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A 5-year-old’s wish before dying of ‘dirty stupid cancer’: Bouncy houses at a ‘Thor’-style funeral

A 5-year-old’s wish before dying of ‘dirty stupid cancer’: Bouncy houses at a ‘Thor’-style funeral




Garrett Matthias meets a gorilla, one of the last things he wanted to do before he died. (Courtesy of Emilie Matthias)

Garrett Matthias, who was also known as “The Great Garrett Underpants,” thought funerals were sad, so he wanted five bouncy houses at his. Five because he was 5.

He wanted his parents to serve snow cones and for Batman to be a part of it. And he wanted a funeral like the one he saw in the superhero movie “Thor,” when the hero’s mother is laid to rest in a boat that sails over a waterfall and is lit on fire by a flaming arrow.

Garrett’s parents, of Van Meter, Iowa, knew all of this because Garrett told them his final wishes just before a rare form of pediatric cancer took him on July 6.

Before then, his parents, Emilie and Ryan Matthias, had asked Garrett questions about his favorite things and his least favorite things, his favorite people and his favorite superheroes, taking notes on his answers over a matter of weeks. And then they compiled it all in the since-gone-viral obituary just as Garrett would have wanted it: with a sense of humor.

“When I die,” Garrett said, “I am going to be a gorilla and throw poo at Daddy!”

He seemed unafraid to talk about dying, Emilie told The Washington Post. When it became clear to his parents that his cancer was terminal, Emilie said, one of the questions they asked Garrett was, what happens after we die? His dad said he believed people went to heaven. His mom said she believed we all became stars. Garrett wanted to be a gorilla.

He had his afterlife all figured out after watching “Thor,” Emilie said. As he and Emilie passed a cemetery in the car one day, she said, he told her he didn’t want to be buried that way.

“I want to be burned (like Thor’s Mommy died),” Garrett said, which his parents included in his obituary, “and made into a tree so I can live in it when I’m a gorilla.”

“Garrett endured nine months of hell before he lost his battle with cancer,” his parents wrote in a note at the end of the obituary. “During that time he never lost his sense of humor and loved to tease the doctors and the nurses. From whoopee cushions and sneaking clothespins on their clothes to ‘hazing’ the interns and new staff doctors, he was a forever a prankster.”

Garrett’s obituary begins with his name: Garrett Michael Boofias, the way Garrett pronounced it.




Garrett Matthias hoped Batman would come to his funeral. (Courtesy of Emilie Matthias)

His favorite superheroes, he said, were Batman, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk and Cyborg. He loved thrash metal and playing with his sister and with Legos. He hated pants, needles and “dirty stupid cancer.”

The “dirty stupid cancer,” as he called it, was stage four alveolar fusion negative rhabdomyosarcoma, or ARMS, Emilie said. He had a tumor in the temporal bone in his head, she said, and in his inner ear. When they found out the tumor was untreatable, she said, they realized there was nothing more the doctors could do, and so they started making a bucket list with Garrett.

At the top of his list: becoming a boxer and meeting a gorilla.

He got both his wishes last month. A boxing club brought him a pair of gloves and taught him how to throw a few punches, which KCCI captured on video.

And then the Make a Wish Foundation helped organize a trip to the Omaha zoo, Emilie said.

He stuck his hands and face up to the glass as a gorilla approached, seeming to take interest in Garrett, Emilie said, and it seemed Garrett had made a friend. He planned to visit her in the afterlife.

“We asked him, How is Mommy gonna know that gorilla is you?” Emilie said. “How will we know when we see a gorilla that it’s you?”

He would fling the poo at Dad, of course.

Emilie and Ryan will hold a celebration of life ceremony Saturday at their home in Iowa. They plan to give Garrett exactly what he asked for: bouncy houses, snow cones, fireworks and the Thor-style “Asgardian-style burial ceremony.” A boat, one built by Emilie’s father, will carry Garrett’s ashes to the middle of a pond in a neighbor’s backyard. Their friend, a local archer, will light it on fire with a flaming arrow.

And then Emilie and Ryan will find a way to turn his ashes into a tree.

“A private burial of Garrett’s ashes will be held at a later time once his parents figure out how the hell to get his ashes made into a tree and locate a nature preserve, so his tree resides in a protected area,” his parents wrote in the obituary.

Garrett concluded the obituary with his favorite response to “See ya later, alligator” — specifically, “See ya later, suckas!”

Then he signed off with his nickname: “The Great Garrett Underpants.”

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