Born the daughter of the iconic country singer Alan Jackson, Mattie Jackson Selecman describes her life growing up as richly blessed. In her 20s, she met her soon-to-be husband, Ben Selecman. The couple got married and were preparing for a life together. That’s when tragedy shattered everything about the world Mattie had envisioned.
Here on Trevor Talks, we have the honor of hearing from Mattie about the pain, grief, and ultimate hope that she has found while walking through the loss of her husband after just 11 months of marriage. You’ll quickly get to know her as a passionate person relentlessly dedicated to finding the purpose in pain. She’s done that through her clothing brand initiative, NaSHEville, which supports the restoration of survivors of human trafficking. Most recently, she’s done that through her new book Lemons on Friday and the accompanying song “Racing the Dark'' (written with her father, Alan Jackson).
Mattie’s story has been featured by outlets like People, Taste of Country, and American Songwriter. Listen to this episode to find out why the story she freely and vulnerably offers resonates with so many people in their own deepest place of pain.
Get Lemons on Friday: www.lemonsonfriday.com
Follow Mattie Jackson Selecman:
Mattie’s podcast and blog: She’s In The City
Facebook: Mattie Jackson
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Mattie Jackson-Selecman 0:00
It's just all about how am I super honest about how painful this is. And I'm not trying to like, put a scripture bandaid on true heartbreak and tragedy, but also be honest about, this isn't how I'm going to end. This isn't how my story is going to end. It's going to be good. There's going to be beauty, and I'm just in between.
Trevor Tyson 0:21
Thank you for tuning in to Trevor talks podcast, where we talk to real people about real topics and real stories. Today's guest is often described as one of the bravest, strongest and most inspiring women you'll ever meet. Growing up as the firstborn of country music superstar Alan Jackson, a New York Times best selling author, Denise Jackson. I guess you could say that Maddie has a natural gift of writing. She is the author of her new book lemons on Friday, which she walks us through the journey of losing her husband and the trials grief and hope that she has found along the way. I just hope people are ready for this please help me welcome Maddie Jackson Seligman. Maddy, we're here we actually made it to this. Yes, now, is it Seligman or is it Selectmen? Man, men, it is Selectmen, you see, like, I never edit out stuff like that, because I want people to realize that they can do this just as much as a week and do this. Like, people are like, I want to do a POC and do it. Like we can all do it. Everybody has a talent. One, you can do a podcast. Yes, just put the name talks behind your name, and you're fine. It'll work out. But I am so inspired by your story. And through all the tragedy and the heartache that you've been through to see you come out on the other side, so strong, resilient and ready to be vulnerable with people is beyond encouraging to me. So thank you so much for making time for this and just being vulnerable with the world at this point.
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 1:56
Oh, yeah. Look, I I knew from the beginning, as soon as Ben passed that, you know, the only pain and I remember telling people this and really telling God, this, like, the only pain I couldn't handle is is pain that felt wasted. As long as this could have purpose and help other people in their dark seasons, then I knew somehow I would survive. So I'm very happy to start seeing fruits of that all around with the book and everything. So it's been why Oh,
Trevor Tyson 2:24
come on. And before we dive into the book, and really the story behind it, I want to talk about your clothing brand. Because a the branding is on point B the mission statement and I'm a fan of from a branding person, like this is huge. Tell us about Nashville.
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 2:43
Yeah, hey, that is the utmost compliment, because I'm not the branding person. But yeah, so Nashville is a women's apparel brand kind of merch and apparel. And myself and my co founder Brooke started it in July when we started planning it and doing the branding and sort of getting the merchandise together anything, July of 2018, which was actually a couple months before Ben's accident. So part of what's really special to me is that he was integral in helping us build out the third part of our mission, which is victims of human trafficking. So what we do the long and short is we make cute clothes that are all about Nashville, and all about women and proceeds support nonprofits serving orphans, widows, and victims of sex trafficking. So we started working on that in June, and he was a district attorney for Davidson County, which is where Nashville is and worked in the drug and trafficking court. So it just was very neat that he, you know, basically helped us build that, that platform out and get us in touch with the women running the programs. And so we started building it and ended up launching the very end of October of 2018. So we just celebrated three years, and are still definitely looking to grow. And I mean, the goal always was hopefully to like kind of grow into other cities. So this can be more of a national push. But for now, you know, we're both Nashville natives. And, and so we're Nashville. And that's, that's,
Trevor Tyson 4:15
that's phenomenal. And I love that orphans and widows That's Biblical. And then that you add the human trafficking victims is phenomenal. And that's awesome. Like we could do a whole interview about that. But I really want to dive into your story and how you became the resilient the fearless the strong woman of faith that you are today. And I believe that a lot of people are going to be encouraged by this and not because of who your parents are or anything like that. But because of who you've allowed God to craft you into the woman you are today. So where did all this start for you?
