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Living Out Loud

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June 2011, photo courtesy of Shelley Paulson

Right before Mattie was born, I had a stirring in my spirit to start speaking publicly. I had even started looking into some possible opportunities and had started writing in preparation.

Even after we were matched and expecting Mattie, I had pictures in my mind of John sitting with a beautiful little boy on his lap in the front row while I spoke.  I literally would visualize this and it made me smile.

Then our boy came.

He was everything we had ever dreamed.  We fell in love. Hard and fast.

But he needed us more than we could have ever dreamed.

And we needed him more than we could have ever dreamed.

And at that moment, whether conscious or not, I made the decision to live our lives out loud.

I had always been very real about our lives on this blog and on social media. I shared it all. The joys. The crazy insanity. The painfully hard.

But with Mattie, it felt sacred. Like a platform was being rolled out before me.

I chose to step out onto it.

Little did I know that in choosing to live this journey out loud with a little boy know as “Mattie Sam”, that the world would be changed.

Little did I know the story that I was sharing with you day to day would be much shorter than the dream my mind had woven about what this boy’s life would be.

How did he change me?

How did he change you?

It’s my turn first…..

Mattie changed the way I look at the world. He redefined my values. I have never know a single soul who enjoyed loving the way that Mattie did.

He thrived in a place of love.

He didn’t really know how to do much more than love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…..And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Cor 13:4-8, 13

“But the greatest of these is LOVE.”

Why did nurses who weren’t in charge of his care stop by his room just to spend time with him?

Why was “I just need some time with Mattie” a common phrase around our house?

Why did those of you who only knew him “virtually” say that just seeing his face on Facebook made your day brighter.

Is it possible that when a life is not cluttered by “things of this world” that Love beats more loudly?

Is it possible that a child who has suffered pain and struggled to live and breathe might have the capacity to revel in the beauty of every moment, somehow knowing that those moments are precious?

Mattie taught me to love. He taught me to slow down. He taught me to truly appreciate the little miracles of life.

He reflected God’s love to me. He was capable of touching my face and changing my heart beat.

He taught me that we are all created to love and be loved, and that our capacity for that love is only hindered by the weight of the world that we allow to settle in our spirits.

He taught me to let go of so much, so that I could contain more of that love.

He never took much notice of the tubes and wires and machines, things that could have been a focal point, a distraction.

He just lived a life of LOVE.

And so now it’s time for me to once again allow my son to be my teacher.

Grief is a strange beast. It’s unpredictable and terrifying. It’s consuming and as heavy as a blanket of lead across my shoulders.

I have to walk through it. I have to feel it.

I don’t know how it will look tomorrow. Or next week. Or in 2 months. Or in 12 years.

What I do know is that as I grieve, I want the lesson of love to be in the forefront of my mind, leading the way.

This valley of the shadow of death is a place where I have to close my eyes to see beyond the pain. I have to close my eyes and literally breathe in the Love of the Comforter.

So if you wonder why I’m grieving out loud. Just know that I’m just trying to breathe. And for me words come as I breathe in Love.

So just as I lived my journey with my son out loud,  I’m going to live my journey learning to be without him out loud too.

Now it’s your turn…..

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8 thoughts on “Living Out Loud

  1. Crying…..someone….YOU……have put words to what I have felt with my loss. I too grieve out loud at times and I have had people tell me that it is time I live. It makes me sad that they don’t see that I do live and live well. I loved following Mattie virtually. It may have been virtual but darn it…..it was real….it was PALPABLE!!! The sheer JOY Mattie Sam found in life, he gave away freely. And even those “furrowed brow” looks he gave and that I loved the best, brought me such joy and always brought a smile to my face, even on spiritually gloomy days for me. They were my absolute favorites……it was almost like he knew that I needed them. For being so physically limited, he lived HUGE. He lived FULL. He exuded JOY. He is a gift not only to your family but to everyone of us who knew him in different ways. If the depth of grief is a sign of how much we love then Mattie was the richest little boy in the world.

  2. you have a habit of taking my breath away with your words, your images, your love. And ironically when I finally take a breathe, I see that beautiful Mattie Sam, with his boyish charm and sweet facial expressions and I realize how deep I do breathe, it really is breathing in his love every time. I am so thankful that you love out loud and grieve out loud because you remind us every day of how we must live every day, with joy, and sorrow and big deep breathes.

  3. I definitely think your point about people who suffer knowing what it truly means to love and live life is true. I’ve seen it myself. Mattie was love and is love…and someday we get to join him in that perfection.

  4. I don’t know you IRL – I am a virtual friend. Whenever I saw a picture or video or post about Mattie Sam, it always brought a smile to my face. His face (to me) was pure JOY. He always had a look of pure JOY on his little face. He was loved. He was well loved. And he loved well back. You could just “tell” by the pictures and videos and posts that this child – this child of God – was put on this earth to give and receive love, to show joy, to heal minds, bodies and souls.

    That IS Mattie Sam’s effect on my life. He showed me what love and joy looks like.

    Always praying for you and your family, Tracie. Blessings and peace to all of you. *hugs*

  5. Mattie truly taught me how beautiful every life is. Not that I ever questioned the sanctity of life, but Mattie proves that every life matters. Mattie had a better quality of life then many people will ever experience. In his short life, with odds stacked against him, he touched more lives then most of ever well. I am so glad I could be loved by him and love him. Because if him, I too am a better person.

  6. Mattie taught me how to pray & feel for the one I love like no other person I’ve ever prayed and loved thus far in my life. In a very real sense, I felt he was loving me every time I’d see a picture or a video on Facebook. He taught me how to recognize the special power of a child’s love in a way I’ve never felt before. I believe that I will love my own children better because of ‘Mattie Sam’.

    Thanks for sharing him with me and all of the others you’ve shared him with Tracie!

  7. Not knowing you in real life, I could only enjoy and celebrate Mattie’s smile and accomplishments from a distance–and that I did! However, I’d like to tell you about the “before.” All my life, I had very little opportunity to get to know kids/adults who society deemed as “different” or “handicapped” as was the language fairly often. So when you guys brought Mattie home, I heard people talking about how much joy he brought, how much love and while I believe that was true, I couldn’t help but wonder “What kind of life will this child have? Will he be in pain? Unhappy?” I was ignorant and not totally at ease around folks with serious disabilities–and can easily admit that while emphasizing the word “WAS”. Like you, I believe that EVERY child’s life has value, EVERY child deserves love, a family, and so much more. Your family gave that and more to precious Mattie Sam. And it didn’t take me long to realize, as I read your blog and followed you on facebook finally, that Mattie had so much MORE than so many people out there, he radiated joy and love and he did not stop—wires, vents, oxygen, the trach, none of it stopped him from living his life fully rather than existing within it. I cheered for you all when you guys went on vacation–seeing him napping on a blanket, seeing him so much a part of everyday life–just as it is meant to be! Just as it will continue to be even though he is gone for he lives on in every life he touched! Mattie taught me that my obstacles are mere bumps in the road–and if Mattie could find joy in every day, I certainly can too!

  8. Enjoyed this post! I call it leaning in to the headwinds of grace……being grounded by the love of those that we lost……and knowing that their love….our love is so much more than the pain of the grief. And what does this visitor teach me about both?

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