The grief one experiences when a loved one passes away is something all of us dread the most, and if it is letting go of a young child, it can be extremely painful.
A couple from Utah decided that the short time their son shared with them was a gift and their son’s short and bubbly life, in spite of severe disability, should be an inspiration to be remembered with more joy than sadness.
Ernest and Anneke Robison were blessed with a son on Sept. 23, 1988. They named him Matthew Stanford Robison.
Ernest and Anneke were overcome with joy and happiness. But their joy was short-lived; doctors told them that Matthew would probably only live for a few hours as he was born with severe disabilities. Due to a lack of oxygen during the pregnancy, he was born blind, and from the neck down, he was paralyzed.
But Ernest and Anneke believed a higher power and divine beings were in charge of everything and braved through the journey ahead. In the end, their faith was justified, and they were able to spend precious ten-and-a-half years with their loving son before he passed away peacefully in his sleep on Feb. 21, 1999.
The church that coordinated Matthew’s funeral was jampacked. Everyone was heartbroken that the little boy was no longer with them, and everyone remembered the joy they had from just being able to know this brave soul. Matthew never let his disabilities keep him down, and if anything, he reminded others that they should never let anything keep them down in life, either.
Matthew’s obituary read: “And then it shall come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
When the time came for Ernest and Anneke to bury Matthew, they decided to forgo the traditional route of having a standard gravestone. Ernest had other plans.
Although they were grieving, they didn’t want his gravestone to be sad and gloomy. As a reminder that Matthew brought them so much joy and happiness, they made plans to honor him by making his gravestone a reflection of the bubbly and joyous personality he had while he was alive.
Matthew was laid to rest at Salt Lake City Cemetery, and here Ernest used the space to honor his beloved son.
Ernest made the base of the gravestone in a traditional manner, with an engraved inscription, but added something unique on top of the gravestone to make it noticeable to all who walked by. The addition was a sculpture of a boy rising from his wheelchair and reaching up to the sky—symbolizing how Matthew is finally free from the bondage of his disabled physical body.
Ernest’s statue for his son Matthew has been inspiring many people, as quite a few families have visited the little boy’s grave since the headstone was put up.
Matthew’s grave inspires and comforts other families who have lost their loved ones with disabilities. It’s a symbol of courage and hope, reminding them of their loss while making them realize that their loved ones are now free from their disability like Matthew is.
Today’s Mama, a website dedicated to inspiring mothers and families, wrote about Matthew’s headstone: “One day while driving around doing research at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, I spotted this beautiful headstone and memorial. It immediately brought tears to my eyes, and continues to every time I visit it. Never before had I come across such a touching statue that tells so much just at first glance.”
“It speaks volumes about how in this life we may have to suffer through hardships and trials, but when we pass to the other side, our spirits are free from those earthly disabilities,” the website wrote.
With the intention of doing more to honor their son, Ernest and Anneke started their own charity, called Ability Found, in 1993. This charity provides assistive equipment to others who are living with disabilities.
A lot of times, children and adults who are suffering from disabilities cannot get access to or afford the equipment they need to assist them with everyday activities. Ernest and Anneke’s charity helps people who have this problem.
Coming across and facing tragic situations is a part of human existence. There are multiple ways of handling these situations—one is a negative and destructive way, and the other a positive and constructive way, one that Ernest and Anneke chose by helping others and making a positive impact.
The choice is ours as to how we make use of negative experiences in our lifetimes.
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