VAN METER, Iowa –It was an excruciating conversation for a Van Meter family when their five-year-old was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The discussion turned out to be crucial in making the boy's final wishes come true.
You've likely heard the story of the Great Garrett Underpants. Garrett Matthias gained global headlines as the five-year-old who didn't want a funeral.
“Funerals are sad, plain and simple. He wanted a celebration of life, a party," said his dad Ryan Matthias.
He also wrote his own obituary. His mom Emilie Matthias read it to us shortly after her son Garrett died. "My name is Garrett Michael Boofias. My birthday is: I am 5 years old."
It went on to say, “When I die, I'm going to be a gorilla."
Garrett had a rare type of childhood cancer. He battled it for ten months. His parents were told it was terminal in June. "We knew that he was going to die. We knew that it was coming, and it just didn't seem right for us to have such an impersonal obituary," said Emilie.
He died July 6th. “And it's definitely not the same. The house is quiet," said Ryan.
His parents worked to make his final wishes come true. They hosted a celebration of life complete with bounce houses, snow cones, and a burial similar to Thor's mom from the movie.
"We did what Garrett wanted, he didn't want a sad funeral. This was nothing but a happy time," said Ryan.
Now they're focused on keeping his memory alive by raising money for pediatric cancer research. "When it comes down to it, real action is funding cancer research," said Emilie.
"We're hoping doing this brings more money, so unlike us, unfortunately, no more families lose their children," said Ryan.
And, they're working to make one more final wish come true. Garrett said he wanted to be made into a tree so he could live in it. “We did a lot of research and we had a lot of people reach out to us," said Emilie.
His family found a place in California specializing in green burials. They'll take his ashes there next summer and bury them at a redwood tree. "It's a wonderful tree, and if you could climb it, which you can't, you can see the Pacific Ocean in this huge bay. It's on top of this hill. It's a wonderful place," said Ryan.