Lamb Of God guitarist Mark Morton has penned a touching essay on the death of his firstborn child, Madalyn Grace Morton, and how her passing impacted him and his work while the band were recording their most recent album, VII: Sturm und Drang.
In an essay published by Noisey, Morton recounts how the creation of the Lamb Of God song Walk With Me In Hell “felt somehow divine, or otherwise supernatural” as it came together swiftly, before tragedy struck and the song’s name became even more poignant.
“Four years later, my wife and I found ourselves in a small corner of a neonatal intensive care unit, holding and caressing our first born infant daughter. The ambient hum of medical machinery droned in the background and a panoramic window framing the Shenandoah Mountains sprawled out in front of my new family and I,” Morton writes.
“We gazed lovingly over every detail of our daughter’s face, every freckle on her skin, cataloging every sound and smell the way all new parents do.
“The difference was that our child had developed an infection during delivery. She was very, very sick and her prognosis hadn’t yet been determined. Later that day, our daughter Madalyn Grace Morton died in my arms. We were walking through Hell.”
Morton goes on to explain the trauma his family felt following the death of Madalyn Grace, which he says was felt “physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually”. He notes that it was only six weeks after his daughter’s death that he found himself “walking on to the stage at Madison Square Garden to ‘entertain’ people,” even though he wasn’t ready.
“I was by no means ready to re-enter that world, but the music industry is vicious and unforgiving… and somehow, there I was.
“For me, ‘grieving’ took the form of a rapid and immediate free fall into an abyss of drug addiction. While I don’t defend my response as appropriate (and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it), I do very clearly understand how it happened. And I do forgive myself.”
Morton acknowledges that he doesn’t think he’ll ever “heal” from the loss of Madalyn Grace, which he says has left “deep scars”.
“Wounded people isolate themselves for protection. People in pain lash out in fear. Resentments and regrets fester. It becomes seemingly impossible to navigate a conflict that has an endless array of wrong answers but no apparent right ones,” he says.
“People you expected to be there for you disappear. People you barely even know hold you up. Relationships strain and crack under this type of pressure. Grief changes people.”
Morton explains that a year after Madalyn’s death, his wife gave birth to a girl who is now “the light of both of our lives”.
“Not too long ago, I sat playing guitar on a barstool in my kitchen and within about 15 minutes came up with the outline of the music that would become the song Embers. Nearly a decade after Walk With Me In Hell, it was happening yet again.
“Knowing intuitively that this would be a special piece, I once again began scribbling lyrics to my wife. I described our shared pain and made references to places and events that only she would understand and recognize. I promised her that there was ‘still light to find our way’. I hoped I was right.”
Morton says he didn’t write all of the lyrics to Embers, with Randy Blythe writing the words for the outro section sung by China Moreno, but the verses and choruses he did write reflect his experience of “living in the aftermath of a child’s death”.
“For me, Embers is a song about hope,” he writes. “It’s about hanging on to that last shred of light in your life and not giving up on it. It’s about believing that love can overcome despair. Most of all, it’s about forgiving yourself.”
Lamb Of God are supporting Slipknot on their Australian tour this October, and also have a pair of intimate headline shows lined up for November.
Stream Embers below and read Morton’s essay in full over on Noisey.
For help or information regarding mental health, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
Listen: Lamb Of God – ‘Embers’ (Feat. Chino Moreno)
Gallery: Lamb Of God @ Soundwave 2015, Melbourne / Photos: Alesha Martyn