A Gift Like Matthew

Everybody needs to know someone like my cousin Matthew.

A traumatic premature birth left Matt with catastrophic brain damage, and his doctors believed he wouldn’t live much past his teens. He turned 40 this year. As a quadriplegic, Matt can’t walk or even roll over in bed unassisted, he can’t care for any of his own needs, and he struggles to speak clearly.

And he’s one of the best humans I know.

Matt’s a grin machine on wheels. He’s passionate about his church, his favorite restaurant, his day program, and Barry Manilow. In a social climate choked with anger and opinions, Matt is fresh air because he’s exceptional at two things: loving and being loved.

Every Labor Day weekend for well over a hundred years, our family has gathered on a Kentucky hillside to play bluegrass on handcrafted instruments, eat fried chicken and too much dessert, and hug each other tight one more time. This year, though, the pandemic forced us to meet online instead.

No music. No food. No hugs.

It was sad and strange for all of us — except Matthew.

Matt’s body has been too fragile to make the trip to Kentucky for several years, and he couldn’t contain his excitement at seeing so many beloved faces all together on the same screen.

“Hi, Mike! Hi, Aunt Vivian! Hi, Janet! Hi, Marisa!” With every greeting Matt’s smile grew wider and so did ours. None of the lines that are dividing families right now mattered one bit to him. He just loved and left the rest to Jesus.

Matt will never live a typical adult life. He’ll never get married, hold a full-time job, or live independently, and some people would say that he’ll never be a contributing member of society.

But Matt is contributing. He’s contributing wild delight over every birthday he celebrates. He’s contributing belly laughs and funny questions and a steel-trap memory and unashamed honesty.

He’s contributing himself. And that’s enough.

Matthew’s strong, dedicated mama gave him a name that means “gift of God”, and that’s what he is. He’s our gift. Everybody needs a gift like Matthew to remind us all that being a child forever is more than enough.

That there’s no shame in needing help.

That we matter regardless of what we bring to the table.

That loss and struggle don’t have to define us.

And, more than anything, that our relationships with people and with God can be sweet and simple if we let Jesus’s love fill us up and spill over.

Matt, thanks for being our gift. We love you a whole, whole lot.

“Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and to pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:13-14, CSB)

5 Comments

  1. Melissa Lee Taylor
    Sep 20, 2020

    I love you Matt! I always look at the emails about you! I am a cousin of your mom and her siblings. Paula and I were
    very close and love each so much today. Just wanted you to know that in Nashville I think of you and admire you too!!❤️❤️

  2. Melissa Lee Taylor
    Sep 20, 2020

    I am always following you when ever I see postings about you! You are amazing and I really respect you and your never ending love of life. Aunt Melissa loves and thinks of you!! (Nashville TN)

  3. Kathy Moormann
    Sep 20, 2020

    Matt is so loved by our church family, such a shining example of the love of Jesus. Always smiling, bringing joy to all of us who love him and Patsy of course.

  4. Patsy Turman
    Sep 20, 2020

    Thank you Beth. I am so thankful for Matt. I am so glad God gave him to me to raise. He has been a blessing to so many people. I can’t even start to think what my life would’ve been without him. He is truly heaven on earth. Love you Beth.

  5. Vivian Fox
    Sep 20, 2020

    Beth, thank you for sharing about our precious Matt! He is indeed a gift! We love him and feel his love for us! But best of all is seeing and hearing expressions of his love for Jesus, his Savior! Matt looks forward to going to Heaven when that time comes and he wants others to prepare to meet Jesus! We are blessed by the gift of Matt and Patsy, his caring Mother!
    (Love from – Aunt Vivian and Uncle David Fox)

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