Keeping the Faith

Four People Died in the Biddeston Shooting. Not Three.

Amber Elizabeth Rose died last week. Quickly. Invisibly. Tragically. She hadn’t even reached her birth date.

The newspapers reported the devastating news of the murder-suicide in the rural town of Biddeston near Toowoomba. They reported three deaths – Kris-Deann Sharpley, her seven-year-old son Jackson and her father Derek.

Amber was not in the headcount. Her life was not counted.

Over and over it was reported that Kris-Deann was “heavily pregnant”, that she was on maternity leave awaiting the birth of her daughter, that she had chosen her name and was sharing the excitement with her son Jackson.

But no one counted Amber’s life.

Before her death Kris-Deann, a nurse, told her family how Jackson spent time chatting to his baby sister through her bulging belly. He kissed her and told her he was her big brother, that he was boss!

On Facebook, Kris-Deann shared a photo montage under the words “My Beautiful Children”. The two photos were of her son and a 3D ultrasound image of her unborn daughter. In curling script beneath were their names; Jackson and Amber.

The photo montage from Kris-Deann's Facebook account. Source: Daily Mail Australia.

The photo montage from Kris-Deann’s Facebook account. Source: Daily Mail Australia.

Kris-Deann, like any expectant mother, treated the child in her womb as a valid human life, even though they had never met.

But no one counted Amber’s death when she and her family were slain last Sunday night in a red brick home on a quiet street as gum trees futilely waved their arms in the breeze.

The truth is that four people died.

Kris-Deann’s pregnancy was almost to term – that much is clear from the ultra-sound photo. The only thing separating that baby from bona fide humanity (according to this crazy world we live in) was her mother’s flesh.

Why are we so scared to acknowledge life?

As I’ve read through these stories I have grieved little Amber, the forgotten life in all of this. I have also glimpsed the mother’s heart of Kris-Deann and I get the feeling it would sadden her to know that her youngest child has not been publically acknowledged.

For what it’s worth Kris-Deann, from one mum to another, I counted four tragic deaths that night, and I know that many more were thinking the same as they digested their Cornflakes together with the news of your family’s passing.

I take comfort in the words of Jesus who persuasively spoke of the intrinsic value of life. God knows when a sparrow dies, or a hair falls from our heads, he said, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more…” (Matthew 10:30)

Amber is worth more than the vague references to her mother’s pregnancy. God knows that.

Jesus also said this: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Matthew 10:26)

Refusing to acknowledge life within the womb – especially with medical evidence expanding daily – is like refusing to answer a neighbour’s knock at the door because you cannot see them.

Rest in peace Kris-Deann, Jackson, Derek.

Rest in peace Amber.

First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday March 9, 2015.