day. She explained that Matt was going to the hospital for some testing. "What kind of tests are they doing?" I asked. "There is what looks like a mass on his brain, and he needs another MRI," she explained. I thought that everything would be ok; just figured that it was precautionary and it would be a false alarm. Three days later, the results came back, and Matt was diagnosed with brain cancer. He had a tumor on his brain. Why would a thirteen year old have brain cancer? I could not reason it out. The doctors' told Matt's parents that it had probably been dormant for years, but something triggered it to start. Immediately, I blamed myself. If I hadn't pushed him to play football, he never would have been hit in the head, and it wouldn't have happened. When I heard about this, I didn't know what to think. I needed to vent, so I sat in the field behind my house, which overlooked a valley and I cried and talked to God asking why. I realized there was nothing I could do for Matt, but spend time with him, and pray.
Time was Matt's worst enemy. He had his parents had a very difficult decision to make after the doctors gave them options of what could be done for Matt: whether to try and have the mass removed, begin chemotherapy, or leave it to God altogether. Our church, Back Mt. Harvest Assembly, stood behind them 100%. He stayed strong through all of it. He attended our football games every weekend, and came to church. He was determined to beat it no matter what it took. His parents were very positive that he would overcome the disease.
For months, he told me he was ok. "Ok, just tired," he would say. Of course, I believed him because he never gave anyone reason not to trust him. Plus deep down, I wanted to believe it. Until about eight months after his diagnosis, I didn't realize how fast he was deteriorating. He lost almost all of his hair, most of his weight, and was tired constantly. I went over for dinner with my family one night, and we all had chicken soup, but Matt had chicken broth. He could no longer eat solid food. He had to have an IV inserted into his arm for his food supply. I didn't understand why he couldn't eat. That night, my parents told me he wasn't strong enough to swallow anymore. The next month was a downward spiral for him. He became so weak, he couldn't get our of bed.
I came home from school one afternoon, and my dad told me we had to go see Matt. The doctor's didn't think he would make it through the next couple of days. When I went to see him, his mom and dad came to the door and took me to his room.
He was lying on his bed, watching TV surrounded by many Pittsburgh Steelers' autographs and football memorabilia he had received. His mom asked him who I was, and he said, "Luke." His mom was amazed that he remembered me since he didn't remember many of his close relatives anymore. It filled me with an inner peace knowing that we had something so special, that even on his deathbed, he remembered me.
Three days later, he died. I stayed up all night crying and pounding my fists into my pillow. Why? I couldn't understand why a thirteen-year-old had to die, but I kept telling myself that God was in control, and there was a reason for Matt's death. It was hard to stay positive at this point, but I kept on trying. I felt honored being asked to be a pallbearer at his burial. The funeral was packed. Over six-hundred people packed the church and heard my father give the hardest sermon of his life. His parents were still in shock at this point, along with many others.
I made a vow to myself that day, I would never forget Matt, and for the next five years as I played football through high school, I wrote his jersey number 54 on my arm with a marker every game. Many people would ask me what it meant, and I would tell them it was my friend's number. After one of our games last year, there was a picture of me in the paper making an interception. People would say, "nice picture," or something to me, but I'll always remember one compliment I received. My mom told me I had a phone call, so I answered and it was Matt's mom and dad. They had seen the picture in the paper, and had noticed something on my arm. You could see the number 54 written on my arm in red marker. They asked me what it meant, and I told them it was for Matt. They both began to cry, and thanked me for it. They said it meant so much to them to see that people still remember him.
After his death, I thought of all the good times we shared fishing in my friend's pond, playing football and baseball in my backyard, and playing video games, but one thing still bothered me. The last time I saw him alive, I rushed to get out of his house ,and even made up a lie because I didn't want to see him just lying, fading away. Sometimes that still bothers me, but then I think that he knew how much he meant to me, and how he changed ways I live and think.
Matt showed me many things about life, but most importantly that we don't live forever. Life means more to me now than it did before. I used to wish for Friday or Saturday, but now I try to live every day to the fullest. I have also learned to be thankful and content with what I have. Many times we don't understand why things happen, but eventually they will make more sense, and hopefully we understand why.