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Road to resilience

After suffering a savage beating 14 years ago, Don Mathews Jr., is ready to walk the stage

Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, August 2, 2012 15:08


Roger Zhang -- THE BATTALION

Don Mathews Jr., senior agricultural leadership major, received life-threatening injuries on Sept. 25, 1998 that left him with traumatic brain injuries and memory loss.

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Road to resilience

After suffering a savage beating 14 years ago, Don Mathews Jr., is ready to walk the stage


Still another year away from graduation, the Mathews family refused to give up. Regina began to give Don different medications to alleviate his depression, use novel learning techniques and memorization drills to guarantee her son would achieve his dream.


“We’re probably the reason the cost of index cards shot up in the past years,” she joked.


When not studying, Don and Regina work to ensure that the tragedies they suffered don’t occur to others. Working with Bill Glass Prison Ministries, Don helps criminals see the face of their victims in an effort to stop them from repeating their actions. One of her hardest experiences was confronting one of the men who assaulted her son during the trial. 


““I brought pictures of my son lying in the hospital to the bewildered prisoner,” Regina said. “Then I said, ‘You took something precious from me. In my faith, I forgive you.’”


The prisoner was astounded that the mother of the man he beat could forgive him for what he did.


“I think it made a bigger impact than shouting would have,” Regina said. “Those might have been the first kind words he’d heard in his life.”


The prisoner died from disease six months later, still in prison.


Don also managed to set aside his anger and forgive his attackers. In an essay for a class, he wrote, “Forgiving those guys has been the hardest thing I ever have done in my life. I pray they come into a real relationship with Jesus Christ and earn their redemption by being allowed into heaven.”


Don said he found forgiveness to be one of his strongest sources of healing.


In August, Don will finally graduate with his bachelor’s degree, overcoming over a decade of struggles. He no longer plans to become a professional counselor, and instead will return to Huntsville to find a part-time job and continue his studies online with a seminary in Dallas.


Although his limp, back brace and stilted speech serve as long-lasting scars of his attack, Don’s Aggie Ring and degree are an inspiration to his friends and those who know him. The lessons he and his mother learned on his path to recovery taught them about perseverance and humanity.


“Sometimes, seeing a disabled person you might just stare or ignore them. But you have to remember, all it takes is one accident to put you in the same situations,” Regina said. “There [are] game changers out there, but they don’t make you any less of a person. Perhaps people dealing with disabilities can understand life even better.”


Don, too, learned far more than he expected from that fateful September night. Once an eager partygoer, Don has learned to take life more seriously.


“Now, I’m much more aware of people with difficulties and disabilities. Before the injury, I was a completely different person. I partied and lived a typical college life. Now I’m much more cognizant of how the party life is not the way to go,” Don said. “You have to take care of buddies, help others. You have got to love your friends and family.”

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