Interview with Matt Patterson, Author of My Emily

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.

Describe any crises of faith you experienced when Emily was born with Down Syndrome. What do you think of talking about your faith like this?

I think the initial shock of hearing the words “Down Syndrome” was the initial crisis, if you want to call it that. I think hearing it the next day was quite the blind-sided hit. I made calls to anyone and everyone the morning Emily was born with so much enthusiasm and excitement. Then, when hearing the news the following morning, I had to make a second round of calls. Shortly thereafter, once the shock had worn off, we felt so very blessed to have Emily. She was so full of love. We felt blessed to have her.

The actual diagnosis of leukemia took on a form of panic that I had never experienced. The first words that gathered in my mind – well, at least once I found out what leukemia was – were cancer and death. I had never lost anyone close to me before. This would be the first time I would have my faith tested and ask, “why”?

I never felt like an atheist or agnostic during this whole experience. I have always been a person who believed in God. Although, to say my faith was being tried would be an absolute understatement. I have always been a prayerful person. The thing is, I was one who gave thanks quickly and expounded long and hard on the things I needed. In this situation, I was praying for God to make my daughter better. Rid her of this dreaded cancer. At times, I felt like I was bargaining or bartering with Him in my prayers. “If you heal Emily, I’ll do this or never do that again.” My faith seemed like a daily roller coaster, dependent on the news we received each day from the medical staff.

I did learn from our GriefShare group that God’s story explains to each of us why we suffer and die. We’re living smack dab in the middle of it and it is the key to our understanding. I love talking about my faith like this because it allows me to grow. I have so much to learn. Even though Emily passed away 20 years ago, I’m just learning about my faith and how to heal. I believe that in order to heal, I need to be an instrument to minister to others.

What are the clichés about God that you heard in terms of Emily’s life? Why are they inadequate? What would be better to say instead?

To be honest, I really can’t remember too many – although I can remember rolling my eyes. No matter what was said, of course, some do hold a level or element of truth, but it almost comes off like a greeting card and not a genuine statement of concern or belief.  I believe people who go through this rough period in their lives just want authentic sincerity and concern. Pray with us. Cry with us. Hug us. Be genuine. Be sincere. Words don’t have to be eloquent. Actions speak louder than words. Actions are not a cliché…

Stay tuned tomorrow for more of Matt Patterson‘s interview with FemmeFuel…

Order My Emily today on Amazon to help support families who are raising children with special needs and cancer. To learn more about Emily’s story, check out My Emily on Facebook.

. . . Until I See Him Again

By AbbyA

Loss. We lose days as time passes. We lose time as days pass. Sometimes we lose our children from our view in the park – – even if just for a minute. Sometimes we lose our minds – – even if just for a minute. We lose pocket books and wallets. We lose keys and credit cards. Socks in the dryer. We lose innocence in maturity. Idealism in reality. Sometimes we lose sight. Sometimes we lose our way. But we never lose our faith.

I lost my dad in the cold of winter last year. My sweet dad with grey-blue eyes. He walked right into eternity before my eyes. The stepping into eternity was not a surprise to me. It was the sickness and dying that was not part of my understanding. I walked the hospital halls. I pet the big white horse of dog that came to comfort those on my dad’s floor. I listened to my dad talk for a while and then go back to rest. I watched my dad acknowledge doctors and visitors and drink juice and ice. Not knowing it at the time, I watched my dad see my children for the last time. I understood that my dad was coming home from the hospital for the last time. It is by His grace that we are saved and by His grace that our spirits enter into His presence. But it was very hard for me to find His grace in the physical act of dying.

My dad did not find it hard to find His grace in his sickness and dying. He believed – for real – that his God would never leave or forsake him. He believed in things like communion with God, honoring His commandments and sharing truths with love. He didn’t change in his dying. He simply became stronger in the spirit until eternal home and ultimate healing called him. And because of faith, my dad walked out of our earthly exit door and into His grace. Most assuredly, the painful experience of dying was erased as he walked through God’s front entrance and into the foyer of His joy.

Unlike the worthwhile pain of childbirth, death leaves you without a new life to distract you. Looking into sunsets and bright stars in the night resonate unreachable loss. The beating of the heart on the inside begs for just a little more time, a rewind. A go back. Inconsolable prayers asking God for the impossible. For a time, there is no room for healing. The pouring out of pain has to reach its end.

Our loving God gives us room to grieve. He whispers in places that were not complete even before the loss. He writes in fullness where there were pieces missing. He sings in perfection where there was lack. His handling of our humanness is a grand marker of His Godliness.

As He gently points me toward His plan, I find gratitude for the loss. Not for the loss of my dad. For God’s divine wisdom to allow temporary loss. It is in loss that we grow exponentially. Somehow the earthly losses cause us to gain in the spirit. Somehow the spiritual gain covers over the earthly loss. The covering does not extinguish the pain. It opens up the door to light in darkness. The covering is a shadow of the promise of eternity.

Through loss, God deepens our spiritual perception so that we can see what is just beyond the sunsets and bright stars in the night. He makes us aware that the beating of the heart on the inside is also beating for what is to come on the other side. I see my dad experiencing heaven. It is beautiful enough for me to receive God’s plan that brought him home too early and too young. My view gives me almost enough of my dad to settle my wish that he was here with me. I ponder that God planned it that way.

If I can grasp His wisdom, I may see that He pours Himself into my heart so that I desire to see Him in His fullness. The pouring out is a sort of introduction for seeing Him face to face. The pouring out sustains me and overflows me, but it doesn’t quench the cry in my heart for eternity. Isn’t it the same with our losses? His love sustains the loss, but His eternal promises sing us home. Until I see my dad again. Until I see my Heavenly Father face to face. I can be confident that anything lost will be found.