It was back in 1996 that my world fell apart. My wife, Anna, had gone out with our two children, Eleanor (two) and Jamie (three). It was a really hot summer’s day in July and she took them down to Bournemouth to the seaside.
On the way back (for reasons that we’ll never know) her car crossed over the centre white line on a narrow bit of a road, and was hit head on by an articulated lorry carrying 40 tonnes of very large rocks. Anna and Jamie, who were on the same side of the car, were crushed and killed instantly. My daughter Eleanor, quite amazingly, was able to be removed from the car wreckage by a Royal Marine Officer travelling in the car behind. She was literally unmarked, which I’ve always thought was a little bit of a miracle considering the combined collision was about 90 miles an hour. But she survived. Obviously it was a devastating shock for me, but I had my little girl to look after.
I was confronted by their bodies in the mortuary some hours later. They were in quite a mess and it took the mortician a while to make them presentable for identification. They pulled back the white sheets and I ranted, and I screamed, and I wept. Then I looked at them, and I thought, ‘This cannot be the end.’ There was so much life, particularly in my little boy ? he was such a handful. I just couldn’t believe it was the end of him and so I thought, ‘Where have they gone? Where are they now?’
At the time I was definitely a ‘nominal’ Christian. I believed there was some higher power, some greater being beyond myself that I could call upon and might listen to me, but I really had no idea about God’s character or whether he cared about me.
"They pulled back the white sheets and I ranted, and I screamed, and I wept."
Then my eye was drawn to a very simple crucifix on the wall of the mortuary. It was a sign of the Christian faith to which I had been exposed since I was a child. It’s like a penny dropped, and it suddenly became not just a cross, but a sign of hope for me. I then realised that if there was all this talk about resurrection and life after death, I needed to find out more about it. I managed to meet up with a Christian, also with my local vicar, and there was a Catholic priest who came into my life who had real expertise in helping people recover from child death. It was this cumulative effect that opened my eyes to the fact my wife and child were somewhere better, they were in heaven, and therefore if I wanted to see them again I needed to get myself right with God. That was a long process in itself.
People sometimes ask me if I felt like blaming God. During my early time of grief, through counselling groups, I came across a lot of other people who were suffering and mainly they just blamed God. But to me it didn’t make sense that God had just got out of bed one morning and said, ‘Who am I going to strike down today?’ He knows that we are fallible, he knows that car steering systems become defective, or we fall asleep at the wheel ? so he did know what was going to happen. He could have stopped it because nothing is impossible for God, but at the same time I think he has to be very careful. Where do you draw the line with him intervening and stopping things going on? In a way, you’d be expecting him to upturn the laws of nature every single nanosecond of the day around the world, and then what kind of world would we be living in? So I don’t blame God.
I think God permitted that crash to take place, but ‘in all things God works for the good’, and I’ve really clung on to that. Although I would obviously never want that accident to have happened, in a funny sort of way the fact it has happened has brought me huge blessings. I feel like Job ? I’ve got a lovely wife, I’ve got three more kids including another son, I’ve got the most wonderful faith, my wife is a Christian. We know that whatever the world throws at us now, we have this wonderful eternal life waiting for us. Life is good. I know it’s not always going to be great and there will be trials and tribulations, but following Jesus is just such an amazing adventure.
Will Pearson-Gee is rector of Buckingham Benefice. He was ordained late in life, after a career in the army. He is married to Lucia, with four children. His story is included in the book Why? by Sharon Dirckx (IVP). Will was talking to Justin Brierley