It is with a heavy and burdened heart that I come to you today, not only as your premier, but also as a grieving father.
As most of you will know, exactly one week ago, my dear daughter Tonya passed away. Within one hour of arriving at the hospital, my wife and I were surrounded by concerned family members, friends, colleagues and Members of the Legislative Assembly, staff and so many others of you, my fellow countrymen.
The immense grief and heartache of losing a child cannot be put into words. The shock of it all was almost more than we could bear. My wife Kerry and I, our granddaughter Zariah, our son Barry and our son-in-law Chet, and our entire family, have been left trying to cope with this.
Throughout it all, we were comforted by an outpouring of love, concern and care by thousands of people from across the three Cayman Islands, from the Caribbean and indeed from the rest of the world. During this time, I was reminded of something I’d once read:
God’s love in action is the answer to every problem. Love in action is the answer to every problem in our lives and in this world. Love in action is the force that helps us make it to today, and it’s the love that will set us free. This past week has seen the best of our nation’s love and character, where we put aside all differences and came together to support one another. This love and support has sustained my family, and me this past week.
We are believers in the Bible as the holy word of God and it tells us that He is our refuge and strength and that we should at all times lean on Him and not on our own understanding. We (Kerry and I) always thought that she was ours to keep forever.
But allow me to share with you a poem that was sent to us during this past week by two friends. This poem has provided me with another perspective.
“I’ll lend you for a little time
A child of mine,” He said,
“For you to love the while she lives
And mourn for when she’s dead.
It may be six or seven years,
Or twenty-two and three,
But will you, till I call her back,
Take care of her for Me?
She’ll bring her charms to gladden you
And shall her stay be brief,
You’ll have her lovely memories
As solaces for your grief.
“I cannot promise she will stay,
Since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there
I want this child to learn
I’ve looked the wide world over
In my search for teachers true
And from the throngs that
Crowd life’s lanes
I selected you
Now will you give her all your love
Nor think the labour in vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call
And take her back again?”
I fancied that I heard them say:
“Dear Lord, Thy will be done!”
For all the joy thy child shall bring,
The risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter her with tenderness,
And love her while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known
Forever grateful stay:
But shall the angels call for her
Much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes,
And try to understand
I thought this was such an appropriate reminder that when God speaks, His will must be done. I believe that all of us as parents want the best for our children.
My advice to all parents is that we have to believe and honour God first, and then carry out our responsibility to be good parents, even when unpopular with our children. As a young child, I heard a scripture from my aunt, a great Christian lady, who was leading a prayer meeting – this scripture left an indelible impression on my life.
It became our family scripture and guided me as a parent and in our grief, I commend it to you. It is Deuteronomy 1-10; verses 6 through 9:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
To all of you, both here and overseas, all who reached out to us with your thoughts and prayers, those who sent messages of courage, faith, hope and encouragement, to those who sent food, sent flowers and those who visited us to give us the comfort that only good friends can give – my family and I sincerely thank you for your genuine support during our time of grief. We ask that you continue to lift us up in your prayers. We also ask that you remember all others who are mourning the loss of loved ones, continue to pray for them, as we will be doing the same.
Thank you, thank you all and may God bless you and your families.
Premier W. McKeeva Bush