WOODS CROSS – Matthew Palmer was always looking to help others.
His father Kevin says his son, who died at the age of 19 in South Africa after suffering from a brain bleed never stopped giving, even after death.
When Matthew Palmer received his call last summer to the LDS Madagascar Antananarivo Mission, no one knew how much he would sacrifice to help the people of Africa.
A 2013 graduate of Woods Cross High, Palmer's dad said he was not an overly popular fellow, but those who knew him also knew what a good friend he was; always willing to listen and quietly help out.
“He was known, but not well-known among his peers,” said Kevin Palmer. “But those who did know Matt knew what a good friend they had.”
At a young age, Matt took piano lessons, but lost quickly interest. A few years later, he picked up an electronic keyboard and taught himself to play. He practiced at young men’s church gatherings, watched a few YouTube videos, and quickly became an accomplished pianist. At his 9th grade graduation ceremony, Matt surprised everyone by playing a duet – by himself, using a recorded keyboard and a piano. He even played while upside down, lying on his back, recalled Kevin.
Matt had a love of the outdoors and got a deer for the last three years before heading out on his mission.
Palmer also recorded a few songs and put together a CD and website for his music before he left. His music is still available for download on his website.
He also wanted to be a doctor, and completed a surgical internship during his senior year at Woods Cross HS. Palmer planned on attending the University of Utah to study medicine.
On his mission, Elder Palmer was able to touch lives in Madagascar, teaching and baptizing many.
He quickly learned to love the native people of the island nation, serving in some of the back country. Even with rolling power outages and more than a few cold showers, Matt had a great fondness for the area and service he was performing.
In June, Palmer began to suffer from extreme headaches and blurred vision. His mission president sent him to the capital city for tests, and doctors there quickly surmised that his condition was too complicated for their limited resources.
He was immediately flown to Johannesburg, South Africa, where a CT scan revealed bleeding in his brain.
Kevin and his wife Rowena had to work fast to obtain passports, and by some miracle, they were able to get them and fly halfway around the world to reach Matthew’s bedside.
He was unable to talk, and had lost the use of the right side of his body.
“He tried to talk and mouth words, but he couldn’t speak,” said his dad. “We were eventually able to communicate by asking ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, and he’d squeeze once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no.’ He knew we were there.”
Matthew passed away on June 26.
His remains were flown home and a viewing was held Friday night. Hundreds attended his funeral the following day.
Even after his death, Matt has been able to give of himself. Five people needing organ transplants were matched in the same hospital where Palmer passed away. One doctor told the Palmers Matt’s organs and tissue could benefit as many as 80 people in Africa.
The Palmers are happy to have Matt in their lives, and while they mourn his loss, they want everyone to remember what a tender soul he had.
“He was always positive,” said his dad. “Matt was always able to turn a bad situation around and find the positive in people.”