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 4:55
Well, I've always been very stubborn. So I'm sure that was part of it or hard headed is that has called me since day one. But, you know, to be truthful, I've lived a very blessed life, I think that's obvious and truly had never faced any real traumatic hardship. To test, you know how resilient I would be, and to really know, okay, this faith that I grew up with in a Christian home and a Christian school, you know, was real. And I don't mitigate that at all. And I say in the book, like, I'm incredibly thankful to have grown up in that environment. But I think until life, not to, like, immediately play off the pun, but until life gives you lemons, like you don't know how strong that faith is. So you don't know do I really trust God or has nothing bad really happened to me, and that's why I think that I trust him. And so this was sort of just a rubber meets the road kind of situation for me in a very extreme way. And because my parents are so strong in their faith that has been a part of our family, you know, and I did watch my mom walk through colon cancer when I was 20 years old. And that obviously was traumatic for us, too. But I think that was the first point I had really been tested in any way emotionally, spiritually, and to see her fearlessly. Now, she may have been afraid, but she didn't let us in on that, really, and to watch her just valiantly and boldly like claim healing, and just trust Him through that whole process. And she's, you know, praise God been clear for 1011 years at this point. I think that was the, that was probably where that foundation was mostly for me. And then, you know, when Ben had his accident, it I just, I just saw two choices, it was either I'm going to give in to this despair, which no one would blame me for and was very natural. And on many days, I did or I'm going to fight. And so I had to figure out as I aggrieved, what does that fight look like? And and a lot of times, I tried to kind of shoulder it myself and do things my way and rely on my own strength. And that just doesn't work. I think so, you know, alongside women, like my mom and sort of other mentors in my life, and just community and my friends and family, being with me, I, I decided the strongest I could be it in the best way I could fight was truly to surrender it day by day to the Lord and quit trying to like, figure out two months, two weeks, two years down the road, because my whole future was question marks, you know, in a second, like everything I planned and everything we had planned in the future that I saw with Ben and the family that we were getting ready to start, you know, it was gone. And so the only way that I knew to start moving forward was 24 hours at a time. And I'm so grateful that God meets you in a 24 hour way. Like it says, His mercies are new every morning. And he gave me what I needed for 24 hours, my people were there for me with for whatever I needed within 24 hours. And one day, you look up and it's three years later, and you're you're happy about your life again, you know, and it just happens one day at a time. I mean, that's so simple, but there's just we don't have the strength to bear more than that in a situation. That is so tragic.
Trevor Tyson 8:23
Yeah. And where did the name lemons on Friday come from?
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 8:28
I mean, like I said, before, that I think we all know the adage, like, make lemonade out of lemons. And I remember thinking, sort of what I said at the start was something good has to come from this, like, yeah, that's the only way I can survive this. But I know that this is so big, and this is so sour, and so bitter and so unwanted that I can't, I'm not going to be able to make something good out of it. And so, that sort of lead into okay, I believe that the Lord is the only one who's going to make good out of this awful scenario. And this life that I don't want and the story that I don't want, and right now, I know that that Resurrection Sunday is coming like the joy where all of the bad things are made right and like the fruit of our pain is perceivable and we see it helping people like I know that's there, but for so long. I didn't feel like I was there. Like I was hoping that I would get there and I was reminding myself that I couldn't get there but it felt like what it had to feel like for Jesus followers on crucifixion Friday, which is like, we believe what you said is true, but like you're dead like and we're panicked and confused and we don't know how something good is gonna come out of this. And yet we know it does. So it's just all about how am I super honest about how painful this is. And I'm not trying to like put a scripture bandaid on true heartbreak and tragedy, but also be honest about this isn't how I'm gonna end this isn't how my story He's going to end. It's going to be good. There's going to be beauty. And I'm just in between.
