“One day, for all to know, our legacy will simply be the shape of the life we leave behind, for eternity.”-Mattie Stepanek.
Jeni Stepanek was on Good Morning America today: See excerpt from the book, Messenger, the Legacy of Mattie J.T Stepanek and Heartsongs, and video. Tonight she wrote this on the Larry King Blog.
November 2, 2009
The Legacy of Mattie Stepanek
Posted: 07:10 PM ET
By Jeni Stepanek for the Larry King Blog
For many years, people have asked me, “When are you going to write the story of Mattie’s life? I am inspired by his words, his message. I want to know more about Mattie as a person.” And for a number of years, I have had this story planned – outlined into chapters, with detailed notes and thoughts about how such a book might unfold chapter by chapter. It wasn’t until last fall that I felt the time was ‘right’ to tell this story though.
Despite the sad truth that Mattie died just before his 14th birthday, I wanted this book to be a celebration of his life. I wanted to capture his wisdom (yes, he penned seven NY Times bestselling books of poetry and essays), and also his wit (yes, he really DID put apple juice in a urine cup and panic unsuspecting doctors who saw him drinking it). I wanted to write a book that inspired people to think of Mattie with a smile, and to recognize that he was an ordinary kid who made some extraordinary choices in life. I wanted folks to remember why they were drawn to him during his time on earth. I wanted readers to feel how ‘real’ Mattie was, and how very much alive his message of hope and peace is in the world today through a legacy that is growing outward and ‘forthward’ more and more each year. Now, that book, “Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs” is complete, and ready ripple around the world.
Through television appearances and writings and speeches, Mattie reminded people of all walks of life that ‘hope is real’ and ‘peace is possible’ and ‘life is worthy’ – despite whatever burdens or blessings were a part of any given day. This book will help readers finally learn about Mattie himself, and how he came to believe and live those truths in his own life. Readers will learn about Mattie’s hopes and hesitations, his education and spirituality, and his practical jokes and adventures at summer camp. The importance of ‘morning coffee’ and ‘afternoon tea’ are explored, as well as the significance of ‘sunrise on pier’ and ‘pumpkin season’ and other themes that touched Mattie’s essence. I share details of Mattie’s private life at home, his journeys on the road once he achieved some level of celebrity, and his long months in the intensive care unit during his final years of life. The book is filled with photos from throughout Mattie’s life, most of which I have never shared before. There are also bits of previously unpublished poetry and journal entries by Mattie, as well as excerpts from his e-mail correspondence with Oprah Winfrey, Chris Cuomo, and other friends.
Mattie was my son, and he was also my best friend. There is not a day that passes that I don’t miss him, or the little notes he would leave by my bed, or his snuggles and foot massages, or the word games and board games we played, or the conversations we had about life and our world, or just holding his hand. But this book is not about what I miss, or about my grief, or even about Mattie’s passing. This book is truly about the celebration and lasting inspiration of a young man who taught us all through word and action, to “Remember to play after every storm!”
I am very proud to be “Mattie’s mom.” And though there were some difficult moments during the writing of this book and during the audio recording of this book for CD, I am so happy that I realized last fall that it was time to share this story. I am excited about the release of this book, and I am looking forward to interacting with readers who want to share their thoughts after reading the pages. What a gift it has been to me to have the opportunity to share the story of my son’s life in this book. Please feel free to contact me through Mattie’s website: www.mattieonline.com.
© 2009 by Jeni Stepanek.
"Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs" is in bookstores November 3rd.
Read my review of Mattie's book, Just Peace, co written with President Jimmy Carter.