WARRENSBURG, Mo. - A teen who captured the hearts of thousands of people died over the weekend.
Matthew Harreld, 17, passed away Friday following a two-year battle with stage 3 brain cancer.
“I just laid next to him, and I told him, ‘I am so proud of you,’” his mother, Amy Harreld recalled of her son’s last moments. “I said, ‘You’ve done such a good job, and you’ve been so brave, but it’s time for you to rest. It’s time for you to be at peace.’”
Last October, doctors discovered cancer in his brain had continued to spread and became inoperable. This gave him two months to live, and his family feared he would not make it to Christmas, according to WDAF.
“Your world just falls apart,” his mom said in December. “He just goes through his day and acts like nothing bothers him. But for me, it’s hard.”
Matthew liked mail, so his local mail carrier called on the community to send him some. The response was overwhelming.
Matthew received more than 4,000 letters and cards, not just from across the country but around the world. One came from Antarctica.
“He used to always tell me, ‘I can’t believe all these people know me, Mom,’" Amy recalled. “I said, ‘Matthew not only do they know you, they’re praying for you. They love you.’”
“There were letters from people that talked about how they had cancer, their family member had cancer, and it makes you feel less alone,” added his father, Kevin Harreld.
Matthew’s family worked in shifts to read every single piece of mail with his name on it; his favorites included jokes or musical tunes. His mom believes the outpouring of love helped keep his spirits up.
“It was really his outlet that he still existed,” she said.
His family will miss his innocent spirit and the signature peace sign his mom said he had given “since he was teeny-tiny,” but they’re forever grateful to the people who made Matthew feel special, even if it was just for a short time.
“Thank you for making him feel famous, for making him feel like he was like the most important person in the world,” Amy said.