MY OTHER SONS
‘Isn’t God wonderful!’ exclaims Norma, wife of John Dennis of Whyalla, South Australia.
‘I would like to encourage everyone with these words from Isaiah 41: ‘Fear not I am with you always, 'Norma adds.
Norma is ever ready to listen and help others even though her own heart is breaking. Her mother heart is always ready to love those in need. That mother love took her to depths that would almost swamp her.
To speak of her ‘other sons’ was an area of her heart she had not openly shared with the world. She now felt it was time to share her story, hoping that others who might find themselves in a similar situation would be encouraged.
Norma's story began in the 1960s when Whyalla was a city enjoying a mining boom. Work was plentiful, and young men flocked there to get apprenticeships in BHP.
Accommodation for men was hard to find.
‘As we had a fairly large sleep out built onto our house, we felt it was a good idea to take in a lodger. At this time, I had five sons at home. The eldest son was in the Air force.’ Norma explains.
The sleep-out became a second home for Barry, and Norma became his second Mum. Barry stayed for two and a half years and was then transferred to Sydney.
The sleep-out seemed very empty after Barry left.
‘We thought the room was big enough for two young men to comfortably share, ‘says Norma. So Ken entered the Dennis family and became ‘another son’.
After the Easter holidays, Trevor, already a lodger, was bringing with him his brother Arnold. The latter was hoping for an apprenticeship at the steelworks. Each lodger came as a stranger, but they left as a son. The two lads were caught in a flash flood at Nectar brook a few kilometers south of Port Augusta. Trevor was drowned, and Arnold almost lost his life. ‘This devastated my family and me. I’d never seen my husband cry as he did, the night we received the news,’ Norma recalls, adding, ‘Trevor had become our ‘other son.’ Such is the mother heart of Norma.
About six months later, Ken left to join the Navy as a fifth Engineer on an overseas ship. ‘We often heard from him, and when on leave, he came home to us.’ Norma said proudly
While waiting for another overseas ship, Ken filled in for another engineer on a Tasmanian to Melbourne transport cargo ship.
Tragedy struck when the vessel capsized in Melbourne Harbour just as Ken was coming off duty. He was drowned.
Norma doesn’t want to try and describe the ensuing horror that swept over her heart, except that, ‘I began to have doubts about God.
I think hard work helped to overcome our grief,’ Norma says of those first dreadful days.
Glen, a friend of one of Norma’s own sons, now made the sleep out home, Glen filled the empty sleep-out, but he could not fill the hole left in Norma’s heart by Ken and Trevor. Each one had a special place in Norma’s heart; the loss was as devastating as if they were her own.
THE STORY CONTINUES
Several years later, John and Norma decided to visit relatives living in Queensland. Glen drove them to Port Augusta to catch the India Pacific. ‘Little did we realise that it would be the last time we would see him.’ Norma’s voice is filled with sadness, and there is a shadow in her eyes as she remembers.
Arriving in Queensland, they received word that he had been killed in a car accident returning home from Adelaide.
John and Norma were ready to return home immediately. However, logic prevailed, and they stayed their planned time in Queensland. Glen’s family lived not far away; amid their own grief and loss, they stood in as parents to Norma’s own sons, comforting them in the loss of a ‘brother’.
‘It was the time my hair really went grey,’ said Norma. ‘After losing our third ‘other son’, all between the age of 18 – 25, I wanted to throw all my Christian beliefs out. I started to believe there was no God. How could such things happen to those lovely, dear young men?’ Norma questioned.
It was through a recurring dream that God spoke to Norma, and she returned to the church. ‘During my time of anger with God, I saw a mass of clouds and down through those clouds came this great hand.
For a long time, I could not reach out to this hand. I didn’t even want to though I tried. This same dream was repeated again and again. I finally reached up to touch this hand. You see, even when we think we want to let go of God, he doesn’t let go of us. I want to encourage everyone with these words, ‘Fear not, I am with you always, says the Lord.’
Time and the Lord has healed Norma’s grief, ‘I don’t question why anymore.’
Norma has surrendered her desire to understand. She is content to leave the reason why in the hands of the Lord.