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Garrett Matthias hated wearing pants.
But he loved bouncy houses, Batman and Thor.
He had hoped to become a professional boxer when he grew up, but now that he’s passed away, he’ll settle for being a gorilla.
The 5-year-old Iowa boy recently lost his battle with cancer, but his parents made sure that people reading his unique obituary would know so much more about him than just the disease that took his life.
They wanted his sense of humor to shine through. They wanted people to know what he loved (playing with his sister, his blue bunny, thrash metal, Legos), and what he hated (pants, dirty stupid cancer, the monkey nose that smells like cherry farts).
And they made sure they learned it all through Garrett’s own words.
“These were all the questions that we asked him throughout his time with cancer, and his answers were always the same,” the boy’s father, Ryan Matthias, told TODAY. “It was pretty much verbatim, his wording.”
Garrett even got to sign off on the obituary in the same cheeky way he responded to people in his brief life: “See ya later, suckas!"
Garrett passed away on July 6 from embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that settled into the temporal bone and muscle tissue of his skull. Doctors diagnosed the cancer at Stage 4 last September and the disease eventually spread to the boy’s legs, an arm and other parts of his body.
Garrett endured nine months of intense chemotherapy and radiation. In June, after learning the treatments were ineffective, his parents worked with him to create a bucket list. They also began to discuss how they wanted to pay tribute to their son.
At one point, Emilie Matthias, Garrett’s mom, started thinking about his obituary.
“I thought, when he dies, I don’t want to have one of those boring obits, like the ones that don’t even tell you how the person died. I want one from his perspective,” Emilie said. “I knew we could do it by talking to him and getting information in a fun way.”
But they also didn’t want to shy away from what killed Garrett.
“You know, he's five years old and he died of cancer and I want that to be out in the forefront of his obituary because that really sucks,” Emilie said.
While neither of his parents directly told Garrett that his cancer was terminal, they broached the topic in general terms.
“We talked about how some people don't survive. Everybody's a fighter. If you lose, you lose but hopefully you can go to heaven,” Ryan said. “It was all that stuff. And he was like, ‘Well, when I die, I want to be a gorilla.’ We were like, okay. And that’s why it’s in there in the obituary.”
Also in the obit up was the nickname Garrett earned from hospital staff because of his aversion to pants and shorts: The Great Garrett Underpants.
The obituary also reflects the world of superheroes that can fill a child’s mind.
“Burned or Buried: I want to be burned (like when Thor’s Mommy died) and made into a tree so I can live in it when I’m a gorilla,” he said.
His parents have honored Garrett's wish to be cremated and are now looking to plant his remains to become part of a tree.
Garrett told his parents he didn’t like funerals because they were sad, so his family will instead pay tribute to him with a “Celebration of Life” at their Iowa home. The occasion will honor his wish to have five bouncy houses (“because I’m 5”), Batman and snow cones. It also will include a “symbolic Asgardian ceremony” and a fireworks show.
“This obituary was supposed to be about him, and by him where possible, and just to bring up the fact that humanity, it can be funny, and at the same time downright evil," his dad said. "So whatever we can do to bring a smile to people's face and at the same time bring awareness to cancer and cancer research, we were going to do so.”
Read Garrett's full obituary here.
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