There are times when news stories truly captivate my attention and sometimes my heart in a way I can’t let go. I can’t stop reading about the people, their lives, their journeys. Lately, there are so many things happening in our world and even just in our country that have pierced many of our hearts. School massacres, marathon bombings, rescued kidnap victims, disaster tornadoes.
I don’t even know how to begin this blog, this delicate story on my heart. There’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for years. It’s inspired by actual events from my own family. (And for once, no, it has nothing to do with how long it took God to write my love story, as shared through my books Never the Bride: a novel and Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting.) It’s more in line with the themes of my feature film, The Ultimate Gift: legacies and what we do with the time we have, and the gift one day of life brings to us.
This story is about my history, its roots, and how the ripple effect of events are why I am here today, why I was able to be born.
But this story also meant the death of someone else. That is sobering.
In fact, without death and the multiple tragedies reflected in this story, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have been able to be born into the family I was born into.
Have you ever pondered the events that brought you to this earth? Have you ever asked yourself the question, “How was I born into my particular family? Why am I here? What was I meant to do?”
Many years ago, my father told me we should try to do a film about my grandfather’s life as a miner in Springhill, Nova Scotia. It took me a while to listen to him. Eventually, I woke up to this amazing town and the balance between tragedies and extraordinary miracles this place experienced! It’s one of those tiny towns that, in the 1950s, when tragedy struck multiple times, the entire world stopped and watched. Waited. Waited for good news, hoping for miracles, hoping for news of lives saved.
This place, its stories, and my grandfather’s life there, were all the inspiration for my screenplay, Song of Springhill, which I am currently adapting into a novel. (To be released in Spring 2014.)
My grandfather, Charles Hugh McKay—also known as “Dado” to his grandchildren—died when I was fifteen years old. I wish, when I was younger, I had been more interested in asking him questions about his life as a miner, and the miracles that spared his life. It wasn’t something he voluntarily talked about when not asked. I embarked on a quest to get to know more about what his life was like after he was gone. I wish I had taken better advantage of the time I had with him.
His first mining accident was in the 1940s, and contributed to him not having to go off to war because he suffered a broken pelvis. A rail car ran over him in the mines; it took him months to recover. There are stories surrounding two of Springhill’s biggest disasters, the 1956 Explosion and the 1958 Bump, that also affected my grandfather’s life.
My aunt, Joyce Harroun, told me of a story relating to the 1956 Explosion. The way she remembers it, her father (my grandfather) switched shifts that day with another man. The man wanted to go hunting during the day, and asked my grandfather if he’d work the day shift for him, and upon his return, the man would work my grandfather’s afternoon shift.
Because of this shift, “Dado” got off work just a couple hours before the mine blew up. His life was spared, but the man who switched shifts with him died. They had the same job working in the same spot by the rail cars.
It also meant that the team of men my grandfather was used to working with died that day too; he lost a lot of his friends. As my Aunt shares, it was the only time she ever saw my grandfather cry up until that point in his life.
When interviewing one of the survivors of the Explosion, this survivor supplied two names of those who had the same job as my grandfather. Both of them were killed in the Explosion. I found an article in the Halifax Chronicle that seemed to back up the story my Aunt told. It mentioned one of their names as one who was “working an extra shift for a friend” that day, implying he wouldn’t normally have been underground.
Despite the dangers, my grandfather continued to work underground. Then in 1958, he was trapped underground when one of the biggest disasters in coal mining history hit: The Bump. October 23, 1958.
My father anxiously waited for news of whether or not his dad was still alive, from the Lamp Cabin, a place where miners turned in their lamps when they finished their shifts. His father’s check number, #712, remained on the board, showing he had not yet surfaced. Not yet picked up his check tag.
Once the earliest miners were rescued, my grandfather was the third person to walk through that Lamp Cabin door. The first face he saw was my dad’s fourteen-year-old face, waiting for him, hoping and praying he was still alive. Seventy-five men died in that disaster.
After the rescue, “Dado” vowed to never go underground again. That meant he needed to find new work to support his family. This led him to take a new job and move his family to the Boston area. This move is how my father eventually met my mother, when she was an attractive 16 year old, a spunky Massachusetts girl that he was set up with on a blind date.
This blind date never would have happened if my grandfather had not been spared by the 1956 Explosion or survived the 1958 Bump, the tragedy that made him decide to leave his life of mining. My father has said, unequivocally, he would have had no reason to leave Canada had he not been moved to the United States with his father’s career change.
My parents have been married since 1966. It’s ironic to me to think that this disaster (and the fact that “Dado’s” life was spared 10 years before that time) is the catalyst that brought me to this earth.
At the same time, it’s sobering. I ponder the family who lost their husband / father / son because of the innocent desire this man had to go hunting that day. November 1, 1956. I ponder what he must have missed out on, dying so young. How those in his family must have questioned over the years “what if?”
This story helps me connect specific dots that allowed me to enter the scene. It makes me ponder why I am here and encourages me to want to make the most of the life I am given and do at least a little bit of good while I am here. It reminds me of how we are not promised any particular amount of days. I hope anyone reading this will be encouraged to make an impact with their lives, no matter how long they are blessed to be on this earth.
Any ideas for how you’d like to change the world? Your family? Or even just the life of one person? You never know when that may have a ripple effect on the lives of many others.
