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Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Terrible, Terrible Loss

A good friend of mine whom I knew from church took my wife Alex, our three year old daughter and myself in his car to Hayling Island, a rather sedate Hampshire resort on the South Coast. Since neither of us as a couple had ever owned or driven a car, it takes the devotion of an unattached male friend with a car to escort us to one of the nicer parts of the English coastline, free of excess commercialism, no railway station, no amusement arcades lining the streets, no abundance of shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, no lavish or towering grand hotels forming the skyline, and no heavy road traffic - and most important of all - no pleasure pier jutting out to sea. All of these features being the traditional characteristics which makes a typical English holiday resort. No, Hayling Island has none of these. Instead, it is a literal island separated from the mainland by a tidal channel about two hundred metres across, which is crossed by a single road bridge. The island itself consists mainly of open fields and meadows, dotted inland with small residential villages, and its south-facing pebble beach backed by sedate residential houses.

However, at the beach there is an amusement park with restaurants and coffee shops, next to a large car park. Among the fun rides, a roofed bumper-car attraction caught my daughter's attention. She immediately made known to me that this is where she wanted to go.

My daughter's insistence reminded me when I was a small boy myself, and at that time I begged Dad if I could go on the helter-skelter which was located on the end of Brighton Pier. His answer was typical: No, such things costs money. It was always No. Such was his philosophy of thriftiness. Indeed, the family budget was well managed despite their rather low incomes, but what at the cost of his son's memories after growing up? And that is significant. It was on one of his more generous moods when father and son were walking along Lupus Street in the Westminster district of Pimlico, when he suddenly stopped at a roadside ice-cream vendor and bought me a vanilla cone. Of all the ice-cream confections I ever had, spanning from childhood to the present day, this particular cone was well remembered - because it was bought for me by my father, as if totally out of character. Coming to think of it, the timing of this act of generosity might have coincided with the news that I have a younger sibling on its way.

And as a result, it was no surprise that at my father's funeral, this ice-cream incident was featured in my epitaph speech which brought my listeners to tears. With the price of a few pence from his wallet, he had bought was not just the ice-cream cone, but something much more, something priceless.

And so as my own daughter pulled me by my hand towards the bumper cars, such memories were aroused. But also with a determination that my daughter's memories will always be worth more than thrifty budget management. We climbed into the nearest car, and in full view of both my wife and friend standing by the edge, I managed to steer the vehicle round and round the outer perimeter of the floor. Because of the presence of my daughter, none of the other riders had made any attempts to bump into us. And as I drove the car, I took a glance of my daughter enjoying herself, something which to me will always be priceless.

Becoming a father for the first time ever, even at the age of 48 years old, was definitely with Earth-shaking emotion. I sat alone with the newborn in my arms whilst my wife was recovering. As I watched her sleeping soundly in my arms, it was if my whole life flashed by, with memories galore, both good and bad. Even all the glories of world backpacking with all the highs and lows of independent travel becomes like a shadow when compared to the brightness of my daughter's birth. She was my everything. If her life preservation involved the cost of my own life, then I would have given it willingly. How the sight of my own offspring had brought out the full spectrum of emotions, from tears to laughter.

So what a disaster for us when the State believed that we were unfit to raise our own children because we were unfortunate enough to suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the mild end of the Autism Spectrum. I say "State" but really it came down to the opinions of just one adult female. A self-confessed atheist, a patriot, a proud advocate of classism, and of course - a university graduate. Whatever she says, the Court bowed in obeisance. A few words spoken from her mouth and a family is destroyed. I will never watch my daughters grow from toddlers to children, into adolescents, then into adulthood. I will never enhance their memories with good things, nor have the opportunity to lavish my love and affection. Indeed, I could gaze at an ice-cream parlour anywhere in the world robbed of the privilege of buying any treats for my daughters.

Raging anger towards this Social Worker persisted for months, and it was felt at its most intense in the mornings. Asperger's Syndrome? I wonder how many parents with A.S. had successfully raised their children into balanced adults throughout history? Not that A.S. was recognised throughout history, that is, until this Austrian doctor bearing the name Hans Asperger, who in 1944 discovered its existence and made a successful diagnosis of the condition. But for it to be diagnosed, it must have been around for some time, maybe spanning several generations. Even at present, I am aware of a happily married man whose father had A.S. That particular parent must have got something right somewhere. Then thinking about military life, especially when conscription was obligatory, I have wondered how recruits with A.S. coped with boot camp and rigorous discipline, let alone fighting in two World Wars.

