Mattie Stepanek: Singer of Heartsongs

Ten years ago today, we lost a uniquely inspiring voice. Poet and author Mattie Stepanek died June 22, 2004, less than a month before his 14th birthday of a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Stepanek spent his life struggling with its crippling symptoms while inspiring millions with his uplifting poetry and uniquely positive view of the world.

According to his obituary in The New York Times, Stepanek began writing poetry at age 3, following the death of his older brother Jamie. In 2001 he released his first volume of poetry, Heartsongs. The book made The New York Times best-seller list and turned Mattie Stepanek into a star. He appeared on Larry King Live, the Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, which resulted in a lasting friendship between him and Winfrey.

Before his death, Stepanek wrote four more books: Journey Through Heartsongs, Hope Through Heartsongs, Celebrate Through Heartsongs and Loving Through Heartsongs. Through his writing and public appearances, Stepanek shared a wisdom that transcended his youthful age. He once told his mother

"choose to inhale, don't breathe simply to exist."
-Mattie Stepanek

Because of his disease, breathing, even existing was a struggle for Mattie, but one he embraced wholeheartedly.

“...if you live feeling like
Your glass is half empty, well,
It may as well be empty all the way.”
-Mattie Stepanek, from Journey Through Heartsongs

When Mattie Stepanek died, he was eulogized by one of his heroes, former President Jimmy Carter, who called Mattie "the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known." In life, Stepanek was inspired by Carter's success as a peacemaker, and hoped that his work in this life would also help to foster peace. Though Mattie Stepanek has died, his life continues to inspire others through The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation and through his friends and fans who keep sharing his message of hope and joy.