I arrived over the weekend in Sydney, Australia for a series of meetings. Moments after landing, I learned about a tragic, mind-numbing event during rush hour in Melbourne yesterday. According to eye-witnesses, Arthur Phillip Freeman, 35, was driving his vehicle over the West Gate Bridge when he stopped in the middle of traffic, carried his four-year-old daughter, Darcey, in his arms and then dropped this defenseless child 190 feet into the river water below.
Freeman’s actions took place in plain view of a host of stunned motorists who jammed emergency hotlines with frantic calls for help. Also watching were his two sons, Benjamin, 7, and Jack, one month shy of his second birthday, still inside the car. After discarding his daughter over the edge of the bridge, Freeman, an IT consultant, returned to his car and drove off.
In less than ten minutes, police arrived and Darcey, still clinging to life, was pulled from the water. For the better part of an hour, paramedics worked to resuscitate and stabilize her as she lay on edge of the Yarra River bank. Darcey was eventually airlifted to the Royal Children’s Hospital in critical condition. After four hours of treatment, with her mother by her side, Darcey died. The massive internal injuries were too numerous and too severe to overcome. Freeman, who had been engaged in a custody battle, was arrested and charged with murder.
The nation is in shock. So are Freeman’s neighbors who described him in press interviews as a “wonderful dad” who “loved his children.” Events such as this boggle the mind. As I heard about this unspeakable tragedy, I was reminded of an equally horrifying news report out of Wilmington, California earlier this week.
In short, Ervin Lupoe and his wife, Ana, both medical technicians at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center West Los Angeles, had been fired. With no job, feeling they had no hope and no future, Lupoe shot and killed their five children–all under eight-years-old, his wife, and then himself.
In both the Freeman and Lupoe case, there is no way to fathom such a lethal response to a personal crisis. What kind of father would throw a four-year-old to her death? What kind of man murders five children and his spouse? Clearly, those are the actions of a deeply troubled person.
And yet, in no way do I want to minimize the hurt, fear, anger, or suffering that these parents felt as the world they knew spun out of control. These powerful emotions cloud our judgment and drive us to the brink of sanity. Still, there is never a good reason to harm our children when life gets turned upside-down
Throwing a child to her death or gunning them down in their bedroom might seem like the furthest thing from your mind when times get tough. And yet there are other ways in which we might be taking out our anger and frustration on our children. Hammering them with verbal abuse over the slightest infraction comes to mind. Likewise, arguing about finances with your spouse in front of the kids does enormous damage by creating emotional instability.
If you’ve lost your job, if you’re having difficulty making ends meet, if you feel weighted down by the stress of your circumstances, whatever you do, don’t take it out on the kids. Allow me to encourage you to humble yourself and seek help. Speaking as a man, I know we men tend to want to sort things out by ourselves. Asking for help looks like weakness on our part. It isn’t. It takes real courage to tell a family member or friend, “I can’t do this any more. Please help us.”
Many churches have a deacon’s fund which might be able to assist you with meeting your bills until you can get back on your feet. Or, if you’re burdened by relational issues within your marriage and you feel as if you cannot cope, we’re here to help. We have trained counselors who desire to listen to you, pray with you, and provide various helpful resources for your situation. Visit us online or call 1-800-AFamily.
And, take some time to reflect on what God, the “Maker of heaven and earth”, has promised in Psalm 121. Draw encouragement from a God who promises to keep your foot from stumbling, who watches over you, who keeps you from all harm, and who promises to guard your life. Draw strength from the arms of the One who has pledged to care for you. Don’t take things into your own hands. Trust Him!