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.
Do you find Jesus most connected to our lives when you consider Him (a) with us in our suffering or (b) as the one who rescues us from our suffering?
I might be taking the easy way out – but I’m going to say both. Allow me to explain.
When Emily was born and we heard the word, “leukemia,” we were devastated. He was with us. We sought Him out in prayer long before we heard this diagnosis, so we knew He was with us.
Once Emily passed, I was mad at God. I was ticked. I wanted nothing to do with Him.
To allow His angel to suffer as such, well, I didn’t have much use for a God that permitted that. He rescued me by having me tell others of her passing. A heart that was full of anger and venom was cleansed by His mercy. By having me speak with others over and over again, it made me realize the comfort that He provides. At a time when I could have completely forsaken him, He rescued me.
Do you have a more sincere, true faith after being on this journey with Emily? How is it different from the faith you had prior to your experiences with Emily?
Yes, I most certainly do! I can now say, “But I trust in you, O Lord; ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”(Psalm 31:14-15) I could have never said that even three years ago.
At the time of Emily’s birth, diagnosis and passing, we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormon or LDS). I do have to admit at times I felt Emily’s conditions were the Lord’s way of punishing me for not being the perfect member of that religion.
It wasn’t until three years ago we attended a church and the message spoke heavily of legalism. It was the second time we visited a Christian church and when I heard the statement, “You have to ask yourself this question. Am I practicing a religion or do I have a relationship with God?”
After living my whole life entrenched in a religion that based my level of salvation on my deeds and accomplishments, and to hear this question. It was life-changing. As soon as my wife and I heard it – we looked at each other simultaneously. When we left that night, I asked my wife if she would support me leaving the LDS chuch. She gave me a wonderful, one word answer – “Absolutely.”
So today, to know what mercy and grace are – (words we never heard before) – well, it’s a long way from the burden of guilt and depression associated with legalism.