Theresa Murray has worked in the medical industry for a long time. She’s worked in a nursing home, as a Registered Nurse, a school nurse, and in other medical jobs. While she never thought about writing seriously, she’d always written down her thoughts and feelings in a journal or a diary of some sort. She’s married and has children and grandchildren.
Her inspiration for her children’s book The Four Stones was her brother-in-law’s suicide and the lack of conversation surrounding how to deal with a suicide as a child. She was younger when this happened, and her parents never really talked about it because they were grieving the loss themselves. There were no social workers yet to help kids process things. Years later, her brother also committed suicide. As an adult, Ms. Murray saw the impact of the suicide on her brother’s children and what they were going through after losing a parent. The book’s purpose about the little birds is to help children and families through the process of grieving a loved one, which is a complex process that doesn’t always make sense and isn’t always easy to talk about. It is also meant to inspire deep conversations about such a process. The Four Stones follows the story of Peep and Chip, two little birds who discover the love of the Creator, even in death. The Creator gives four stones to the two little birds. There is the hope stone, the will stone, the joy stone, and the love stone, which are the most precious stones. The illustrations, which Ms. Murray drew herself along with her sister, make it more engaging for children, and the guided questions take the reader through a journey to healing.
Ms. Murray got the idea organically. It just showed up in her mind that this was a story she needed to write. “I felt in my heart that it was a really beautiful story,” she said. “I think it came from within. Because I’m a woman of faith, I felt a bit of the divine may have inspired it, too.” It took her almost two years to write the story because of her rewrites. Her nephew, who passed away as well, was the person who most inspired her to write this story and had the most influence on her. “I just felt like his story needed to be told,” she said. Another influence was her father, who was also a writer. He wrote poetry and short stories, although he never published his work.
When I asked her about her favorite moment in the writing process, she answered with, “Being done,” she said, and then we had a good laugh. She also loved presenting it to women she respected, like her sister-in-law and other women she held in high regard and hearing their input. “It was interesting to try and implement their feedback without sacrificing my creativity,” Ms. Murray said.
I asked Ms. Murray about her favorite line from the book. She told me about a line that is repeated throughout the book. It reads, “And so they journeyed on.” “I’ve always had this philosophy that we’re all on this journey together,” she explained. “And once we die, it’s not the end. It’s just another journey, and I believe that.” I like the idea she has about journeying and that each phase of existence is just another journey. It’s very philosophical.
The final message Ms. Murray wants her readers to take away from her book is that it’s safe to have a conversation after losing someone. “It’s so important,” she said. “We shouldn’t shy away from it, and it’s okay to explore your beliefs.” Ms. Murray explained that that’s the reason why the final guiding question in the book is so open-ended, asking people to explore their beliefs and what they’ve been taught about losing a loved one.
In the last few minutes of the interview, I asked Ms. Murray my favorite question. I always learn the most from this question: what advice would you give young writers? She answered with, “Your only limitations are those you put on yourself.” I love hearing about this because it gives someone so much power over their circumstances. Limiting beliefs can sometimes be so crippling, and I’ve had to do my self-work to eliminate them. Hearing Ms. Murray say this made me think about the limitations I might be putting on myself, not just in my writing but in other aspects of my life. I learned so much from Ms. Murray, and I hope you all did, too.