Wed December 3rd, 2003
Stuff happens. Sometimes you read in the newspapers about a charity sending a child diagnosed with cancer on a trip to Disneyland. The inference is always that this is the last trip the child can expect. This is about as close as childhood cancer comes to most people, and as close as we had seen it until December 1998. In a matter of days we went from a happy family with four children and a routine, to a rattled family with four children one of who was given three weeks to live. We had three lovely girls and one boy. Rocky, our son, was named after the church we were part of. His name represented to us that Jesus Christ is the foundational rock on which we have built our lives. I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, and I guess we thought it right to name our son in a way that represented everything we believe. If we had named him after Sylvester Stallone's film character, then it would still have worked, because he was a fighter, and never gave up. Rocky had neuroblastoma, a rare cancer hitting 40 children a year in this country. He was 4 ½ years old and full of life, except all of a sudden he was very ill. I said we were a happy family that became a rattled family. It would be unreal to suggest that we knew exactly what to do in the circumstances that we found ourselves in. We didn't. However, we did know some stuff – principles that we had learnt out of relationship with God. One thing we knew, was that God is good – he hasn't got it in for us, and he shows us favour. When the consultant gave us the prognosis, in a quiet room, they left us to cry together, and my wife, Pauline turned to me and said "at least it's not raining". I knew that what she meant was, that life was taking us on a journey we didn't want to go, but we could still be who we are – a happy family.
For several months, there was no guarantee that Rocky would live the day. We had nine months of almost living in St James at Leeds, where Rocky and the whole family were treated wonderfully. Instead of allowing what happened to us to determine what we believed, we allowed what we believed to determine how we reacted to everything. We have great memories of that cancer ward, and the laughter that we shared there with Rocky. Rocky survived treatment (an achievement in itself) and we had a further year and a half of good times together, before he relapsed in January 2001. Again the 3 week sentence was passed. We nursed him for exactly 5 months at home before he "moved house". The night before Rocky died, we sat on the settee together watching movies and discussing what we would do the next day. Little did we know that the next morning he would die, sat on his mum's knee, whilst I held his hand. It was quick and simple. We wept and said our goodbyes to our special little boy, aged seven years. We gave him a great "send off". We cheered him as friends and loved ones carried him up the isle. We celebrated his good fight, and the goodness of a God that is always there with us, a God that Rocky knew and he now lives with. So we are learning to live without him. The truth is that in 7 years Rocky had more life than many people we meet today. We can live without him, because we also are full of life. God isn't a crutch for us, but he is a great "Dad", and because of our confidence in him we can go on.
So what do you want to hear me say? Shall I say that we are so sad, we cry everyday and have lost that which can never be replaced leading us into a pit of depression that we cannot escape from? I am more likely to say "the Martians have landed". The truth is, God is good, and we are too! I am very glad that we discovered the God that Rocky lives with, and that we had found out how to live when life was so fragile a commodity. Life may be a roller-coaster ride sometimes, but we know how to enjoy it. Today we enjoy life, just as we always do. We are a happy family with three children blessed for knowing Rocky for seven years and with an expectation that life is working for us, because we know that God is. Life's a gamble – I guess we win!