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October 30, 2019

NOT the Column I Wanted to Write … A Young Patriot Departed

Philip’s passing leaves a large void in the lives of those who knew and loved him, and all those whom he served.

“Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss.” —Thomas Jefferson (1825)

My father was wise among his Greatest Generation peers, and he imparted that wisdom to all who knew him — not so much in words but by way of the example he set. He lived for the next sunrise, loving and appreciating the good in people around him and finding “the best” in every single day. I strive to live as he did, and so did the young man who is the subject of this tribute, but for him, the bar was much higher.

Before sunrise every weekday, our editors begin the laborious task of reviewing the repetitious reports from the mainstream-media echo chambers. That consists mostly of deleterious and depressing effluent produced by those who have little appreciation for what is good and right about our great country — those commercial news producers whose first obligation is to generate ad revenues. Each day, we wade through that waste to find a few topics that are actually newsworthy, in order to provide our fellow Patriots with brief analytical summaries of topics important to grassroots Americans.

To brighten your day, in addition to the hard news, we’ve long included stories of Americans doing great things, most often military Patriots who serve at risk of life. Two years ago we began publishing regular “Good News” features on Tuesday and Thursday to provide a brief respite from the media churn. Despite all the negative news, we sometimes need reminding that there is goodness in people all around us every day – if we only pause long enough to see it. And, frankly, as my father taught, we never have to look far to find it.

That goodness often deserves a column all its own, but more pressing issues related to the defense and preservation of Liberty typically take precedent. That notwithstanding, I try to reserve my first column of each year to profile a fellow American whose life has been devoted to the service of others.

I had the coming year’s subject already in the hopper, and I was looking forward to the joy of sharing it. But a few days ago, my plans for that column changed. And while this is not the column I wanted to write, it is about a young Christian Patriot whose spirit of service to others is an inspiration to all.

Philip Mathews, who was born here into a large family of, as he would emphasize, “legal” Indian immigrants, died unexpectedly last week at age 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 25 surgeries during his short lifetime.

But within a moment of entering a conversation with Philip, 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.

Last spring, Philip graduated from The McCallie School, an academically rigorous school here in Chattanooga. He was a classmate of my youngest son and universally loved and admired.

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.

Last year, Philip was recognized as our Young Philanthropist of the Year, a fitting but wholly understated recognition.

The call I received about Philip’s death was from my friend, Brian Beckley, an extraordinarily gifted college counselor. Brian was very close to Philip, and he spoke at his remembrance service. I asked Brian to share some reflections on the life of this young Patriot:

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 “Trump” hat every day. Philip was a huge supporter of President Trump, and I know he received some peer criticism for wearing his hat.

During one meeting together I asked Philip, “Why do you wear that 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 who would support 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 the 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!

“Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

After hearing from Brian, I contacted Philip’s dad to express my condolences at this enormous loss.

He responded: “To say that our hearts are heavy would be an understatement. Philip was a great young Patriot. He traveled all over the world helping other children, but he loved America with a passion. There was no greater champion for America. He would talk about America and about the beauty of America wherever he went. He would get really angry when people looked down on his country. It gives us so much joy to know that Philip has blessed so many people even with his broken body. May his memory live forever and may his vision continue to outlive him.”

Philip’s passing leaves a large void in the lives of those who knew and loved him, but he is now in the arms of our Savior, and his legacy, eternal. He remains an inspiration for those of us who remain.

Please pause for a moment to reflect on the goodness and the greatness of Philip’s life, to pray for the parents, siblings and large family he leaves behind, and please consider honoring his memory with a gift to Love Without Reason.

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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