WARRENSBURG, Mo. — A Warrensburg 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.’”
FOX4 first shared Matthew’s story five days before Christmas. In October, doctors discovered the cancer in his brain continued to spread and it had become inoperable. This gave him two months to live and his family feared he would not make it to Christmas.
“Your world just falls apart,” his mom said in December as she wiped away tears. “He just goes through his day and acts like nothing bothers him, but for me, it’s hard.”
He liked mail so his local mail carrier championed the community to send him some and the response was overwhelming. Matthew received more than 4,000 letters and cards, not just from across the country but around the world. One even as far away as Antarctica.
“He used to always tell me, ‘I can’t believe all these people know me mom,’ his mom 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,” his father, Kevin Harreld added.
Matthew’s family worked in shifts to read every single piece of mail with his name on it – his favorite were ones that included musical tunes or jokes. 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 he was known for “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,” his mom said.
Funeral services for Matthew will be Saturday, March 16 at the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-Day Saints in Warrensburg. It starts at 10:00 a.m. and the public is welcomed to attend.