Some photos of the book author with Springhillers:
COMING Spring 2014:
If anyone knows what's it's like to wait to find love and marriage, it's me.
I waited 39 long years of life to walk down the aisle. Trusting God during the long wait was sometimes extremely difficult. Some days, all I could do was pray. I started to realize that "all I could do" was actually quite significant. I found out later how God-led my prayers actually were, once God revealed to me who I was going to marry and what he was going through in his life when I chose to pray certain things.
To watch the Finally Fearless Video:
Some of you who know me, know that I have been working on this next book for a very long time. Some of you know of it as my “autobiography” about fear and knew that Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting was only a small part of my life, that book I was writing while bored and waiting for God to finally bless me with a husband.
Those who’ve known me for the past ten or so years of my life may have no idea this part of my life ever existed. I was struck recently by reactions when my mother and my husband read the book. Both of them had a very similar response. My mother asked, “How is it that I never knew my own daughter?” And my husband said when he read this book, while he knew it was mine, it’s not who he’s married to now. He was very thankful that God healed me so abundantly. When you read my story, you will understand fully why my healing and freedom from fear were necessary for me to walk down the aisle and marry the most wonderful man God gave me. I often pondered the thought about how what I longed for I feared the most. And that fear kept me away from men and relationships for a long time. There were years I thought I’d never be able to get married because of it.
Praise God, I was able to heal, face my fears, and win the battle over anxiety in this area of my life.
I understand why my mom and husband reacted this way. Even when I step back and read my book, it’s like reading about a stranger. This is so much due to the fact that God healed me so well, that the person I was for over 20 years of my life seems like she doesn’t exist anymore.
That person barred by the jail cell of extreme fear.
I’m glad my newer friends didn’t have to get to know this other part of me. I’m glad I am no longer acquainted with who I was, even though what I went through is a very real part of my history. It no doubt has an effect on who I am today. Sadly, I know many people relate to me and the journey I share in Finally Fearless: Journey from Panic to Peace. I wish more people didn’t have to. But it’s a very common problem people face, and I am tired of the silence that keeps people locked up in their fears.
It’s why I had to release this story, no matter how much vulnerability it called for. I knew back in 2001 that one day, like it or not, I would write it, and then be compelled to release this book.
That time has finally come.
Here’s the blurb from the back cover that shares my heart and why I wrote this book: (You can click on the links below and order the paperback and workbook or kindle version on Amazon.)
“This is one courageous book. In her bravest turn yet, Cheryl McKay dives into the storm-tossed depths of suffocating anxiety. This unflinchingly honest account is the personal hand of experience…guiding all who would read to still waters.”
—Susan Rohrer, author THE HOLY SPIRIT: Amazing Power for Everyday People
From Cheryl’s Journal:
Why am I like this? What is wrong with me? Why am I so afraid? I can’t control my anxiety; these fears seem to overtake me. Does anyone know how I feel? No one else has this problem. I am a freak, and I am alone. Where is God in this?
Do fear and anxiety rule your life?
They used to rule mine.
This is the book I was too afraid to write and definitely too afraid to publish. That would mean others could read some of my most private thoughts, pieces of my most difficult and painful journey. Most of my life, I put on a good face, that “life is perfect” façade. It was a sham. Then I realized I had to face my problems, my past, and my fears if I ever wanted to live a normal, healthy life. In writing this book, I decided to join the imperfect human race. I wrote it because I needed to heal.
Maybe you need to heal, too.
Through writing about my story of panic, fear, and seemingly irrational anxieties, I uncovered so much about panic and anxiety disorders, coping techniques, causes of anxiety and fear, soul-searching activities to help unearth the root of anxiety problems, and methods that can bring about healing. After many years of stagnancy, I found hope. God walked me through every step to help me find ways to grow, heal, change, and climb out from under the relentless thumb of anxiety. I can honestly say I am now healed.
Are you tired of fighting against your fears? Has panic interrupted your life? Has anxiety stopped you from going after your dreams? I encourage you to read my story and start your soul-searching journey now so you, too, can venture toward peace.
* * *
Finally Fearless: Journey from Panic to Peace is filled with practical advice, exercises, personal stories, and tangible ways for readers to participate in their healing.
Get the workbook that accompanies this book. The Finally Fearless Workbook is a great tool for church groups, book clubs, or individuals who want to play an active role in their healing from fear and anxiety.
I am not a medical doctor or a psychologist. I am a creative, intelligent woman. Yet panic and anxiety left me feeling completely out of control. I ached for God to show up and heal me instantly. Instead, He became my Wonderful Counselor, and He walked me through my fears, step by step, toward healing.
Much of my personal recovery came through healing exercises I did, the same ones I’m now sharing with you in this companion workbook. The work you will do here is a reflection of God’s relentless help in healing and encouraging me through these most vital exercises, creative assignments, journaling, reflection, and meditation on key scriptures.
This workbook also contains bonus material not found in the original book, including extra journal entries, assignments, poetry, and helpful collections of Bible verses grouped by topics like peace, hope, God’s faithfulness, fear, and trust.
Are you tired of fighting against your fears? Has panic interrupted your life? Has anxiety stopped you from going after your dreams? Start your soul-searching journey now so you, too, can venture toward peace.
You can get copies of the Ebook or Paperbacks on Amazon.
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