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by Mary Craig
Publisher:Canterbury Press imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
Good to see Mary Craig’s wonderful book back in print. She tells the story of her two severely learning-disabled sons. There were ‘astronomical odds’ against such a thing happening. Paul, who suffered with gargoylism, died after a fall in 1966. Nicky, with Downs Syndrome, is still alive, and nearly 50 (and prefers now to be called ‘Nick’).
Mary Craig admits it is ‘immensely difficult’ to say anything useful about the ‘so private and so painful’ experience of ‘being broken up and put together again’. Some words she had once read flashed into her mind ‘with brilliant clarity’: ‘Our tragedy is not that we suffer, but that we waste suffering’. The words acted ‘like a brake on my despair’. In the only mystical experience she has ever known, she felt she was ‘held firm, safe from further falling’, and an inner voice said, “Remember I am here, in the darkness. You are never alone”. Her belief in God is important to her. In a remarkable moment recorded on page 129, Mary writes of a friend suddenly saying, ‘I’m glad there was a Paul and Nicky’, and of her own reaction, ‘By and large, I think I’m glad too’!
Then the 20 page Postscript brings the story more up to date. Mary Craig reports here just how many people around the world have been helped by what she has written, and tells us what is happening to Nick now. Out of her experience, she helpfully identifies 3 stages in living through unavoidable suffering. The first stage is the nightmare period – ‘We simply have to put our heads down, and let the hurricane batter us’. The second stage is a raw nagging ache and bitter resentment, with the danger of sinking into alienating self-pity. The third stage is reached when, accepting the changed situation, we begin to discover and unlock inner strength, and to grow as human beings. Finally, on the book’s last page, Mary Craig writes, ‘The older I get the more I am convinced that it is not what happens to us that is really important, it’s the response we make to it…We can turn in on ourselves or we can grow. The choice is always ours.’
I lost my original copy of this book, years ago. I shan’t do so again. But I will lend it to my friends!
Reviewer: Barry Vendy (20/09/12)