My son, who has special needs, just turned 11. My heart aches
Kelvin Seah // January 24, 2022, 3:42 pm
The canal near Greenridge Crescent where the twins were discovered. Screengrab via ChannelNewsAsia.
When the news broke, it was as if a giant neon sign had suddenly replaced my mobile screen that streamed this unwanted news: Two 11-year-old twin boys were found lifeless last Friday (Jan 21) not far from a Greenridge Crescent playground.
(At the time of this writing, the father of the twins is in court on charges of murder – a crime punishable by death.)
The sign that blinded me was so incandescent, it couldn’t be ignored: Not again.
Wasn’t it just six months ago that our nation reeled in shock at news of a 13-year-old boy who was stabbed to death in school by a 15-year-old?
Galvanised by the sheer incredulity of that unprecedented event in our nation’s history, I wrote a piece then where I struggled with words I desperately hoped could move us as a hurting community towards healing.
Just a plea
But this time?
I have a son with special needs. And he turned 11 exactly one week before this tragedy took place.
This time I have no words of comfort and healing to proffer.
All I have is encapsulated in one simple word: Plea.
A plea for calm as the court proceedings get underway.
A plea for us not to spiral into despair.
Most of all, a plea against resentment towards those we believe to be the weak among us for failing to prevent this unspeakable tragedy.
For I know what being weak feels like.
I understand those caregiving moments of weakness that test the steeliest of resolves and the often depleted patience of a fatigued father.
Weak feels like me when the news was revealed that both victims were 11 and had special needs. For I have a son with special needs. And he turned 11 exactly one week before this tragedy took place.
Weak feels like me when I learned that the man who is to stand trial is a father two years shy of 50. I am two years past 50.
I can tell you that, in that moment of revelation and connection, I felt a chill run down my spine that had nothing to do with the winds that billow through our parks and playgrounds this time of year.
As a caregiver to my special son, I understand all too well those caregiving moments of weakness that test the steeliest of resolves and the often depleted patience of a fatigued father.
So I can’t and won’t judge, especially in this case when the jury’s still out on what really happened.
But my heart aches for fathers and men everywhere struggling to lead their families, and longing for second chances when moments of weakness strike.
In the Book of Numbers chapter 35, we read of God’s command to Moses in Jericho to carve out cities for the Levites.
Starting from verse 11, God instructs Moses to “select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. And the cities that you give shall be your six cities of refuge. You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.” (ESV)
Now we all know the story of Moses fleeing in shame and guilt after killing someone in an apparent moment of weakness.
How do we reflect empathy to caregivers and their charges who need society to be kind, sensitive and inclusive towards them?
So the irony of this specific set of instructions from God in Numbers couldn’t possibly have been lost on Moses – the man who once called forth Ten Plagues upon Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and carried two stone tablets containing God’s Ten Commandments down a mountain.
But these verses in Numbers aren’t about Moses, they are about our God. Our Jehovah-Jireh. Our Forever Provider.
If God, in His infinite mercy, can offer cities of refuge to murderers until they stand trial, we His followers can offer no less.
This tragedy should point us back to our God – a God of second chances who shows infinite grace despite the atrocities mankind wreaks. A God who shows care, understanding and empathy.
How do we reflect this empathy to caregivers and their charges who need society to be kind, sensitive and inclusive towards them?
How do we show care towards loved ones left behind to shoulder pain and separation?
How do we extend a hand to fathers in unbearable situations no father wants to be caught in?
These are situations that I pray I will never be in, especially on days when I feel close to unravelling like my son’s shoelaces.
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