During our whole school Extended Form in Week 9 of this Term, we were blessed with the positive influence of Matthew Caruna. Matthew is a 23 year old who survived an attempt at suicide as a teenager. The event left Matt with a severed spinal cord, and he is now restricted to a wheelchair. Yet Matthew has never been more full of life and hearing this fit, articulate and engaging young man speak about his journey had a real impact on all staff and students.
I would encourage parents to start a discussion on mental health and find out more about the key takeaways from Matt’s talk: look out for one another and seek support when times are tough. Please know as well that the College’s Pastoral Care team is always on hand if you need someone to listen and to lean on.
I spoke with Matt after Extended Form and he confirmed an amazing detail about his life, similar to stories that I have personally witnessed many times before in my previous role as a cancer nurse. Matt was talking about the quality of life he is now living, not from a physical point of view, but from an inner personal point of view. While his physical impairment brings challenges to daily living, his inner life is strong. From this point of view, he said a line that will always stay with me: “if the only way to become the person I am today was through the same challenging journey, then I will continue to be grateful for these challenges.”
What Matt is saying is that he has begun to find, at 23 years of age, that life is not measured with physical comfort and temporary pleasures. Instead, Matt has found that the closer relationship he has with his family, the greater sense of peace and strength, and an internal purpose is of vastly more value than many of the things we can focus our lives on.
On a personal note, I am determined to not miss the lessons from nursing and am resolved to always live for things that truly matter. In my experience, everyone that found out that they had cancer changed their life focus and poured more into people and purpose more than anything else. Let us all learn to ‘live on purpose’ for others without needing to go through a major challenge or wake up call.
College Chaplain • Pastoral Care