Trevor Tyson 10:05
Yeah. So tell us about your journey to meeting Ben, where did that come into play? Were you like a hopeless romantic and Prince Charming? This kind of came into the picture, or tell us about that. Um,
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 10:17
I mean, I was really not looking for anything. And I was I deep down. I'm a hopeless romantic, but I've definitely broken some hearts along the way. So no, I made him I made him pursue me quite a bit. But we met through mutual friends and met at Caroline's who he grew up with. And she's one of my best friends met at their wedding. Like 2013 think he was into it, I didn't think anything about it, like, never talked again for a couple years, met again at a cookout, you know, at her husband's house or whatnot. And I think I say in the book, it's kind of like that scene from the notebook where they're like, at the fair, and he's just like, won't take no for an answer. And he's like hanging off the Ferris wheel. It was like, basically, that situation, turned him down again. And then three months later, he like, came back and was persistent. And we went out and talked every day since and it was just truly like a whirlwind romance kind of thing. And I mean, we were, you know, younger, and he just was a very energetic, passionate person. And I actually tend to make big decisions pretty quickly, too. And so it was a quick dating, quick engagement. And in retrospect, I'm so grateful, even though it probably was a little hasty. We probably could have taken a little more time, but I'm so glad that we just had all the time together. We could.
Trevor Tyson 11:43
Yeah. And you were married for 11 months.
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 11:48
Yeah. So he passed three weeks before our first anniversary.
Trevor Tyson 11:54
What was going through your mind when you woke up the day of the accident? Like you were on vacation? You were going boating? Yeah. What? Was it a normal day, beautiful day set the stage for what came after?
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 12:07
Yeah, no, I mean, it was gorgeous. We were down there Labor Day weekend with my two sisters, and their boyfriends and a few other couples. And, you know, got up, girls went for a walk on the beach guys went to play golf all came back, like, hung by the pool in the afternoon. Yeah, went on a boat ride and went to like a little tiki bar where they had music and all sorts of stuff. It was like three of their birthdays that week. So we were just celebrating everyone. And I will say I remember so clearly. Just Ben and he again, he was a passionate person. He was just like happy about life most of the time. But I remember him saying no less than 10 to 12 times, this has been the best day this has been the absolute best day like this couldn't be a better day. And I think I just have had to hold on to that because it was a great day. But it wasn't like anything out way out of the norm for being on vacation. And just to know that, like his heart and his soul somehow knew it was time and knew he was ready. And just, he couldn't have spent another moment in a better way, you know, that last day for him. And so it's very special for me. And it, it took a while to enjoy being down there again. I mean, it was a very triggering thing for a while. But I think there's such beauty in that because each time we go, you know, back with my family, there's reminders of his that best day that he spent, and then there's reminders that I'm healing a little bit more every time I'm down there, too. And so yeah, I mean, it's it's crazy to think about and you never wake up expecting anything like that to happen. But I'm very grateful for the day that we got to spend.
Trevor Tyson 13:50
You know, and one of the things that I found really obviously mature of you but you don't resent like you know, people slip and fall on wet dogs, dogs get wet. Just your response to the whole situation shows maturity and that you're really thinking clearly and you've had time to think about it. But it was just one of the things of like he was helping someone onto the boat and slip and fell and nobody could have really known that it was as bad as it was until the unthinkable happened. Like they went from talking about him going home to like having to go through the proceedings that you had to go through I that had to be a roller coaster. And tell us a little bit about that.
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 14:41
I mean, definitely that's the exact right word. It was like a terrible roller but more like tower of tear, right where you're just like up drop up drop. So yeah, when Ben hit his head, I mean, he was fine and awake and obvious. So he got up and was yeah and I kind of helped It looks like, you know, you watch high school football, somebody gets hit, they kind of come to in there, okay. And that was sort of what happened. And, again, by the grace of God, there were some EMTs off duty where we were and so they, you know, kind of check them out and look just people's whatever, and said, you know, you need to go to the ER and get a, get a CT scan. And you know, from there, that's when they said, you know, this is a more severe trauma than you can realize, and his brain starting to swell, you know, we probably have to do surgery, we don't have to do it right now. I mean, this is in the middle of the night, and now we're not at home. And you know, our families aren't there. And so, you know, I kind of held off at that point, and he was awake and in pain and kind of disillusioned but awake for 24 hours. And then from there, the swelling got severe, and they had to do multiple surgeries, and, you know, was in a medically induced coma for 11 days. And then, as you mentioned there at the end, you know, they had had a few days of kind of consistency of his intracranial pressure and thought, Okay, we're gonna start pulling him off. And his father and I will never forget sitting with neurosurgeon and them telling us that and we're thinking great, like, I prepared myself for multiple years of rehab, I had prepared myself that like, his personality could be different. They kept telling me, and obviously, that was terrifying. But I never thought he's gonna die from this. And his dad even asked her that and said, like, is this still fatal, and she said, you know, from a neuro perspective, it would be unlikely. And then they go do one more scan, and she comes back, and he's had multiple strokes and is brain dead. And so it's just to go from your highest high, we finally come out of this, to hearing those words, it still doesn't even feel real. But I think part of part of what was so painful that day is like, we felt like we had been fighting for 12 days. And, you know, they had done everything they needed to do as doctors. And we had done everything we needed to do just like covering him in prayer and everything that we could and just to feel in here, all of that fall apart and think there's no other solution. It's just surreal. Like it doesn't even feel real now.
