The Golden Sky, by EC Stilson
The “death home” gave my son a really nice funeral, the kind I’d never wished to attend. When they tried closing his casket, I nearly fell on my face, not wanting them to shut the lid on my baby.
We lost it after that, totally cemented in our grief. Cade got into drugs, joined a rock and roll band, and even grew out his damn hair. At the time, I was sick of “the oatmeal option” (the only food we had), so I kicked Cade out of the house, and started modeling and working as a diesel mechanic. That was how I met Earl, an old man and unlikely best friend; the “big sag,” a middle aged woman who still flashed folks; my neighbor, the stripper next door, and “The Cowboy,” a man who fell in love with me.
It was slow at first, but Cade reverted back to the man I’d busked with years before. It wasn’t until I killed a rogue skunk, and my daughter nearly choked on a fry, that I gave my husband another chance. But could our marriage recover from the death of our son?
Any book that starts with a note to readers like this you know is going to be good: “Before taking this journey, know that you hold my journal in your hands. It’s raw and real. Every word is precious, written through the honest eyes of youth. At the age of nineteen I turned to pen and paper, my only confidants. I then reread my journal and perfected it, by making minor revisions, when I was twenty-six. Yes, I was young. Yes, it was hard, but still, I was about to begin the journey of a lifetime, and see that after every storm, there is a golden sky.”
It’s hard for me to say that this book was ‘good,’ because it was a total tear jerker and I felt terrible for the characters, but I couldn’t put it down! This is the only memoir I’ve read that I’ve enjoyed. I quickly fell in love with this book.
EC Stilson shares her journal with the world during the toughest part of her life. The Golden Sky is written in the style of a journal and flowed very smoothly. I’ve read other books where authors have tried to accomplish this, and EC Stilson accomplishes this beautifully.
While pregnant, Elisa finds out that her son will possibly be born with a birth defect. The further along she gets in her pregnancy, it is confirmed that her son will be born with complications. Elisa’s son, Zeke, is born with major organ problems and has extensive surgery to try and correct this. After a short time, Zeke’s poor little body shuts down. After the death of her son, the stress on her family is launched to extremes and Elisa’s life literally hits rock bottom. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do. Elisa is taking care of her daughter with extremely little money, working two jobs, and ends up separating from her husband.
To read Elisa’s brutally honest account of this time in her life was extremely refreshing. And knowing that this was actually a true story caused me to feel for all of the ‘characters’ that much more.
I can honestly say that Elisa is one of the strongest people that I’ve ever spoken with. I am proud to say that I was able to work with her, and read her amazing story. Elisa kept her focus on the positive things in life, rather than crashing and burning like most people might. Being through a rough situation myself, I know how hard it is to carry on when your life is thrown in a completely different direction. I look up to Elisa, and respect her more than I could ever say. Reading her book and the thoughts that were going through her head made me feel better about my situation. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has been through a hard time in their life. And I’m not talking about a ‘rough patch,’ but literally having your life stop at a stand still.
One of the main thoughts Elisa has throughout this book is that no one understands her situation, because no one knows exactly what she is going through. I felt the same exact way for so long. It was therapeutic to know that my thoughts were not selfish, and that another person was having the exact thoughts I did.
I cannot write enough praising this book telling you how good this story is. It is touching, extremely well written, and definitely relate-able. Thank you, Elisa, for writing this beautiful piece of work!
The Obscured Vixen: Thank you so much for doing this interview! Was it hard writing all of this personal information down on paper?
EC Stilson: Writing everything helped. I still remember when Zeke was going through a surgery which would save his life. I felt like I was losing my mind, but just writing things down as I waited really made things better. My journal helped me cope with everything. I love how I write “journal” even though many of the entries were on napkins, paper place mats, or other things I found at the hospital. It was such a frantic time of my life, I’d just write on whatever I could find.
What was hard, was reading back through my own writing and making revisions for editors. I’ve read it twelve times now and the last time I didn’t even cry. Maybe that shows I’ve healed or I’m so used to reading the details of what happened, they don’t make me as sad now. It’s interesting though, what the process has been of reading this over and over–maybe it has been good for me.
TOV: What made you want to share your story with the world?
