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Canadian veteran pens "Anchor Of My Heart"

By Celina Ip

A Canadian veteran has used the power of writing to heal the wounds left on his mind and to rediscover the simple joys and beauty of life.

Originally from Cape Breton, N.S., Pembroke’s Derrick Nearing was only 16 years old when he began serving as a reserve engineer with the Canadian Forces from 1979 until 1991. By 1991, he moved to Petawawa to transfer to the regular force where he served as a medic from 1991 until 2003, Derrick completed his military career by serving as physician assistant up until being medically released Christmas of 2013.

“So for the majority of my military career, my job was basically the health and the care of the troops. While I was overseas in Afghanistan, I worked in the place where the guys were fighting and they’d be brought back to me if they were injured and I’d take care of them to fly them out,” said Nearing. “I got medically released during Christmas of 2013 and I guess that was my Christmas gift.”

After being released from the military, Nearing was severely impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder as his mind was continuously haunted by the horrific images of what he witnessed while overseas.

“I did a lot of tours and there was always something that was extremely traumatic and sad,” said Nearing.

After a couple of years, Nearing found joy in writing and discovered that the action of jotting down the happy recollections from his childhood was cathartic and therapeutic for treating his PTSD.

“The main reason I began writing stories was to get back to a place that was good, that was happy. I found that by writing about things that were good in my life – about my childhood and about things prior to the military – it gave me that base security so that I could begin to process the stuff that happened in the army,” said Nearing. “It’s very therapeutic and it helps tremendously.”

Nearing began by submitting his stories to his local newspaper in Cape Breton, the New Waterford Community Press, for which he received much recognition and praise from the readers.

“I wrote a story about my father shaving his face and him putting a little dab of shaving cream on my nose as I watched him as a little boy. I put it in the local Facebook group page in my hometown of Cape Breton and it was well received. From there the local newspaper in town emailed me and asked if they could use it and if I had any more stories to share.”

After a couple of years, Nearing had 120 recollections published in the Cape Breton newspaper and it was at that point that he decided to put together his own book of short stories – titled ‘Anchor Of My Heart’.

Published on Oct. 23, 2017, Anchor of my Heart comprises a collection of 44 short stories about Nearing’s childhood in Cape Breton during the 1960’s.

Nearing wrote from the point-of-view of himself as a young boy, using immense detail to describe the various sights, sounds, tastes and smells of his unique childhood experiences in his small Nova Scotian community.

“They’re all short two to three page stories of incidents in my life growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s,” said Nearing. “I wrote about going to school as a kid, playing with my friends out in the back field and even about my school janitor who was instrumental to the school community,” said Nearing. “Remembering those moments and writing them down helped to ground me to something that was wholesome and good and familiar.”

As for the title, Nearing said that it represents the idea that “our childhood is the anchor which gives us stability as we move forward in life”.

“It is those lessons from parents, teachers and significant others, who come into and out of our lives during this time to influence us and give us a guide with which to follow as we are developing,” said Nearing. “It is the being allowed to make mistakes in a safe environment, yet not taking away from their important lessons. Later in life, as I was with PTSD, life can become challenging however if you have something you can go back to, a foundation of experiences, then you will always have that starting point or reference point no matter what to always go back to if need be.”

Nearing expressed that his hope is that his stories will help other people just as they helped him, allowing them to reconnect with the simplest yet most precious moments in life, that can often be forgotten or taken for granted.

Anchor Of My Heart is available to purchase through FriesenPress, Amazon, Google Books and Kobo.


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