Trevor Tyson 17:20
Yeah. And the fact that you're open to share about this says a lot about you as a person exactly how your friends describe you that we said at the beginning of the episode, you're often described as one of the bravest, strongest and most inspiring women you'll ever meet. And I know when you hear that you're probably like, if only you knew, but we all have those things where we're like, finally everybody knew. But going through those trials, and still holding so dearly your faith. So you lose Ben, like, tragically, that day you sign all the paperwork, what happens then? Like, what's next step for you in the story?
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 18:02
I mean, from there, it's you really feel like you're almost in a cloud for a long time. I mean, I remember feeling like adrenaline had to be a gift from God, because you just can't bear the whole weight of anything like that at one time. And so, you know, you're in survival mode for quite a long time. But I think the immediate next step after that was kind of what you said, Am I going to be angry and bitter about this? Or am I going to accept that accidents happen in a broken world where stuff gets wet? And am I going to try to hold God accountable for the bad outcome that happened? Or am I going to let him hold me in spite of the fact that I know he could have stopped this? And for me, being angry and demanding answers wasn't going to change anything, it wasn't going to bring him back, and it truly wasn't going to heal? how heartbroken I was. And so I don't mean, I don't mean to say that leaning more interface with it was a last resort because it was what I wanted, it was what I needed. But when I truly considered other options, they weren't going to heal me. So it's like, why would I? Why would I not just surrender and lean into the God who I know can carry me through this, whatever that looks like. And it's like I said before, 24 hour thing.
Trevor Tyson 19:37
Yeah. How do you hold fast like I know your parents and your siblings were obviously super close with then your dad also wrote a song for your first dance in which the other daughters will if they haven't used it already, they'll probably use it as well. This that was kind of a really passionate thing for your father and And your husband, they kind of bonded over that song. So with using your husband, your family was there for you that had to be tragic for them as well. It was almost like your sister's losing a brother and or it actually was, and your dad or losing a son? How are you strong for them? I know they were being strong for you, and you're being strong for them. But how did that mesh? And did you go spend some time at home with them? Did you not want to stay alone? How did you really just navigate this with your community surrounding you? Yeah,
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 20:33
no, I didn't want to be alone for quite a while. And I will, to the credit of all of my family and sweet girlfriends, I really wasn't for weeks and weeks and weeks. I mean, they Trevor like, they're all kind of OCD, really. But they made a Excel like google doc spreadsheet. And every day someone was on call, morning or evening to be with me if I wanted them. And if I felt good, and I wanted some space, I would call them off. But they committed to never leave me alone until I want it to be. And that was just that was such a practical way to love me. And so, you know, that was so helpful, and so kind and went on for probably multiple months. I don't even really remember. But I appreciate you asking that about the family because loss especially so tragic. And so sudden. It affects everyone in different ways. And I think part of what isn't talked about a lot is like how do I prioritize my own grief and how I need to handle each day or I need to heal or what my either, you know, anger toward or hunger for God looks like and how other people around me My family has family. They handled that differently. They healed at different rates, they came back to Faith in different rates. And it's a tricky, tricky thing, to be honest and vulnerable and truthful about what you need and what you're feeling when everyone else is sort of trying to figure out how they feel and what they're feeling too. So we definitely had a lot of really painful, fragile moments. But I think at the end of the day, I feel such a more. I feel such a more emotional deep connection with even my immediate family and Ben's family. We're still very close than I ever would have before. And I just hate that. It takes pain to sometimes get to those depths with people we love. And even people we don't know. I mean, that's, that's why I've been so open with my story. And that's why I've been really vulnerable and included some of the things I included in in my story is because I think it's at those depths that you really find connection with other people and it's at those depths that you've you finally kind of think okay, we can get through this together.
