Mattie would have been 21 years old this year, and Jeni says she still feels his spirit. She has written a book called Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs in which she shares stories about the Mattie we didn't see.

Jeni says people would be surprised to hear that Mattie was just an ordinary kid who lived an extraordinary life. "He was as witty as he was wise. He was a great practical joker," she says. Jeni says she loves remembering her son, which made her book easy to write. "When I miss Mattie, what I do is think about how I can take what I'm missing and be that for somebody else," she says. "So writing this book allowed me to reconnect to everything that I loved, that I celebrated."

In her book, Jeni also shares Mattie's final words: "Do not breathe simply to exist."


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