The tragic death of a 5-year-old from Iowa named Garrett Matthais is breaking hearts and making headlines around the country. But his story has also brought laughter with the tears. That's because, in his final days of his battle with a form of cancer called Rhabdomysosarcoma, he helped write his own obituary.
The obit appeared in the Des Moines Register and is a series of questions that Garrett's father Ryan wrote and his son—also known to his loved ones as "The Great Captain Underpants"—answered. He shared his favorite people, the things he hates the most ("dirty stupid cancer, when they access my port, needles, and the monkey nose that smells like cherry farts"), and what will happen when he dies ("be a gorilla and throw poo at Daddy!").
"We didn't believe writing a 'normal' obit would so his personality justice, and we wanted to ensure the reason he died—cancer—was highlighted," his mother, Emilie Matthais, told Good Morning America. For that reason, the obit also features a line written by Emilie and her husband that states, "Garrett endured nine months of hell before he lost his battle with cancer." They also note that the little boy "never lost his sense of humor."
When the obit was complete, Emilie and Ryan read it aloud. "My husband and I both laughed and cried," Emilie Matthais told GMA. "We reminisced a lot about G and how much this obit perfectly captured his personality. We were both thrilled we had jotted down some of our conversations and were able to us his words."
The family also followed Garrett's wishes not to have a funeral. Instead, he told his parents he wanted "to be burned like Thor's mommy" and also to have "five bouncy houses (because I'm five), Batman and snow cones." So, that's exactly what the Matthaises did. They even included fireworks as part of the tribute.
"I think Garrett would have had a blast," Emilie said. "He would have loved all the super heroes and bouncy houses. I think he would have been awed by the archer and his shooting skills. He would have loved to watch his boat burn and see the beautiful fireworks. Thor and Batman would have been the highlight for him."
In the wake of his passing, couple also made a point to pay tribute to their son's medical team. "We are so grateful to the many doctors, nurses, child life specialists, musicians, art therapists, and volunteers that worked tirelessly to cure Garrett of his cancer," they wrote near the end of the obituary. "The reality for Garrett and so many other children is pediatric cancer is an ugly, nasty beast that leaves a path of destruction. For Garrett and many others before him - cancer kills. Those that are 'lucky' enough to survive endure long term debilitating side effects and the constant fear of relapse. We will fight for a cure until no other kids are robbed of their childhood, no other siblings lose their best friends, and no other parents have to bury their babies."