Saturday, November 27, 2010
SPRINGHILL — Matthew Meekins was the kind of person who could convince his heights-fearing mother to climb a six-metre oak tree and repel to the ground.
He was "telling me how easy it was and it actually was," recalled Cathy Meekins on Friday.
"I think he realized, and felt, that he may not have as long a time here, so anything that he thought he’d like to try, he just did. He didn’t hold back on anything."
Matthew was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a liver disease, at age 16. At 19, he underwent a liver transplant giving him several good years before the disease returned. By 23, he was very ill again and back in hospital.
A second liver transplant, this time including a new kidney, was performed when he was 24. But this time Matthew was too weak and he passed away. That was five years ago.
Since then Meekins, her sister, April Findlay, the rest of their families and Matthew’s friends have worked to raise money for the Canadian Liver Foundation and awareness of blood and organ donation through the creation of the Springhill Stroll for Liver.
But what started as raising $2,000 to $3,000 a year was kicked into overdrive in October when Meekins and Findlay travelled to Ireland to do the Dublin Marathon with the Give’r for Liver team from the Canadian Liver Foundation.
Each of them raised more than $6,000 to go and, for the first time ever, the sisters walked a marathon.
"To go from (the local walk) to walking 42 kilometres was like ‘How on Earth did I do that at my age,’ " said Findlay, 47.
Findlay said the trip’s main objective was to raise awareness for the cause and she was thrilled to be able to do that with her sister.
"We might have had a totally different outcome if Matt had got his second transplant a few months earlier," she said. "To do this with her in memory of her son, it was just phenomenal."
Meekins described her son as a kind and passionate inventor who wasn’t afraid to create things ranging from a chain mail suit to a catapult to black forest cake.
"I came home from work one day and he’s got this Plexiglas shield and he’s hiding behind it and I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘You’d better get behind here. I don’t know if this is going to work or not.’ I said, ‘What are you lighting on fire?’ He said, ‘I made homemade gunpowder.’ "
Of course, it worked. As did most of her son’s engineering efforts.
And so it was that two women, neither of whom are runners, travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to tackle a marathon in memory of someone who wasn’t afraid to push his limits.