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No degree of disability, pain could mask little boy’s sense of humour

Matt Froese, pictured when he was about five or six years old, died last August, only weeks before his 10th birthday. His grandmother, Esther Froese of Langley, is organizing a fundraiser for Matthew’s House, which is planned for Abbotsford where Matt lived.

Matthew MacLeod Froese was born on Oct. 11, 2000.

He died last Aug. 14, a few weeks before his 10th birthday.

In his short life, the son of Doug and Andrea Froese, who live just across the Langley border in Abbotsford, never spoke a word, nor took a single step.

In the latter years of her son’s life, Andrea kept a blog, writing one day that Matt “was tortured from birth” and was never free of pain.

He was born with cerebral palsy, caused when he was deprived of oxygen during birth. He suffered severe brain damage.

In his eulogy at Matt’s funeral service, Gary Davey captured the pain of the boy’s life: “Nothing about Matthew’s body was simple . . . the damage to his brain left him with a list of challenges a mile high.”

He suffered frequent seizures, and digestive difficulties almost every day.

“Just swallowing was an issue,” said his grandmother, Esther Froese, of Langley. For several years, as Matt’s parents fed him he would choke or throw up. After three years, Matt had to be tube fed.

But pain, seizures and his inability to communicate verbally did not define Matt. His blue-green eyes mirrored his soul, his personality, and no degree of disability could mask his sense of humour.

“He found it particularly funny to start singing to everyone in the house when it was the ungodly hour of 3 a.m.,” Davey said in his eulogy.

“Just singing away, making up his happy songs and laughing to himself while the rest of us were happy that he was happy but unhappy the he was happy so early in the morning.”

Incapable of so much, Matt was able to exude much love, through his eyes, in the funny little sounds that came from his mouth, and his child-like handshake.

He was deeply loved in return.

“Those years with him taught us so much about unconditional love,” said his grandmother.

“He couldn’t express himself (verbally) but he seemed like a very gentle soul.”

His tortured body now at rest, Matt lives on in memories.

But for his family, his legacy must extend to something more tangible, something that will help all the other Matthews in this world, the ones now here, and the ones to come.

No one can imagine in how many directions Matt’s parents, siblings, grandparents and other caregivers were pulled.

Caring for a disabled child can be an exhausting struggle. And it is to ease the load of others that they have embarked on a campaign to raise money for Communitas Supportive Care Society which is building a respite home for children like Matthew.

To be called Matthew’s House, it will provide long and short-term respite for severely disabled children in a home-like environment

Planned for property adjacent to Abbotsford Regional Hospital, Matthew’s House will be one element of a Campus of Care co-operative that will include Canuck Place and Abbotsford Hospice. The co-operative, offering three levels of care, is the first of its kind in Canada, said Esther Froese.

Froese is organizing the Langley Dessert Theatre, an evening of entertainment featuring several local artists, including former 2007 Canadian Idol finalist Greg Neufeld of Abbotsford.

Other artists at the fundraiser are the Jansen 5 Strings, entertainer-storyteller Uncle Hal and Sister Sarah.

The Langley Dessert Theatre fundraiser is on Friday, April 15 at 7 p.m. at South Langley Church, 20098 - 22 Ave. Tickets are $20 each and are available at Blessings, 19638 Fraser Hwy., and from