Rusty Matthews - A Husband's Selfless Act of Loyalty and Love
The holidays can be a difficult for anyone who's ever lost a loved one.
On this week's 'Pay It Forward' a grieving woman honors her husband for his selfless act of loyalty and love.
Our story begins in Rising Fawn, Georgia, high atop Lookout Mountain.
That's where we meet Charlsie Matthews - a loving mother, grandmother, daughter and wife.
Charlsie says, "I wanted to 'Pay it Forward' to my husband, Rusty Matthews, who is my hero and my papa's hero."
Charlsie's father, or 'papa' as she called him, passed away in March of 2011. He was burning debris to make way for summer garden.
"He had him a fire built and he was going around... doing all the plowing and he had a stroke and fell off the tractor into the fire."
Charlsie's husband, Rusty, raced to get his father-in-law out of the flames.
Chocking back tears she says, "In the process my husband burned his hand really bad trying to drag him (her papa, Charles) out of the fire."
Rusty's foot was also badly hurt. The heat was so intense her papa's clothes melted off his body. Burn doctors in Augusta, Georgia, offered little hope to the family that had suffered so much.
Charlsie tearfully explains, "I let my dad go, my papa go that day, and to this day Rusty is my hero."
Through prayer Charlsie tells me her husband's hand and foot have since healed. And now she wants hopes this 'Pay it Forward' surprise will help lift Rusty's heavy heart, still struggling with the grief that he couldn't save her father.
I ask, "What's your husband doing right now?"
"He's at home probably wondering where I went," Charlsie laughs.
It's time for us to 'Pay it Forward,' so we count out our cash and drive a few minutes down the road.
Papa's dying wish was that the couple would care for his dog, Baby, which quickly alerted Rusty to our unexpected visit.
Charlsie walks into her yard and meets her husband. She says, "On behalf (of) McMahan Law Firm and NewsChannel 9 I want to 'Pay it Forward." She hands him $500 in cash.
Rusty is grateful but does not consider himself a hero.
Rusty recalls that terrible day. He says, "I went down there and found him sitting there on fire, clothes done melted. I hope to never find anybody in that shape again. I pulled him out of it."
I ask Rusty if he'd put his own life in harm's way again.
He answers without hesitation, "Why sure, I'd do it for anybody."
There's a small moment of silence and then the couple shares an embrace.
Charlsie looks up toward the sky and somehow seems to find comfort in knowing she now has two angels who will always watch over her.
"She's the best thing that's ever happened to me in my whole life," Rusty says with a smile.
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