Matthew Stepanek, commonly known as Mattie Stepanek, was an American poet, who had six books of poetry and one book of essays all reach The New York Times bestsellers list. Mattie was also a peace advocate and a motivational speaker who lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of peace, people with disabilities, and children with life-threatening conditions. Mattie himself suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, that resulted in his death. His sister and two brothers also died from the disease during early childhood, and his mother has the adult form, diagnosed only after all four of her children were born.
One of Mattie’s poems is called “I Could. . . If They Would”:
If they would find a cure when I'm a kid…
I could ride a bike and sail on rollerblades, and
I could go on really long nature hikes.
If they would find a cure when I'm a teenager…
I could earn my licence and drive a car, and
I could dance every dance at my senior prom.
If they would find a cure when I'm a young adult…
I could travel around the world and teach peace, and
I could marry and have children of my own.
If they would find a cure when I'm grown old…
I could visit exotic places and appreciate culture, and
I could proudly share pictures of my grandchildren.
If they would find a cure when I'm alive…
I could live each day without pain and machines, and
I could celebrate the biggest thank you of life ever.
If they would find a cure when I'm buried into Heaven…
I could still celebrate with my brothers and sister there, and
I could still be happy knowing that I was part of the effort.
Mattie died on 22 June 2004, three weeks before his fourteenth birthday.