Heartsongs, Mattie's first book, was printed in a very limited edition of 200 copies distributed to friends. A news conference about the book caused interest in it to mushroom, though, and it went on to sell more than 500,000 copies. It has some provocative pieces about death and the meaning of life. Not gloomy or despairing, the poems of a child who knew he was dying from a rare form of muscular dystrophy are perceptive, hopeful, and life-affirming.
The "Why me?" question occurred to Mattie. There was no real answer that ever came to him. "Why not me?" he said. He made his goal not to receive a miracle and certainly not to wallow in self-pity but to use his life productively.
As a tribute to a young man who was mature beyond his years, here is his poem "Making Real Sense of the Senses" (from Heartsongs, New York: VSP Books/Hyperion, 2001) that he composed at age 5.
Our eyes are for looking at things,
But they are also for crying
When we are very happy or very sad.
Our ears are for listening.
But so are our hearts.
Our noses are for smelling food
But also the wind and the grass and
If we try very hard, butterflies.
Our hands are for feeling,
But also for hugging and touching so gently.
Our mouths and tongues are for tasting.
But also for saying words, like "I love you," and
"Thank you, God, for all of these things."
No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises! My body rests in safety. (Psalm 16:9)