ECS: When my son died, I searched for reading material, but everything I found was written by doctors and therapists. Six years after my loss, I read my own journal. I’d forgotten most of what happened–pushing it as far away as I could. But through reading my own experiences, I felt like I could forgive myself, remember that it was okay, and move on. I hoped it might be the same for others.
I sent it to a few doctors and organizations, and they agreed it could help many people. One doctor (who endorsed it) even said it was fascinating to read the exact details of what a patient might go through. She felt more empathy for people she helped! That’s when I decided I would share my story.
TOV: How did your family and friends mentioned in the book feel about your story being published?
ECS: Many of them were very supportive. My husband has been the biggest support, which is amazing since in the book he doesn’t always shine in the brightest light. He said that although he wishes he could change things, that’s what happened, and it shows how grief affects people differently.
We had friends who got divorced because of a similar situation. My husband said if the woman had read my book she may have realized her husband was grieving and needed her love and support more than ever.
I had to contact everyone written about in the journal. Only two people requested to have their names changed. After that, I ended up changing almost everyone’s names just to protect their identities.
On a side note, a few family members (who aren’t even in the journal) have opposed this from the beginning. They said I’m sharing far too much of myself with the world. I obviously disagree though. If this story can help just one person, it needs to be shared.
TOV: Has your family read the book? If so, what are their thoughts?
ECS: My husband, brother, sister-in-law, aunt and mother have read the book. They all said they had a hard time reading it because it brought back such strong memories. But on the other hand, they said it was good knowing what I went through personally. We’ve had many late night conversations about it. I’m just so glad I wrote everything down because I never would have remembered all of these details later.
My mom said she had no idea all we had to eat was oatmeal.
Cade said he didn’t realize how much I still loved him.
My aunt said she didn’t realize what a hoot I am.
It’s hilarious the feedback I’ve gotten.
Other members of my family refuse to read it because they said it’s just too painful to remember everything. I don’t blame them. The first time I reread my journal, it was really hard.
TOV: Now that Ruby is older, does she still remember Zeke? And what does she think about the book?
ECS: Ruby is almost ten now. She remembers Zeke’s funeral, but not much other than that. I think her other memories are mostly from what we’ve told her.
When Zeke died, a wonderful organization took his main blanket and made it into a teddy bear. Ruby keeps that on her bed along with my book as a tribute to her brother.
TOV: Did everything in the book actually happen? And were they real entries in an actual journal of yours?
ECS: Everything in the book happened.
One thing that was interesting is that after Zeke died, I took all of the memories from his life and shoved them into a box. When I had healed enough to reread everything six years later, Cade (my husband) had to help me put the papers/napkins/place mats (I’d written on) and journal into chronological order. That was hard because there were a lot of entries I’d written on random things. But after MANY days we were able to get the entries where they needed to be.
I had to edit everything though, because I’d used the word “really” way too much. I also used to write “would of” instead of “would have.” But other than small revisions, that’s how it happened and was written.
There were other entries that I took out because they didn’t progress the story or were even more personal than things I left for the reader.
In addition to this, the box held many pictures from times written about in this book. I’ve decided to release those pictures for people to see on my website. I’m also going to include a link where people can donate to Angel Watch (the great organization that helped me after Zeke died).
TOV: At the end, you include a snippet of what seems to be another book. Will you be publishing another book?
ECS: I have two more books lined up for publication. The first one is a YA fantasy called “The Sword of Senack.” That book will come out on February 2nd, 2012. It’s the bedtime story I told Ruby after Zeke died. Although she didn’t remember everything about him, even years later she had a hard time with the concept of death. For a kid it’s hard realizing we will all die someday–it’s still a hard realization for most adults. So, I told her that story to help her understand why Zeke had to leave. In “The Sword of Senack” I call him Jack and he goes away, far into the ocean for his one true love.
The other book I’ve written is called “Bible Girl.” It’s the story of why I ran away at the age of seventeen. That book will be released on April 21st, 2012. I’ve already received wonderful endorsements for that book and I’m actually quite excited to have a prequel to “The Golden Sky.”
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EC Stilson has been generous enough to offer a copy of ‘The Golden Sky.’