Emily wasn’t born perfect – so one might think. She was born with Down Syndrome and many would jump to the conclusion that she would have very little hope for a life with any significance. Two years later came the diagnosis of leukemia. What little hope remaining turned to no hope whatsoever – or so one might think. This short story tells how the life of one little girl, with all its perceived imperfections, had great meaning. Her loving nature and courage touched the hearts of everyone she met. She also taught them how to value their own lives – even with their many “imperfections.” –From My Emily, by Matt Patterson.
Matt Patterson, the author of My Emily, is a writer who decided to finally share the story of his daughter with hopes to raise funds for those who are raising children with special needs and fighting cancer. My Emily is indeed a testament of a father’s love for his daughter. More importantly, it is a heartwarming memoir of how in just a short time here on this earth, a young daughter transformed the life of her father, and all those who came in contact with her.
In this month when FemmeFuel is contemplating the ideas of luck vs. faith, we interview Matt Patterson, who on the surface may seem “unlucky” when his daughter Emily is born with Down Syndrome, and later diagnosed with leukemia. However, as Matt shares, it was he who was blessed by God in the call to serve as Emily’s father.
Did any questions about suffering lead you to retreat from people, or reach out more towards others?
Shortly after Emily’s passing, I think that both my wife and I withdrew from people. I personally had a very deep anger toward God.
Here’s where my “why” question came in to the picture. Why does a God allow a child – not just my child, but any child – to suffer through this type of illness and the treatments associated with it? Why does a God allow a child with special needs to suffer like this? Why does a merciful God allow a child to go through this illness and harsh treatments to allow her to go into remission and then, allow her to relapse, and again, start an even more intense regimen of chemotherapy? Those were my questions regarding suffering and shortly after Emily’s passing, I cut off all communication with God. I was mad. I was furious. I wasn’t going to give Him the time of day. The farther I pushed away from God, however, the more opportunities He gave to me to share Emily’s passing with those I came into contact with on a daily basis. I finally came to the conclusion that God gave me these sharing experiences with others as a way of healing. Are there days I still cry while sharing it? Of course. I have always wanted to help those families with children who have special needs or those battling pediatric cancer. I just didn’t know how to do so. Twenty years later, he gave me a vehicle to share her story and hopefully help others.
How would you advise other people on how to minister to or support a family going through what your family has gone through with Emily? What do you wish was done for your family during that time?
First, I have to say that the blessings that come from serving, comforting and supporting others are absolutely immeasurable.
It’s my thought and belief that each of us grieve differently. For example, I have always wanted to share Emily’s story, but was I ready to minister and comfort others, say 10 years ago? I would have to say no. Now that I have a better understanding of the grieving process, I can truly say my passion to share her story and help others is at a level that’s difficult to quantify. It becomes very personal and emotional some days. There are still days when I need to lean on those closest to me for support and comfort. I have to say there was so much done for us during Emily’s illness and passing, I don’t look back and say, “Well, it would’ve been nice if they were there more for us.” We consider ourselves blessed for the support we did receive.
Stay tuned tomorrow for more of Matt Patterson‘s interview with FemmeFuel…