A legacy

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A few weeks ago I noted that a friend of ours was losing his battle with leukemia. It greatly saddens to me to announce that on Sunday, February 23rd, Matthew Allan Patton passed away.

I knew Matt through our summers spent on the softball fields. It's kind of funny, but I actually had no idea what his name was for probably an entire season. I'd heard his name before, but he was often called by his last name, so it never stuck in my head and I always felt like such a HUGE jerk because whenever he spotted me on at the ball park or in public, he'd come up for a side hug or a high-five.

Oddly enough, it wasn't until I learned that he was he was in remission from cancer that his name finally settled in my memory.

As I said, I came to know Matt through softball and it was primarily because he was incredibly close with several of my softball buddies. That resulted in Matt making regular appearances at my games and he would occasionally serve as our third base coach, giving us the all clear to run on to home plate. Every time I made it to third base, we'd swap high-fives and chat.

The last time I saw Matt was (ironically enough) was at September's Hoosiers Outrun Cancer event. I spotted Matt in the crowd easily because 1.) He's super tall and 2.) He was one of the few wearing a red shirt in a sea of cream. (Participants with cream shirts were running in honor of loved ones who are battling or who have battled cancer, whereas the crimson shirts were reserved for those currently fighting). Before the race, Matt told us that he was having radiation treatments on his neck because they found a tumor and he was experiencing pain (at least, that's what I remember in my hazy mind. I don't recall the specifics of what he was going through because when you hear the word "CANCER!" that seems to be the only part that stays with you). Clayton and I offered our feeble well wishes, which always feel so hollow because you know that no amount of comforting words can assuage that kind of fear or uncertainty.

But it was Matt. He was also SO HAPPY and SO UP ALL THE TIME. I mean, there was nothing to really worry about. If he beat cancer once, he'd surely do it again, right?

I subscribed to a support page for Matt because it was the off-season and I wanted to know what was going on since I didn't see him every week like we did in the summers. As his leukemia became common knowledge, my Facebook newsfeed literally exploded with posts and status updates about Matt and one thing became unarguably clear:

Matt touched the lives of countless people.

Never in my life have I seen such an outpouring of support and love for a single person. Every time I logged into Facebook, I was met with a new anecdote about Matt's kind, sweet soul and his mischievous sense of humor. While reading the never-ending strand of stories about the man that meant so much to so many, I felt entirely regretful that I did not know him better. While so many people were mourning the loss of his place in their lives, I was wishing that he had an even bigger role in mine.

Matt's life and battle with cancer has taught me something incredible. I woefully used to believe that I needed to make my impact on the world by doing something newsworthy, by leaving a legacy that would effect the masses for centuries to come. All of my heroes and role models were public figures that were making news for impressive displays of goodwill and noble actions. I shamefully believed that history's greatest heroes won awards, marched on Washington or helped solve diplomatic issues in foreign lands.

But Matt made a massive, far-reaching impact on the world by doing the most simple, yet impressive thing a human being can do: He was a good person. Matt changed and bettered people's lives just by being in them. He didn't know me from Adam, but within a few softball games, he was calling me by name and teasing me, like we'd known each other for lifetimes. He has so many well-wishers on Facebook because he was a friend to everyone.

That's the legacy I want to leave. That's what I aspire to. 

To his friends, children and family, I'm thinking of you all and praying for peace and comfort as you prepare to say your final goodbyes. 

Image borrowed from Matt's Facebook page.

Rest in peace, Matt.





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8 comments

  1. Replies
    1. My honor and pleasure. I'm praying for you all this week and will be thinking of you guys.

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  2. Beautiful post, Courtney. I lost my dad a little over a year ago to cancer, and found out yesterday that my former chiropractor, who's been battling cancer for the better part of 5 years, will be going on Hospice this week. I owe that woman my health - she kept me walking when I insisted on destroying my body as a college pitcher, and she directed me to the only doctor who would go outside conventional medicine to help me get well (I have food sensitivities and a thyroid problem, but no one would listen to me when I would say I wasn't well...except her, and then my (now) doctor.). Both had so much more to give to this world, but God has other plans.

    Cancer sucks, and until there's a cure, we will all be touched by this horrific disease.

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    1. Jacki,

      Thank you for your comment and I'm so sorry to hear about your father's passing, as well as the deteriorating health of your former chiropractor (and friend). These kinds of situations beg the question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and we have nothing to do but trust that, as you said, God's plans are bigger than ours; that he brings people in and out of our lives for a reason that is beautiful and perfect ... and may never fully be understood.

      Thinking of you, dear. <3

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  3. Beautifully said. He was one of a kind. Never have I known a sweeter, kinder, more gentle soul. He is missed...

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Missy. I feel so honored to have known him in the small capacity that I did.

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  4. Thank you for posting this Courtney! It was beautifully written, and certainly portrays the man we all loved. He's left behind a legacy like no other.

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  5. Through reading this post (and then searching for his obituary) I realized that I didn't really know him, but I know his mom. I have known her most of my life. Due to the relationship that we have with his mother we went to see Matt perform in Grease when he was in Sounds of South. I still remember his performance in that musical, it was so neat to me that I knew the mother of someone starring in the muscial! Beautiful tribute.

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