When her son, Mattie, was born with a rare disorder now known as Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy, Jeni Stepanek was advised to put her child in an institution and “let nature take its course.” Instead, she nurtured a boy who grew to become a young man who transformed his hardships into a message of hope and peace that touched millions. Mattie J.T. Stepanek was a best-selling author, publishing six collections of his Heartsongs poetry and one collection of peace essays that all became New York Times best-sellers and eventually sold more than two million copies; he gave inspirational talks to thousands and became the National Goodwill Ambassador for Jerry Lewis’s Muscular Dystrophy Association. But his legacy lives strongest in his choice—his decision to celebrate life and perceive it as a blessing even during the most painful moments. It is that legacy that Jeni Stepanek honors with Messenger. Telling the story of Mattie as only his mother could, Jeni Stepanek recounts the intimate moments of her little boy’s life, a life that became larger than life as his message spread across the world. In describing her son’s trips to the beach, his love of reading, his obsession with Legos®, his planning of a surprise birthday party for his mom, we see an ordinary child who just so happened to be facing a life-threatening health situation. In recounting Mattie’s sadness at losing all of his siblings to the same disease, his astonishing intellect, his belief that he was channeling God’s message into his poetry, and his dedication to spreading the message of peace he so believed in, we see the extraordinary boy who lived every day given to him to the fullest.
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