Mattie Jackson Selecman on Little Funerals, Labels + the ‘W’ Word

A day arrived in October 2021 that Mattie Jackson Selecman dreaded every year for each of the previous three years. Her wedding anniversary should have been a celebration, but it wasn’t for that long. Then, quietly, it was again.

October 7 is Selecman’s wedding anniversary to Ben Selecman, who died near Palm Beach, Fla. On September 12, 2018, after slipping on metal steps and falling backwards onto a concrete boat dock. She’s the eldest daughter of country legend Alan Jackson, so the news quickly got around, but until recently few knew the depths of her grief and how she came out of it. It’s a process, Selecman tells Taste of Country. It is a process that involves many small burials, long after the big one.

The idea for “Little Funerals” – to say goodbye to people, places and things after saying goodbye to a loved one – is a key concept in Chapter 8 of his new book. Lemons on Friday, published Friday November 19 via Harper Collins. The first five chapters of the book detail the tragedy, its emotions through recovery and the little things that helped and hurt. The word “widow” is an example of the latter.

“It took me months to say the word out loud,” she wrote during the crucial Chapter 6, “A Better Name.”

“I hated the sound. I hated the uncomfortable, compassionate look it produced on people’s faces when they heard it. I hated that it made me feel like a victim of something that will never change. It was indelible. “

Those who have gone through something similar will find themselves in these pages, even though, as she acknowledges, no two stories of spouse loss are alike. Her faith and more particularly her questions for and of God are woven through almost every page. Favorite Bible verses are common, even if they are only in context. She learned what unfiltered faith means.

“Father, I still don’t understand why you would give me my heart’s desire and take it away from me,” she asks, describing what abandoning a marriage to Ben and the desire to remarry looks like.

But I am eternally grateful for the gift of Ben and his love. I am grateful for the time you have given me with him. But you also know how much I want to have great love again. You know more than anything that I want to raise children to love you and walk with you. You know I want all of these things, and like the persistent widow (Luke 18: 1-8), I will never stop asking you. But I want them in your way, in your will, in your timing. I trust you. I give them to you. Thank you for sowing more confidence, patience, and contentment in me while I wait.

“It’s not just about me and my broken heart,” said Selecman, five days after what would have been her fourth wedding anniversary. in mine. “

Before, this time of year so pocketed with memories of her true love (her birthday, the anniversary of her death, their wedding date and the holidays) would be emotionally crippling. This is something she discusses in Chapter 5: “Grabbing Paper Roses: Does Time Really Heal?” “

“I just remember feeling, especially at first, that I didn’t want this to be true because I didn’t want to have to wait for years and years of devastation on all of those special days – over and over again – to start feeling a little more stable, “says Selecman.” Even in just three years since then, I can see now that even though we want to get through the tragedies of our lives, it really only lasts one day at a time. . “

The idea of ​​”Paper Roses” is literal. After Selecman returned from the hospital, she came across a package sent to the couple’s home months earlier that she was told not to open. On October 7, 2018, she opened it to find a bouquet of paper roses made from hymn pages, ordered to celebrate their “paper anniversary”. That morning she sat hugging the bouquet and sobbed as she watched their wedding video again. It is a tradition that she still keeps today. Time may not heal, but for Selecman, it has softened the edges of the pain. It made this year’s anniversary less tragic.

“It’s still tender, and you still cry, but it’s more tears of celebration for what we’ve had than total grief for what’s gone,” she says.

Lemons on Friday is remarkably generous with detail, and in those details Selecman not only helps the grieving person, but also someone who doesn’t know how to help the grieving. As she pivots in hope and moves forward personally, she drops breadcrumbs for those who need to find an unfamiliar empathy. Writing Chapter 6 was the hardest part, she shares. It is here that we find ourselves faced with how much her identity was enveloped in the concepts of “woman” and (with time) of mother.

“I had to continue living in this world where the majority of people around me were living in roles that I thought I had that were gone,” she shares. “(My friends) were basically at the start line of this life as a wife and mom that I wanted to run with. It felt like I was sitting on the sidelines of a race that I wasn’t. no longer invited. “

Adding “author” to your identity helps. Selecman was full of energy during a 30-minute phone call and admits that talking about his story has been very rewarding. She took vital steps, like dating and selling the house she and Ben had bought. The conversations she’s had with others going through something similar are surreal, a sign of progress. It can also be a sign of the hand of God at work. Her philanthropic women’s clothing business NaSHEville was founded two months before Ben died. The aim was to support orphans, victims of human trafficking and widows.

“I feel like what I’ve been asking God from the start is that there will be a purpose to all this pain and that there will be a way to continue to help others through it. their pain as well. “

To support the release of Lemons on Friday, Alan Jackson recorded a song called “Racing the Dark”, co-written with Mattie Jackson Selecman.

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