Dr. Hans Asperger 

As I had already mentioned in the last post, Asperger's Syndrome is most probably a genetic defect, most likely occurring at conception, but perhaps also possibly developing during gestation. What it is, is that the brain is not properly wired up for normal social interaction, hence making group socials in particular difficult for the sufferer. But I was never convinced that having A.S. should disqualify us from parenting our own children. Hence my raging fury endured for months, maybe as much as a couple of years after our daughters were literally snatched from our home at three in the morning during February 2005, leaving my wife screaming. All because of one female's opinions!

Oh yes, it was easy to be angry at God, as well as with the State. We both felt mercilessly robbed. And then the emotional pain gotten from constantly seeing families all around us, has exacerbated the problem. It is also easy to become introspective, to constantly examine ourselves whether we have committed any specific sin. But no consciousness of any specific sin had ever come to our minds. Instead, we felt to be victims of an extremely unlucky set of circumstances.

And here I am left with a stark choice.

Either forget everything about God, his existence, his so-called "love" and his constant demand for personal holiness. Forget church, forget about reading the Bible, do my own thing - eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.

Or use this set of circumstances to draw close to God, pray for his mercy and goodness, pray for our strength in marriage, but above all, pray for the welfare of our daughters - especially for the salvation of their souls.

Christmas 2005 was approaching, our first Christmas without our girls. As was the seasonal custom, I opened the Bible to Matthew's Gospel and began to read his version of the Christmas Story, and after reading about Herod's slaughter of the Innocents, I came across these two verses:

Then was fulfilled that which was written by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama there was a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Matthew 2:17-18 AV.

Immediately I felt a compulsion to turn to the verses from which Matthew had quoted, and continued to read:

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard at Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to thy border.
Jeremiah 31:15-17. AV.

Immediately I believed the word, and I felt my spirit comforted, strengthened and revitalised. A situation parallel to this:

And (God) brought (Abraham) forth abroad, and said, Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars, if you are able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it unto him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:5-6 AV.

Or to put it in modern English:

Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited to him as righteousness. 

Reading Jeremiah 31:15-17 was practically equal to experiencing regeneration the second time over, although I had already been a Christian believer for the past thirty-three years. By reading such assuring Scriptures has played a major role in looking at the world with open eyes. However, waves of furious anger towards the Social Worker came and went, with times of peace between each wave. Over a course of time I began to feel concern over my wife's spiritual welfare. What was her attitude towards Jesus Christ? Was she a true believer?

Carrying her two daughters within herself amounted to nearly eighteen months in total. Little wonder that the loss of her children had affected her more intensely than the loss had affected me. So much so that her health began to deteriorate to the point that by the Summer of 2013, she was no longer able to walk upright. This was quite a contrast to when she was able to out-sprint me easily, leaving me in a cloud of dust. A GP recommended admission into hospital as an in-patient. Upon entry into her ward, she looked up at me as I stood over her and reassured me with these words:
Please do not worry. I know Jesus Christ as my Saviour.
What reassurance! For the next four months whilst she remains confined as an in-patient, I had to adapt to sleeping alone in our double bed. And every day without exception, straight after work, the cycle ride to the station for the train trip to Reading, where my wife had taken residence.

Knowing Scripture and believing the revelation God has given us had carried us through testing times, as if passing through the fires of Hell. But as I wrote last week, Hell was not able to break us, just as Jesus had promised:

Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18.

As such, to this day our childless marriage remains strong, robust and stable. And just this week we received letterbox contact after a long time waiting. This features a letter on their progress, especially at school where they are preparing for their GCSE exams along with three latest photos. They are now teenagers and how beautiful they both look! It was the receiving of this letterbox contact which was the inspiration of this blog, although we are not allowed to publish these pictures here. Sorry about that.


  1. Dear Frank,
    What a touching and inspiring testimony of your faith in Him, no matter what the circumstances. Just reading this I felt sorrow for you and Alex, and for the children who were deprived of experiencing your Godly influence and love, as well as anger and frustration at the bureaucrat who so casually changed all your lives. But as I read, I was hopeful that one day you would experience some sort of reunion. What a blessing to learn of them and see their pictures, and hopefully one day to meet them in person. Thank you so much for sharing this heartwrenching experience and how it ultimately brought you and Alex closer to Him and to be powerful witnesses to others.
    God bless,

  2. Praise God, you both continued to trust him. Sometimes the things we go through in this life are very painful, but by his grace we can experience the victory even in the midst of pain. Thanks for sharing.