Dad's book tribute to dead daughters

IT was the early hours of the morning when Phil and Heather Stoddart were woken by the call that every parent dreads.

IT was the early hours of the morning when Phil and Heather Stoddart were woken by the call that every parent dreads.

One of their daughters had been seriously hurt in an accident, and they were needed at the hospital. The Stoddarts did not even know which of their daughters, Claire and Jenny, had been hurt. They found the road closed and wreckage of their elder daughter's car. She was already dead. Their younger daughter, Jenny, was critically ill. She died a few hours later with her parents by her side.

It was beyond a parent's worst nightmare, an ordeal few can imagine coping with. But Phil Stoddart, a teacher at Denes High School in Lowestoft, has found strength in his Christian faith and has written a book to give strength to other families facing bereavement.

The book, A12 to Heaven, is named after the stretch of road where the two girls lost their lives in the early hours of July 1, 2006, as they drove back from a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in Ipswich. It started life in the form of Phil's blog entries on the Myspace website. He said: “I was finding my experiences of grief and also God were so powerful that I started writing about them. Many of them I wrote in total tears. I had a sense of purpose even though at the time I had no idea of writing a book.”


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He wants the book to offer comfort, to make people realise they do not have to suffer bereavement alone.

The sisters' friend Carla Took, 18, also died in the crash, as did two passengers in the other car, Simon Bonner, 40, and Kim Abbot, 41, both of Yoxford. The driver of the other car, Ben Morphey, now 24, is serving a jail sentence for careless driving while unfit due to alcohol.

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Also with Claire and Jenny were their friends Sarah Mitchell and Adam Cox. Sarah was badly hurt and is still recovering, while Adam escaped with minor injuries. Both have contributed to the book, as have other friends.

The book includes Claire and Jenny's diary entries, which have brought joy to Phil because of the strong faith they show.

On Sunday, Father's Day, he will be speaking to the Oak Grove Chapel in Norwich about his experiences.

He describes dealing with grief as “a bit of a roller coaster”.

“With faith it would be easy to say I know where they have gone, I trust in God, but it is not like that. I don't believe the adage 'Time is a healer'. I do believe memories get distant and you start resenting that because you are losing something precious.”

One of Phil's favourite parts of the book sums up its ethos. He writes: “The two girls had grown so close to each other, it was almost as if they had been travelling on parallel roads that had now converged. One night they were travelling together on one road: it turned out to be a narrow one that led straight to Heaven.”

A12 to Heaven is available from the Oasis Christian Bookshop in Bevan Street, Lowestoft, or online from www.lastwordpublications.com, priced £7.99.

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