Trevor Tyson 22:56
Yeah. Sheesh. You've been through the wringer. And you came out strong as heck. And from an outside perspective, it's like, how the frick did you pull this off? And you and your dad actually sat down and wrote a song about this? Tell us about that. Because obviously, I mean, I grew up here and way down yonder. And that was kind of my, I mean, when I got the opportunity to interview that's first thing came to my mind. I was like, oh, yeah, I grew up Listen, Alan. And for you to come from such a strong writing home, it's it was really just natural that you took into writing a book about it. But this was your first time sitting down to write a song with your dad, and people that preorder the book and etc, can have access to this that had to be vulnerable. And tell us about that experience. Not everyone gets the opportunity to sit down and write a song with musical legend. Yeah, and this one just so happens to be your dad. So it makes it all that much more special.
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 24:03
It was awesome. And it was very intimidating. Not because he you know, would have ever been, he was excited about it has nothing to do with images. You know, as a kid, you know, you just want your parents to be proud of you anyway, and much less to walk into this like Country Music Hall of Fame Grammy winner and say, Hey, I wrote these lyrics on the legal pad like are they any good? And I was like, well, if they aren't any good to see gonna lie to me, or is it gonna tell me the truth? And so anyway, it was natural. I've always kind of been interested in could I write a song but I don't really play music. So obviously, that's problematic. But I do love writing and it's my passion. And honestly, near the end of quarantine, I've sort of like picked up a guitar that I've had and I played a little in college but very poorly and just to kind of fill the time and like, do something creative. And I still wonder if I could write the lyrics like I know I understand how most songs are structured, because I've been around it. And I'll just give it a shot. And I mean, obviously what was on my heart that was right around the two year anniversary of Ben's passing. And so that's just what came out. And it's not his and my story, but it is a story about a woman losing her husband. And I think what came out in that song is sort of representative of what my default reaction to pain would have been. And really was until that point in my life, which was to run away and just not face it fully and not feel the impact of it fully and not be vulnerable, but just sort of trying to like, push past and power through. And that's what she does in the song races the dark and then eventually finds the true courage and bravery, which is being vulnerable and facing the depth of the pain, and she comes back and then is able to start healing. So it was sort of a picture of me on my bad days and sort of my inclination to try to fight past and not feel the full impact of my loss. And then took that to dad. And he graciously tweaked a couple of things and wrote a beautiful, beautiful melody to it, and then invited me into the whole production process, which was really incredible, and truly something I never anticipated doing with him. But it's very special, very special.
Trevor Tyson 26:26
Wow. This is something special, you know, we've had, Danny Gokey and Jeremy count, come on talking about their stories, and you know, they lost their wives. But to my immediate knowledge, don't hold me to this, I think you might be the first wife come on to talk about losing her husband, and how you went through it. So I know that people are gonna get another perspective and another worldview that they may have not heard before, because you also often hear about people losing their wives. But you you don't have as many like, at least on this show. And I'm just super grateful that you took the time to be so vulnerable and share your story with us. And I know that so many people are going to be encouraged by this. So again, thank you so much for being here.
Mattie Jackson-Selecman 27:17
Hey, Trevor, thank you for sharing my story. Like I said, I just, I wanted this pain that I walked through to be a light for other people. And if you can't see hope, in your own story, and you see glimpses of it in mine and like I just hope that's a reminder that you can get you can get to a place of healing and there can be beauty again.
Trevor Tyson 27:37
Yeah. Everyone listening, be sure to go check out women's on Friday. Go pick it up at lemons on friday.com Go check out Maddie on social media, we'll have all the links in description below. Special shout out in the new release today for making this episode happen as usual. And of course, our friends over at the whosoever is amazing, amazing ministry based out of Los Angeles. They go all over the world just sharing the gospel and trying to lower the suicide rates with a message of hope. So go check them out. Maddie, again, thank you so much. This has been near and dear to my heart and for anyone listening if you're struggling with mental health, suicidal ideation, maybe you're going through grief and hopelessness kind of like Maddie went through just know there are resources available to you. Be sure to go check out deaths, the life.com Hart support and so many amazing nonprofits somebody wants to speak with you and your life matters. And we love you so much. And we'll talk to you guys next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Mattie Jackson Selecman is a certified sommelier and previously owned a wine bar in Nashville. She also has a degree in creative writing from the University of Tennessee. Tragically, she lost her husband of less than a year, Ben Selecman, in September 2018 after he suffered a traumatic brain injury while on vacation in Florida. Despite her grief, Mattie is pushing forward and has dedicated herself to helping others. Mattie and her business partner, Brooke Tometich, started a philanthropic merchandise brand dubbed "NaSHEville" in order to help women and children in need-specifically orphans, widows, and trafficked women.