(Philip, on the left, with his family)
by Diane Rufino, October 30, 2019
Today I had a conversation with two wonderful ladies about the Bible and about the pervasive evil that seems to be growing in country and all around the world. Does God have a role in this growing evil? In the suffering that seemingly good people endure?
I told them that I see things in a simple way – the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, between Right and Wrong, between God and Satan. Each side, like the two sides of our judicial system or the two sides of our political system, constantly fight for our soul. And at the center is this thing called Free Will. Both sides tug at us – one side coming from a place of love and wisdom, and the other offering unbridled freedom, pleasure, and non-accountability – but ultimately we each make the decision as to which side we want to listen to.
One of the ladies asked if I think those who side with freedom and pleasure have any regrets in their life choices? I told her I didn’t know but that the people I mostly associate with are believers and who do their best to live according to what the Bible teaches and I know they are at peace and are happy. They are selfless and compassionate and put God and family first. Helping others makes them happy.
With that conservation in mind, I went to my computer to do some reading and found a touching tribute article to a young man, Philip Mathews, who passed away unexpectedly and way, way too soon.
Philip Mathews (2000-2019) was a young man born here in the United States into a large family of Indian immigrants who died unexpectedly last week at the young age of 19. The first thing most would notice about Philip is that he was born with life-altering facial deformities. In addition to the apparent differences, he was born with holes in his heart and without a corpus callosum, the band of nerve fibers that connects the brain’s two hemispheres. He endured 23 surgeries during his brief lifetime. Yet anyone who met him would never know the trials and health scares that he faced. Instead, they would be intoxicated by his abundant personality, his infectious smile, and his ambition to live his life to the fullest.
As Mark Alexander of the PATRIOT POST wrote: “Although Philip was born with severe facial deformities, within a moment of entering a conversation with him, those physical differences faded quickly into the shadow of his incredible spirit, his love for life, for other people, and for our nation. Like many Indian and Asian immigrant families who respect the greatness of America, Philip was imbued with enormous appreciation for our country. He also loved President Donald Trump, and he was, in his own way, devoted to making America great again. Philip devoted most of his energy to an organization his parents, Santhosh and Susan, founded 10 years ago — Love Without Reason. Its primary purpose was and remains to assist other young people around the world with severe facial disfigurations by providing free corrective surgery. The organization has since provided hundreds of such surgeries and hundreds more are planned.”
Alexander didn’t remember Philip for his limitations and his ability to live with his deformities, but rather for his glorious spirit and for all that he accomplished and all that he dedicated his life to. And many others remember Philip the same way.
Philip was a believer and an adherent to the Bible’s teachings. His life was a testament to his faith, a testament to his service to others, and apparently, it had a profound effect on a great many people.
Here is a touching testament to this young man’s life, given without hesitation and wholeheartedly by Mr. Brian Beckley, Philip’s college counselor. Brian was very close to him and in fact, he spoke at his remembrance service. Here is what Mr. Beckley wrote:
My reflections on Philip Mathews:
“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 1:12)
As I contemplate the loss of Philip, my friend and former student, I have both tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. On one hand, my heart is completely broken. I can’t help but feel sad — no, devastated — that someone so young and so good is no longer with us on Earth. Like all of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one, we are left to process the obvious questions like, “Why?” and, “How could this happen?” The initial shock and grief of this news hits hard, and a certain sense of unresolved finality creeps into my thoughts. The news of Philip’s passing simply hurts.
I’ve built my professional career in education around helping young people prepare for their future. I suppose deep down, my personal motivation as an educator is to do my part to inspire young people to realize their full potential and talents, and to encourage them to become good and responsible stewards of those gifts. This is where my smile starts to broaden. In the case of Philip Mathews, he was the “teacher,” and I often found myself listening and learning from him during our conversations. Philip was fearless. He was confident. Most importantly, I could tell from the moment I met him that Philip’s heart was pure and gracious.
Philip lived his life unapologetically. This is one of the big lessons I learned from him. Kind, respectful, and ever-mindful of the feelings of others, he was well-respected by his peers. However, he did have a “spunky” side to him. I distinctly remember during the 2016 presidential election cycle, Philip wore a hat every day that read, “Trump.” Philip was a huge supporter of President Trump, and I know he received some criticism for wearing his hat.
During one meeting together I asked Philip, “Why do you wear your Trump hat knowing that you are going to catch grief from some people?” I was not prepared for the profound answer that was about to come my way. Philip stated, “Mr. Beckley, the hat symbolizes much more than just one person. You see, I can never support a candidate or platform that would support the act of abortion. In some people’s eyes, I should not have been born. Thankfully, my mom and dad thought otherwise!”
It was during this meeting that I learned of Philip’s story and his family’s organization, Love Without Reason. Philip later told me that his two biggest heroes in life were his mom and dad because their faith in God allowed him to have a chance at life, and the example they set for him encouraged him to look past his disabilities and focus on helping others around the world to feel loved and valued.
At the very core of Love Without Reason is the idea that every child matters and that every child should feel loved. And that is exactly how Philip lived his life. He lived his life with great purpose and meaning, never feeling sorry for himself, and never being afraid to express his love and faith.
Although I could recount many stories and conversations Philip and I shared, I will just say that working with him reminded me of how precious life truly is and how great our God is. Philip’s life is living testimony to this. He encouraged me to be more confident in expressing my faith and my beliefs, and also to be more mindful of my own individual responsibilities as a father, husband, son, friend, and educator. As a spokesperson for Love Without Reason, Philip has traveled around the world sharing his testimonial and providing affirmation to young people that they are indeed loved, which is something God promises to each of us, unconditionally.
Although my sadness will not go away anytime soon, I take comfort in knowing that Philip’s life was not cut short of anything. Philip has made a permanent imprint on the lives of countless individuals, and his life should always be celebrated as living proof that love IS the reason why we were created, and that we can all make a difference in our communities by simply respecting and valuing our own unique gifts and talents.
Thank you, Philip!
In the end, I hope people choose to read the Bible, to learn its lessons, and to understand God’s purpose for us, especially here on Earth. Our Free Will must be guided by good and right. It must be guided by what is good and right for a loving community and not what is good for self. No one remembers with profound respect and love a person who rejoices over killing her unborn or who protests in DC to demand we recognize 20 different genders or who claims to be a transgender but instead looks like a freak or who goes to court to deny 90% of the population their right to exercise their religion in public. A person is remembered for the selfless acts of kindness and for the way he or she made others feel loved and wanted.
Enjoy your day, love your family, crack open your Bible, and be good and honorable. Trust me, you send that message and others will pay it forward.
Mark Alexander, “Not the Column I Wanted to Write – A Young Patriot Departed,” Patriot Post, October 30, 2019. Referenced at: https://patriotpost.us/alexander/66454-not-the-column-i-wanted-to-write-dot-dot-dot-a-young-patriot-departed-2019-10-30
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