Mattie Jackson Selecman has taken on many roles throughout her 31 years of life. Daughter, sister, wine sommelier, entrepreneur, wife. But three years ago, Mattie’s life changed forever.
Mattie’s husband of 11 months, Ben Selecman, 28, died in a tragic accident while vacationing with Mattie and her family in Florida. Ben was trying to help someone onto a boat when he slipped and hit his head on a concrete dock. Twelve days later, Ben passed away, while holding on to Mattie’s hand.
Mattie, the oldest daughter of Alan Jackson, didn’t expect to say goodbye to her husband just three weeks before their first wedding anniversary. She never realized she’d be living out the “for better or worse” part of her wedding vows so soon. And she never thought she’d be publishing the darkest moments of her life in an inspiring memoir.
Mattie Jackson Selecman’s new book, Lemons on Friday: Trusting God Through My Greatest Heartbreak, will be released on Nov. 16. In addition, Mattie wrote the lyrics to a new song, “Racing the Dark,” which her father recorded. The song can be downloaded for free when you pre-order Lemons on Friday before Nov. 16.
Outsider sat down with Mattie for a Q&A about the new book, which details her grieving process and how her faith has helped her through it.
You started journaling shortly after Ben’s death. How did you make the jump from journaling all these thoughts and emotions to wanting to publish them in a book?
Mattie Jackson Selecman: It was a really organic thing that happened. It was the way that I knew to process what felt like unprocessed emotions. And it just became an outlet for me, because I had never faced anything this tragic.
Eventually, I felt like I was at a place, emotionally and spiritually, where I can start to ask, “Is there really potential for a book in these journals?”
It’s incredible, just for me to look back. And I see things in the finished book now that I wrote four weeks after he died. Followed by a paragraph of me reflecting on it two years later.
The theme of the book is about lemons on Friday turning into lemonade on Sunday. Do you feel like you’ve finally made it to Sunday? Or are you still in the process of moving toward it?
Mattie Jackson Selecman: I think we’re always in the process. We always have to keep looking towards Sunday, and we have to trust and believe that all of our things will be made sweet in the end.
I wanted to see the purpose for my pain. And then I wanted to see, somehow, our marriage continue to make a positive impact on people. And, I mean obviously, I think the book is the biggest fruit of that.
But it was also the number of individual conversations and women that I’ve been able to sit with and say, “I remember that. And I pray for you tomorrow will be better.” That’s the redemptive part that we see right now.
Who came up with the idea to partner up with your dad and write a song for the book?
Mattie Jackson Selecman: Honestly, it was mostly accidental. It’s about a young woman losing her husband, and in the course of that song, she basically represents every urge I had to run away. She doesn’t want to face the pain at all. She doesn’t want to be where they lost their life together. And she’s running and questioning God and being like, “Why aren’t you going to heal me?”
At the end, she’s persuaded to come back to face her pain head-on. Once you slow down and face your pain and quit racing away from it, that’s the only way you can truly begin to heal.
I gave it to Dad on a yellow legal pad, and I was like, “I wrote these lyrics. It may be awful, but if it’s worth anything, I thought it’d be cool if you could put a melody to it.” And he did. And then he invited me into the entire process of production.
It was a really, really cool process and not something I really ever imagined I’d be doing with him. But it’s very special to me now.