The thought of losing a child is beyond what most parents can comprehend, but for Emilie and Ryan Matthias, it became a reality.
Their five-year-old son, Garrett, was diagnosed with cancer after coming home from school looking different.
"He came home from preschool one day and it looked like he had a stroke,” Emilie explained. “The left side of his face looked like it was paralyzed when he smiled.”
It took many different opinions from many different doctors, but eventually they discovered that Garrett was suffering from rhabdymyosarcoma, a type of cancer that affects the temporal bone and inner ear.
Garrett was only four when he was diagnosed, but in his 10 month battle with the horrible disease, he managed to keep his spirits up.
His parents said Garrett was "forever a prankster," teasing the doctors and nurses throughout his treatments with whoopee cushions and anything he could sneak into the hospitals.
Apparently his go-to move was when one of the staff would say "See ya later, alligator" he would respond with "See ya later, suckas!"
This little goofball was always making his family smile, but as his cancer progressed his treatment stopped working. After 30 weeks of treatment, the headaches became so intense that he couldn't speak.
"It had migrated from the temporal bone to the lining of his brain, which is what regulates the spinal fluid,” Matthias said. “At that point they came and told us that his cancer was treatment-resistant.”
He was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to go to Florida, but by that point he couldn't travel that far. Instead he went to the Omaha Zoo to meet the gorillas.
“We went to the zoo on Friday morning and by Friday night he couldn’t walk,” his mom said, explaining that the cancer had spred to his spinal cord.
He was kind and courageous until the end, even putting other people's comfort above his own. Shortly before his death, when his Grandpa visited him, he was concerned with how comfortable the chair was.
“Garrett looks at me and says, ‘Grandpa, come sit in this chair, it will be more comfortable for you,’” his Grandpa said. “I would have gladly taken his place and died for him if he could have lived, but you know you can’t do that. God doesn’t allow for that.”
Garrett passed away on July 6th, but his parents wanted to do everything they could to honor his wishes.
Before he passed away, he talked with his parents about what he wanted. He said “Funerals are sad, I want five bouncy houses (because I’m five), Batman, and snow cones.”
His parents shared all of his wishes as his obituary, and gave him the send off he deserved for being so brave. He wrote:
"Garrett Michael Matthias AKA “The Great Garrett Underpants”
My name is: Garrett Michael Boofias
My birthday is: I am 5 years old
My address is: I am a Bulldog!
My favorite color is: Blue….and Red and Black and Green
My favorite superhero is: Batman…and Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk and Cyborg
When I grow up: I’m going to be a professional boxer"
He had wanted "to be burned like when Thor's mommy died" so that he could be "made into a tree so I can live in it when I'm a gorilla."
Why a gorilla? Well he had an answer for that too. “I am going to be a gorilla and throw poo at Daddy!”
Garrett's funeral will not be a sad event. While obviously his family is devastated, they have decided to call it a "Celebration of Life" and have a symbolic "Asgardian burial ceremony" as a tribute to one of his favorite superheroes, Thor.
The family will be building a wooden boat to place in a pond and then an archer will shoot it with a flaming arrow so it will burst into flames.
There will also be snowcones, bouncy houses, fireworks, cotton candy, face painting, and spin art to help make the event fun.
After the "Celebration of Life" the family will have a private ceremony. The obituary says “A private burial of Garrett’s ashes will be held at a later time once his parents figure out how the hell to get his ashes made into a tree and locate a nature preserve, so his tree resides in a protected area."
While he died so young, his family is hoping to continue the research and help end cancer. "The reality for Garrett and so many other children is pediatric cancer is an ugly, nasty beast that leaves a path of destruction," the obituary said.
"For Garrett and many others before him – cancer kills. Those that are ‘lucky’ enough to survive endure long term debilitating side effects and the constant fear of relapse," it continues. "We will fight for a cure until no other kids are robbed of their childhood, no other siblings lose their best friends, and no other parents have to bury their babies."
If you want to donate to the family you can help them raise money for cancer awareness with their Go Fund Me page.
While it is absolutely heartbreaking to hear about Garrett's struggles, it's nice to know that he was able to keep on laughing until the very end.