After nearly 18 years of marriage, Matt Herbster didn’t know how much more time he had with his high school sweetheart, Julie. She was 38 years old when she was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, and the disease quickly spread to her liver.
“Most people wouldn’t have known anything was wrong if they didn’t see her in a wheelchair,” Matt said.
Friends in his family’s North Carolina soccer league told Matt about Inheritance of Hope and its all-expenses-paid Legacy Retreats® for young families facing the loss of a parent. He, Julie, and their five kids, ages 7 to 15, flew to Disney World for a retreat in January, seven months after Julie’s diagnosis.
“It was a good time for our family to be able to be together and do something that we probably wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” Matt said.
Despite lacking energy, Julie was cheerful during the Legacy Retreat® and enjoyed the amusement parks. Matt and Julie’s children made friends with IoH volunteers and met other families with similar experiences.
“Knowing that people were in the same boat definitely gave motivation to encourage each other,” Matt said. “I was very excited to share some of the things that God had been teaching us.”
Volunteers created a memory book with pictures of the Herbsters at the retreat, and Julie recorded a Legacy Video for her kids. The photo album from this memorable weekend in Orlando has become an important keepsake for Matt and Sarah, Nathan, Abby, Annie and Jonathan.
“It’s extra special now because she did it three months before she died,” Matt said.
Julie died at age 39 in March this year, just 10 months after she was diagnosed.
“It was a short time, but we were very thankful we had those 10 months,” Matt said. “We had a lot of time to talk and prepare, and we have a lot of great memories from that trip just having fun together.”
Matt said he has learned to cherish family time and live without regrets or fear of the future. He says faith keeps his family going, and that faith guides Matt with his important responsibilities. He recently became the director of The Wilds, a Christian camp that hosts 20,000 people each year, and he takes care of the kids.
“Julie made it very clear that she didn’t want any of us hanging our heads and moping about. In my world right now I have five very good reasons to not mope around.”