By Theresa Anthony, author, My 13th Station
Slow down! Pace yourself! These were just a couple of my mother’s admonitions as she attempted to rein in the little Tasmanian devil that I resembled throughout my childhood. I have always gone about my days with a sense of urgency about them, like my pants were on fire. I have pushed myself hard all my life, as if the sands in the hourglass might run short before I could accomplish my daily objectives. This is just the crazy way I am wired.
Since I was about ten years old I was had this silly notion that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. While that may be a laudable trait, I now wonder, when looking back over my various long-shot ventures, if an inflated sense of my capabilities may have fueled somewhat unrealistic expectations. Regardless, I was always biting off more than I can chew, many times working myself to a nub to avoid failing to meet my goals…or just failing, period. Yep, I set goals, and I set them high.
Well, it wasn’t too long after my son, Matthew, died by suicide in 2013 that I declared my intent to write a book about his life. Imagine that. In the midst of utter shock and unbearable grief, I set a lofty new goal for myself. Crazy as it sounds, I knew without a doubt that I would someday have to write that memoir. It felt like a calling of some sort, a mission that I would not be able to wriggle out of, no matter how hard it might be to actually pull off.
And hard it was! My first stab at writing the book came three years ago, just a couple of years following Matthew’s death. I had it all planned. I would go off for a long weekend alone and hole up like Earnest Hemingway (sans whiskey) to get at least a few chapters under my belt. I opened the laptop and found myself sobbing all over the keyboard after only 500 words, so…mission aborted. I was still in far too much pain to undertake something so intensely personal.
Fast forward to 2018. Early last year I felt God was rebuilding my spirit and preparing me for the work ahead. With each passing month I found myself zeroing in on that shelved mission. By May I knew I was ready, I just knew it. So I set yet another goal: to have the manuscript completed by Matthew’s fifth memorial date, October 23rd. It was aggressive, for sure, especially considering that I work full-time. But something told me that it was time, the perfect time, God’s perfect Timing.
Boy, was I ignorant of the toll this process would take on me! Having to recreate such a sorrowful journey meant ripping the scab off and revisiting old journals, photos, voicemail recordings, texts, emails, and Facebook posts. It meant delving into my precious son’s personal items that had been sealed up tight for nearly five years. Just opening those tubs and breathing in his scent about killed me.
I decided at the outset not to sugarcoat anything about Matt’s story. The raw, ragged edges of his pain, despair, and suffering due to his depression and alcoholism were to be held up to the light. As his mother, my own gut-wrenching pain would be be woven throughout the story right along with his. This is a mother’s sad story of the process of losing her child, in fits and starts, over a six-year period.
The preparation phase was arduous. I had to reach out to several people to gather their own personal recollections about unusual events I had carefully recorded over the years—events of a paranormal flavor, as these were pertinent to the story. All these years later, I was hoping that these former neighbors would have at least a snippet of a memory to corroborate my own notes and recollections. When their emails began to come in I was simply blown away by the sheer detail of childhood memories these now grown adults had stored for nearly two decades, so potent were the events.
In fact, the spiritual warfare in our homes was nothing short of palpable, and provides a riveting sub-story to the narrative. It may be difficult to believe, but we actually had a practicing witch living next-door engaging in ritualistic occult practices. In the space of just 16 homes there were three suicides, in addition to suicide attempts.
Parts of the memoir just flew out of me—faster than I could type. But then I would hit a particularly difficult chapter and would basically shut down—I simply couldn’t take the pain. In fact, for two weeks last summer I felt physically ill. For weeks I felt like I was hauling around a two-ton wagon with my big, bloody, broken heart inside. I struggled to sleep. My eyes hollowed out and my face looked haggard. But I persevered with this labor of love.
By the grace of God, I somehow made it to the printer with the completed and edited manuscript on a thumb drive the evening before the 5th anniversary of his passing—I made it! The hard copy would provide a better format for doing the final edits, and when the gal handed the bound manuscript to me I was shocked at the sheer size of it.
I got in my car and immediately started bawling…wailing. I cried for the next ten minutes as I made my way home. I kept crying out, “I did it, Blue (his nickname), I did it!” over and over—an explosion of pent up emotion, self-imposed pressure, and utter fatigue.
The next day, with some shiny blue balloons, a single red rose, and his favorite candy bar in tow, I drove to the cemetery and placed the manuscript on his grave. I even took a photo to mark not only the sad milestone, but the triumph of a mother’s sheer will to share this important story with the world. And, silly as it sounds, I could actually feel him smiling down on me. He knows…this is our story.
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