The following article appeared in a Tring magazine ‘Remembering David’ and was written by Dick and Hazel Lovelace. It is included here with their permission.
A father’s memory
I sometimes feel sad that more people never got to meet our son David. He was a clever lad. At fifteen years old, he was doing well at Tring School. He had lots of friends and many interests. Including swimming and football, and was already challenging the way people lived. He often went to Church with his mum and his younger brother Brian. His future seemed all things bright and wonderful.
Eight years later I looked down into his coffin, kissed his cheek, and tearfully said my goodbye. I could tell by his face that he had found peace. But that was the only comfort that evening.
The following day I went to work, had lunch with a business colleague and promised myself that mental illness had ruined his life, but would not destroy mine.
A few days later, myself, wife Hazel and some close relatives visited the Coroner’s Office. Before going in we decided to have a small cooked breakfast in a local café and it was there I found my first guilt. I had eaten for the first time since David’s death, and even laughed at a joke my brother-in-law told. Surely, it was too early for happiness.
A few months later, we took part in David’s inquest. His injuries took a few minutes to read out. Each one was a stab in the heart. But we survived the ordeal, and this gave us the strength to start rebuilding our lives.
For the next few months I filled up every minute of the day and much of the night.
During this time our Baptist Church Minister, Steve asked me if I would share my pain in front of our congregation. I started with these words. What I am about to tell you has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Every time I wrote a few words the tears washed away the ink so I had to start all over again. So you know what I did. I used a pencil instead.
Next year will be twenty-five years since David’s death, about the same time he had on earth. I still think about him most days. But not once have I ever wished him back. I saw peace on his face and just knew he was in a better place.
As for me, I used a pencil to write these words today.
Dick Lovelace High Street Baptist Church.
A mother’s memory
Mental Illness struck our eldest son, David at the age of sixteen. He gradually deteriorated until he was admitted to hospital at the age of twenty-one. There he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After a further admission to hospital, he fell from an escalator and died.
My chief impression of this time was the anguish of realising how difficult his illness mad life for him. It was hard for him to talk to people and he wasn’t able to concentrate long enough to do quite simple tasks towards the end. For David it was like facing life with his hands tied behind his back. This was combined with an over whelming sadness that seemed often to be with him.
I felt angry with him at times; angry with a system that offered him and us very little help over a period of four years; angry with a first admission that seemed like a nightmare with everything out of control; angry with some staff who didn’t seem to understand that this was our son David, who did have an illness but was still our ‘dear, dear son’.
David had a supportive GP who did his best for him and us; an essential for anyone concerned with their mental health. Dick and I helped to set up a ‘ Carers Group’ for relatives and friends supporting people with mental health problems. This group is still running today and Dick is joint chairman. Dick tries to facilitate communication between carers and professionals. I found meeting other carers helped to take away that sense of isolation and the fear of the unknown.
Today, you can ask to be registered as a carer at your GP surgery. You will be offered a carer’s assessment’ by the Mental Health Service involved. You can become a member of ‘Carers in Herts’ (they have their own Mental Health Support Worker for carers). Perhaps come to one of our monthly Carer’s Group meetings.
Twenty-four years after David’s death, I feel sad that; Mental Health managers face lack of resources and applicants to fill vacant posts they do have. Mental Health Workers face unmanageable caseloads. Users (patients) and carers can still face situations where the only services available to help in a crisis is the police. And the needs of people with enduring mental health problems are not always met. There is still much to be done to give people with mental health problems the help that they need and deserve
I found prayer from my housegroup at High Street Baptist Church always made things seem better during David’s illness. God seemed far away at times but somehow was always there for me. I clung to a poem by Patience Strong about ‘coming through’ when things were really bad.
After David died, so many people showed me that they cared. It felt like being supported by a ‘big cloud’ of God’s love. Dick was so affected by this he began attending High Street Baptist Services.
David is safe and well now in God’s keeping. And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians13 verse 13).
Hazel Lovelace – High Street Baptist Church