When a terrible tragedy deprived them of their only family, three five-year-old children stood and wondered where their lives would lead them, not knowing that their rejected father was standing in the crowd.
It was the day when the light drizzling rain was comforting the sunlight peering through the grey clouds.
At the cemetery, three young children watched as their mother and older brother were buried.
They stood in silence as others continued to cry or talk about this evil game that fate had played with the five-year-old triplets.
Half a decade ago, the story of the ruined Crompton family was very different. It was based on love that will last forever.
Annie and Brandon have loved each other since their school days. They grew up together and married the same day they graduated from university.
They soon went from being hopeless romantics away from home to excited parents of their first son James. The family situation was great, but it also meant that Annie and Brandon had to work twice as hard to be able to look after a child.
Annie started selling homemade jam while Brandon was away at meetings, excursions and conferences. In time, fatigue overtook love and the couple, once in love with each other, drifted apart without even realising it.
James was the only one who kept Annie and Brandon together. Fifteen years passed, and one day James’ idea of his father, his hero, crumbled before his eyes.
With tears in his eyes he rushed to Annie and said: “Mum! I’ve seen something terrible. Daddy… with another woman… how could he? I don’t want to be around him anymore.”
Annie was devastated, but she had long suspected this, so it was no surprise. That night, the violent conflict between Annie and her husband resulted in more than just the delicate vases in their home being broken. In the middle of a rainy night, Annie packed her things and left the house with her son.
She didn’t have much in the way of savings, but she did have a father who was happy to take her in. It was a difficult life, with Annie having to work two jobs and then returning home to look after her bedridden parent. Mother and son were just beginning to settle into their new phase when unexpected news shook their world.
Two months after leaving her husband, Annie found out she was pregnant. “Triplets,” she cried out helplessly as James tried to comfort her.
It was an incomprehensible feeling: frightening and heartbreaking on the one hand, and incredibly joyful on the other.
It was James who supported his mother and simplified the dilemma in her mind.
“Mother, let us meet my siblings only with joy. We will work harder. We will save more. I will make sure the children have the best childhood possible!” – he promised his mother and took her hand.
And James kept that promise. He was there for his mother when no one else was. He took a break from college to work and care for her around the clock. He was there during overnight emergencies, in happier, brighter moments of joy and excitement, and that dreadful night when triplets were born, tiny and a month premature.
“You are my sunbeams – one, two and … three!” – he would say, gently stroking the triplets’ noses every night before falling asleep in bed beside them.
After a difficult year of recovery, Annie got back on her feet selling jam, and Brandon found a full-time job in a call centre. Every day after the triplets were born, it became easier and easier for Annie and her precious boy to provide the children with everything they needed.
Then, one rainy evening, as Annie and James were returning from the farmer’s market to pick up the triplets from kindergarten, a truck crashed into their car. Mother and son left without saying goodbye.
As Judy, John and Julia stood there with bouquets of flowers in their hands, they had no idea where life would take them.
And they didn’t know that the lone man standing behind the crowd was their father.
Brandon looked like a different man. His eyes were red, his body was weak, and his hands were shaking with a desperate need for another sip of alcohol.
It appeared that his life had gone downhill shortly after Annie and James had left him. He never forgave himself for cheating and tried to drown his sadness and despair in bottles of cheap rum. But there was not enough alcohol in the world to make him forget the happy life he had thrown away.
When he found out that the love of his life and his wonderful son had died, he could hardly bring himself to go to the cemetery.
He wanted to crawl on the ground to apologise to his loved ones Annie and James. Brandon had also learned that he had three younger children whom he had never heard of before. And it was the hope of seeing their faces that allowed him to endure without falling apart.
People who recognised Brandon frowned and gossiped amongst themselves as he kissed the tombstones with tears in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Annie! I’m so sorry, James!” – cried Brandon like a child, barely breathing, while the others looked at him with anger and a tinge of disgust.
Suddenly Brandon felt the tenderness of three small hands and voices comforting him.
“Hey, it’s all right! It’s all right!”
“Don’t cry. People say they’ve gotten better.”
“They’ve forgiven, so they’re no longer angry with you! Now you can stop crying.”
The mourners watched, speechless, as the children embraced and comforted the man, as if they somehow strangely knew he was their father.
From that day on, Brandon worked to improve his life and protect his children. Two months after Annie and James’ funeral, Brandon gained custody of Judy, John and Julia.
He never took his second chance at a family for granted. The man took a full-time job, worked tirelessly to earn more and tried to be a support in the children’s lives. Brandon spent the rest of his life loving and caring for the children, knowing that they were all that was left of his beloved Annie.