Matt D. Ethridge 1996-2003, 9 years in heaven, happy 16th birthday Buddy
I met Matt when we were both very, very young. Too young to understand just how fragile our happiness was...
We were brought together by the fact that both of us had been born with birth defects (though I would later discover that his were far more serious than mine)... it was because of this fact that our families became friends and therefore so did we.
Throughout his short life Matt basically had two speeds, he was either the picture of childhood innocence and vitality, or he was on death's door. There wasn't much inbetween. He had every reason in this world to be bitter, but he just wasn't. Even though he spent a lot of time in the hospital, time that he should've been able to spend playing, he harbored no disappointment, no fear, no anger, no apathy, he simply accepted the hand he'd been dealt and lived every moment of his life with a courage that was simple and innocent. He never complained, he never let that sweet innocent smile he wore drop from his face, and he managed to make friends wherever he went, no matter who it was. Because of this he touched the lives of everyone who knew him, it's why we all loved him, and why even to this day he never ceases to amaze me. If he ever knew what the word "pain" meant nobody could tell.
He died in mid August 2003, I was only a couple of years older than he was and I remember I was helping my mom set the table for dinner. Then the phone rang...and the world stopped turning. Matt was in the hospital with what I would later discover after the fact was an opportunistic infection. Matt's immune system had always been badly compromised. Over the course of that awful weekend Matt's body slowly shut down until he finally lost all brain function. The world lost one of its best people, and God called his angel home.
I pray that all of us who knew and loved him will eventually find peace, I pray that one day his brother and sister, Max and Emma, neither of whom knew him, will understand who their brother was, and why so many people loved him. Amen.
"The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest
for the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time,nor can it be measured in terms of years, Rather understanding is the aged crown of men
and an unsullied life the attainment of old age.
He who please God was loved;
he who lived among sinners was transported,
Snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind or deceit beguile his soul;
For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right
and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind
Having become perfect in a short while
he reached the fullness of a long career
for his soul was pleasing to the Lord
therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness" - Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-14
It is through these words that God has smoothed over the jagged wounds left by Matt's loss with the hope and knowledge that we will see him again