Early January 2009
I stared, hard, at the worst it could get.
Usually, if you face a searing fear full on, it creeps away a bit ashamed. Of course a two-inch spider in the bath isn’t going to jump out and bite me. Of course the sky isn’t going to fall on my head when I go outside.
The worst it could get was that we would be homeless again. This time, permanently.
Split up again. Permanently.
Actually, that is pretty bad, isn’t it?
Bear in mind that Shaun had recently suffered a devastating breakdown, and was not on fighting form. So I was doing all this on my own.
A very close, wise, dear friend said to me, “You’ve got to cut all your other children loose, and just look after Rosie.”
Cut Bink loose? How could she survive...? She might be an adult, technically, but she was ill. And Serena, Alex, Ben…
I know from my own experience that it’s nonsense to consider over eighteen “adult”. I went on needing my own parents until they were so frail they needed me. (And well beyond. I could often do with my mother’s help and advice, still now.)
Something we do well to bear in mind when making provision for foster children.
Very early January. I was having tea with a member of the church. Her husband was the ringleader trying to destroy us: I knew that. But she wasn’t.
We sat either side of her warm fire, nursing our mugs. Suddenly, I burst out, “What is to become of us?” She said nothing. “Have you ever wished,” I asked her, “that you had no children?”
“No,” she said. “I haven’t.”
Two days later I invited her and her husband to our cottage. He had once been a help to us. I got the impression he wasn’t as important in his great big London goldfish bowl as he’d like to be. So he derived satisfaction from flexing his fins in the much smaller church one instead.
“Do you honestly believe,” I asked him, “that Shaun has done anything wrong?”
“If course not,” he said.
Shaun was bringing in a tray of tea.
“What you’re doing will ruin him. And us. You realise that?”
That was when he gave his explanation. “He is is holding up the work of the Gospel. He’s got to go.”
I will never forget those words as long as I live.
Is this the Gospel, the good news, that feeds the hungry and clothes the poor and visits those in prison?
It was soon after this that I asked Shaun my question.
He was just inside the little kitchen and I on the threshold: the room was too small for two, really.
“Why should we bother to keep believing? God doesn’t answer prayer. And Christians behave worse than anyone.”
My godmother, at my baptism, had given me bible, Authorised Version, red leather, gold tooling, with illustrations in bright colours, suitable for a child. Its cover has been hanging by a thread for decades. I treasure it still.
“Think of the character of Jesus,” he said. “Who else do you think He could have been?”
I saw that Good Shepherd, in my children’s bible, in cheerful primary blues and reds, dark hair to His shoulders and soft eyes straight ahead, carrying a lost lamb home over His shoulders.
Who else, indeed, could He have been?
(It was soon after this, that Shaun received the letter I referred to. I can’t put it off any longer...)