Sunday, February 11, 2007


No one expects their children to die before them, no one deserves that. Jeff and Lyn lost their beautiful sixteen year old daughter to leukaemia and that one calamitous event has shaped the rest of their lives. Jeff, grey and rugged, once handsome, dangerous and even still a little wild, but frayed now, life having done its’ work with relish it seems. An East End boy working on ‘the print’ in Fleet Street when the national press was gathered there like one enormous family feeding from the same soup of workers, machinery and sensational headlines. He regularly revisits, taking us there with humorous and skilfully worked tales of villains, dark corners and dodgy deals where pranksters, rogues and small time villains hatched their plans and joked their way through the long hours of the night and into the next morning. ‘Pinewwood’ people of the sixties, larger than life characters in black and white, vivid, alive and beautifully drawn, set against a backdrop of whirring print machines, dangerous block setting, the intoxicating smell of ink and print runs that might last twenty four hours or more covered by the same men on the same shift. It was hard but the rewards were great, Jeff being by all accounts quite a wealthy young man when he saved his beautiful young bride from the miserable abuses of a drunken father; stepping in when others had passed by, knocking him out and in true cave man fashion walking away with the spoils of his labour. That was it. Lyn lived with him now. No ifs, no buts, no lawsuits, charges of assault, abduction, claims or counter claims. There had been a problem and now it had been sorted, the business had been done and Jeff began a life of care. He had it all now; large house, swimming pool, new Saab sports car on the drive, beautiful wife and mother to their two young children Martin and Julie.
So why? Why? Why give people all of this happiness, why build up hope, expectations and desires only to destroy and take away in the cruellest way imaginable? I don’t think that Jeff and Lyn believe in God. I don’t know if they did before Julie died but any faith repaid with such crushing injury is difficult to comprehend. Why would any higher power feel the need to induce such suffering, overwhelming His children with a torment beyond all others? We struggle at these times to explain how any God in whose teachings we are nurtured, promise to love, trust, worship and obey can preside over so much pain. Because he suffered? Somehow that argument just doesn’t work and I know that Jeff and Lyn need more than that.
Jeff deals with the loss as he does with most things that hurt; he builds with little blocks of anger, little scraps of guilt, of grief, bitterness and sorrow; he builds it all into monumental towers of remorse and every so often the tower becomes unstable, topples and collapses along with all hope and Jeff disappears with his mood into a cavernous pit of despair. Then he starts to build again. With Lyn it is very different. Her loss is and will forever remain, apparent. Lyn has worn her grief like a veil of despair since the day Julie was diagnosed. Since the day that she had to watch her beautiful daughter, her life, her Julie in so much pain; since the day they each vowed, even then perhaps recognising the futility of battle, to fight this thing, beat it, together; since she had to endure the tortuous routines of needles, radiation, chemotherapy, weight loss, steroidal weight gain, sickness, nausea, constant nausea and the ultimate humiliation of hair loss, Julies precious brunette locks lost, Jeff choking on his own tears barely able to conceal the agony that with each sickening stroke of the brush removed a little more hope. Imagine. Imagine that kind of pain. Imagine trying to rationalise that as part of some grand design of a God that cares. We deserve better than that and shouldn’t be made to go there. Having given their love, their lives, even the blood from their bodies and the marrow from their bones, no prayers were answered and everything that they lived for, their reason for being had gone. For Lyn there has since that time been no peace, no laughter, no happiness unstained by her loss that day and she, and Jeff, and I, know that there will never be until the day that she is reunited with her daughter, her Julie.

Painful as my life feels right now, I know that it pales into insignificance when set alongside the loss experienced by my dearest friends. I sometimes find it hard to tell them how hard it is all getting, how I long to see much more of my son, knowing that they have lost everything. Desperate at times in the knowledge that Tom is alive and yet allowed so little time with dad, I nevertheless recognise that I have so much to be grateful for and will try not to allow the fear of losing override the joy of having.
I love you Tom.


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