My hero passed away on January 2nd six years ago. His name was Matthew Epp. He was 16 when he passed away from cancer. He battled cancer for most of his life and I just knew in my heart of hearts that he was going to beat it. He deserved so much more out of life. But I was wrong. I remember that day like it was yesterday. My mom picked me up from work and as we got closer to home she finally worked up the nerve to tell me that he had passed away. I just glared out the window in silence for the rest of the ride home. When we got home she asked if I wanted to talk and I told her that I just wanted to go downstairs and change out of my work uniform. I managed to change and wash my hands in my ensuite but I didn’t make it past the ensuite door after that. All I really remember is just crumpling on the floor in the doorway. I vaguely remember my mom finding me and lifting me off the floor and guiding me to my bed. My crying was pretty uncontrollable by this point so she guided me out to the couch in our downstairs living room, sat next to me, covered me with a blanket, and let me cry for what felt like hours on end. I cried until I couldn’t anymore but the rage inside me wasn’t going away.
I was lost for a long time after Matthew passed away. What do you do when your hero, your inspiration, is gone? On some level, I was also scared. Matthew fought the cancer so hard. And he fought it with such grace and courage and positivity. I’d like to think that I fight my Cystic Fibrosis just as hard as he fought the cancer. So if he could fight that hard and not beat it then what was going to happen to me?
I met Matthew Epp when I was in grade seven. I was the Champion Child (a spokesperson) for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan (CHFS) that year and he had held that title before me. We were asked to co-host a pre-recorded hour-long special for Global TV to inform people about the work that the CHFS was doing and share the stories of sick and injured kids that would benefit from having a children’s hospital in the province. Matthew and I had a blast that day. He was so lively and funny and made me laugh so much. I will never forget that day. I talked to him several times after that and read his mom’s blog for updates on his health. I struggled with being at events for the CHFS when he wasn’t well enough to attend. He deserved so much of the praise that was given to the CHFS Champions.
Matthew was an inspiration to so many. He never let on that he wasn’t feeling well and he was so upbeat and happy no matter what. He had the kind of courage that the rest of us could only dream of possessing. He was and still is a positive force in the world and in my life and the lives of many others. Whether you had known him for years or only spent a few days with him, his light was the type that you would never forget. It’s hard for me to put into words the type of person Matthew was.
Before he passed away he was able to have a story he’d written one year at camp published as a storybook with the proceeds going to cancer research. The book is called Hope and the Dragon and tells the story of a boy battling cancer as represented by a dragon. He uses gifts such as love, courage, faith, and hope to battle the dragon. Matthew even had the chance to promote his book on Canada AM. I was so happy to see him on television doing the weather report and talking about his book!
Matthew’s passing and the grief and rage that came with it has been one of the hardest things I’ve gone through in my life. It is still something I struggle with and I think about Matthew all the time. He is my hero and my inspiration. He was an angel here on earth and now he is an angel above us.
Rest in peace Matt. Xoxo.
If you would like more information on Matthew and the other Champions of the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan you can find them here: http://www.childrenshospitalsask.ca/page.aspx?pid=351
You can find Matthew’s book here: http://www.aaspirationspublishing.com/shop/shop/hope-and-the-dragon/