On December 28th, it will be 27 years since my first son, Samuel, died aged 7 months. Joseph, Francesca and William were all born together 3 years later. William had a congenital disorder requiring surgery at birth which sadly, he did not survive.
In the wake of the terrible news from Newtown, Connecticut this last weekend, that aching feeling of loss, ever present but generally manageable, comes flooding back so readily. I know what losing a child feels like, I am living it again with these families. As commentators have said in the last few days, there is nothing worse a parent can experience. It changes your life for ever. Theirs are different circumstances but their loss, I know, is the same.
We have had the extraordinary privilege, this weekend, of caring for our nephew aged 4 years and his sisters, one aged 2 years, the other just 3 weeks.
How precious they are. How closely we monitored them as the appalling details emerged from America. I wept as I cuddled them, numb at the tragedy unfolding.
But in the run up to Christmas, we are still planning to celebrate together as family, realising that each day is a gift. We are not defined by events. We are shaped by them. Nearly 30 years on since our own personal tragedy, we choose life over grief, engagement rather than introspection.
And that is what makes Paint Pots so important – the celebration of lives; the love expressed for each child; daily laughter; and continuous learning about ourselves and each other.
We cannot bring back the children we have lost but we can and do commit ourselves to helping those who are still here become the best people they can be.
Our resolve to make a difference in children’s lives is strengthened. As we approach the start of another year through our difficult anniversary, we dedicate our endeavours to the memory of those children who lost their lives this weekend in a senseless, violent act.
My prayer is for a World where all children are safe, loved and nurtured.
May you know peace this Christmas.