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Young Boy Dies In His Sleep, Then Dad Turns His Grave Into A Work Of Art

What the doctors said to Ernest and Anneke were just words to them, as they knew there was a higher power than a doctor–God. They listened to what the doctors said, but decided to keep their faith in God. In the end, He blessed them with ten and a half wonderful years they were able to spend with their loving son Matthew. Going peacefully, Matthew passed away in his sleep.

The church that coordinated his funeral was packed to the max. It broke everyone’s hearts that he was no longer here anymore, but reminded everyone of the joy they had from just being able to meet Matthew. He 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-arkFacebook/Ability Found

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.”

With heavy hearts, it came time for Ernest and Anneke to bury Matthew. Instead of going the traditional route of having a standard gravestone on Matthew’s grave, Ernest had other plans in mind…

Although Matthew’s parents were grieving, that didn’t mean they wanted his gravestone to be sad and gloomy. Matthew brought them so much joy and happiness, that they wanted to honor him by making his gravestone a reflection of the bubbly personality he had while he was alive.

bikeFacebook/Ability Found

Matthew was buried at Salt Lake City cemetery, and that is where Ernest decided to make the most out of Matthew’s plot space to honor his beloved son. He left the base of the gravestone with a traditional inscription, but wanted to add something unique on top of the grave to be noticeable to all who walked by. The new addition, a sculpture, was of a boy rising from his wheelchair and reaching up to the sky–as now Matthew is finally free from his disability.

grave2Facebook/Ability Found

What Ernest did for his son Matthew was so touching, that millions of people have visited Matthew’s grave since Ernest put it up. Not only does the sculpture represent Matthew’s new happiness that he no longer has his disabilities, but it also does something even more spectacular than just that. It gives comfort to other families who have lost loved ones with disabilities–reminding them that it is sad that they are gone, but realize that they are now free from their disability like Matthew is.

Enjoy Utah!, a blog organization that showcases everything Utah related, shared their initial reaction when they came across Matthew’s grave:

“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.”

graveFind a Grave/David M. Habben

Wanting to do more to honor their son, Ernest and Anneke started their own charity, called Ability Found. Their charity provides assistive equipment for others who are living with disabilities. A lot of times children and adults who are suffering from disabilities cannot get access, nor can they afford the equipment they need to assist them with everyday activities. So Ernest and Anneke’s charity helps out with this issue.

sloganFacebook/Ability Found

Ernest and Anneke have turned the tragedy of losing their beloved son into a charity for helping others who suffer from similar conditions like the one Matthew did. There’s no doubt that Matthew is looking down at his parents from above, smiling, because of how proud he is of them.


Sadly, a tragedy will happen to us all at some point. There are two ways to handle the situation when it does–in a negative and destructive way, or in a positive way like Ernest and Anneke did, by helping others and making a positive difference in the world. Which way will you take when it happens to you?

Sources: Enjoy Utah!Ability Found FB Image Credit: Find A Grave &


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