'He's a constant presence in our lives': Sheffield father pens heartbreaking book about loss of son, aged six
A Sheffield father has penned a heartbreaking account of his youngest son's death, aged six, and how his family rebuilt their lives after the unimaginable loss.
Dave Luck's world was shattered when his 'lovely, lively child' Ben died in 2011, one year after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The tragedy would initially shake his Christian faith, but he says the support of family, friends and the church, plus a new 'more honest' relationship with God, sustained him through his darkest hours.
His life and those of his wife Louise and their eldest son Joe, now aged 15, will never return to normal, but between them they have been able to forge what he describes as a 'new normal'.
The 43-year-old, who lives in Crookes, writes movingly about the aftermath of Ben's death in What Happens Now?
The book is neither a self-help guide on coping with grief nor a theological treatise, he is keen to point out, but an attempt to offer comfort and hope to others gripped by pain and confusion.
"I want people to realise there's always hope, whatever you're going through, and practically we just need to be there for each other," he said.
"If this book can help people talk about death and grief that's really important, because it's a topic people often shrink away from."
In the book, Mr Luck describes how he and Louise knew something was wrong as Ben was constantly exhausted, would be sick every few days and was having problems with his eyesight.
Nothing could prepare them for the shock of hearing their little boy had cancer, but even then Ben's doting father was convinced God would 'fix things' and heal his son if only he prayed hard enough.
So when, despite the best efforts of staff at Sheffield Children's Hospital, and Ben's stirring bravery, he was told the tumour remained and nothing more could be done, he admits briefly 'losing it' with God.
When Ben died, Mr Luck's faith would be further tested, yet he believes it ultimately made him stronger.
"You do get through this thing. It's awful and you have lots of questions about your faith but that faith is the thing which has sustained us," he said.
"I feel I've come out the other end with a faith which is a bit more honest, authentic and maybe rough around the edges.
"God's promise, I now understand, is not that things will work out a certain way but that he will always be there for you, no matter what happens."
Mr Luck, who works in mental health commissioning, was a church leader at the Living Waters Christian Fellowship in Darnall when Ben was diagnosed with cancer.
He says parishioners there and at St Thomas' Church, in Crookes, where he now worships, have been a tower of strength.
They provided practical support, cooking meals for the family when most of their time was spent at the hospital, and emotional support, holding regular prayer sessions and looking out for Mr Luck and his family at particularly difficult times like what would have been Ben's 13th birthday at the end of September this year.
He will never forget how they even volunteered to sit and pray beside Ben's hospital bed throughout the night so the family could get some much-needed sleep.
Mr Luck says he and his family will never be able to 'move on' from or 'get over' Ben's death.
The youngster, who loved music and was a big Sheffield United fan, remains a 'constant presence' in their lives - not just in their thoughts but in the many photos and possessions of his they keep around the house.
But Mr Luck says you cannot live in the past or be defined by what happened, as that will 'tear you apart'.
Mr Luck and his wife have made a lot of changes in their lives since Ben's death. They have moved house, moved church and both have new jobs, with Louise now teaching at Handsworth Grange Community Sports College.
"We will always treasure Ben, who was a wonderful child, but you have to find a way to deal with now," he said.
"One phrase that was hugely helpful to us was that you have to come up with a new normal, because normal has gone.
"Your instinct is just to keep going but you need a life that's more than just plodding on and getting by.
"There will always be a sadness there, but you have to think 'what are the good things we can do to fill our lives up again'."
If there is one piece of advice Mr Luck would offer other families going through what his has endured, it is that you should never try to deal with things on your own.
"Nobody knows what to say. None of us do. You just have to be there for each other," he said.
"If you're struggling, don't try to handle that on your own. If there are people offering help then get them to help you in a way that works for you."
* What Happens Now? is published by River Publishing.