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'I never stopped searching for my sons'
Mothers' Union members helped Honor Kennedy in a 23-year quest to find her abducted children
In 1974, my four sons were abducted by my husband after I stood up to him and told him there was to be no more physical or emotional violence in our marriage. They were then aged two, four, six and eight and we were living in California, USA where my husband and I had emigrated from Australia. For years and years I searched for my children and I cannot put into words how much pain I felt over the years, but I didn’t give up looking. In 1996, I was living in the UK and I got in touch with a company who specialise in creating in “ageing” faces to make it easier to look for those who had been missing for some years. They got in touch with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust for missing persons. The pictures were shown by the trust on UK television during the Christmas period. Amazingly, the adverts were seen by the best friend of my son’s wife who was in Cambridge on a working holiday! I found out later that my sons had questioned their father, who had broken down and admitted that he had lied when he had told them that I was dead. He cried and insisted it was all my fault, and that the reason he had told them I was dead is because other people kept asking them where their mum was and he did not want them to start asking questions or looking for me.
There is no social service in Australia, so that work is picked up by such charities as The Salvation Army, the Australian Red Cross, Mothers’ Union and the Church Army. Still recovering from the shock of discovering their mother was not dead and, still wary, the boys got in touch with The Salvation Army and asked them to make contact with me to get my details. Then, one day in April 1997, I had a phone call from a man who said he was my youngest son. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he had been acting against the advice of his older brothers who had already grieved over my loss and were finding the revelation of my existence difficult to comprehend.
GOD’S HAND IN EVERYTHING
My son gave me a fax number and I started researching and found that the number was in a small triangle of Sydney, so I resolved to go to search for them. A friend advised me to contact the Church Army to see if they had hostels there. They then contacted the Mothers’ Union branch in Sydney’s St Andrew’s Church. The Mothers’ Union members of my church, St Wendreda’s in Cambridgeshire, raised £600 to help with my journey. Another member of the congregation insisted on providing me with a credit card that I could use whenever I needed. I booked my ticket In July 1997 for a flight in October.
I arrived in Sydney at 6am on 4 October 1997, and scanned the sea of faces to see if anyone held a Mothers’ Union sign and was soon caught up in the arms of the coordinator - a lovely elderly lady full of life and laughter who had driven miles from her home to pick me up. I was driven to meet a lady called Joyce whose presence was instantly comforting and, after several cups of tea and a hearty breakfast, she gave me the telephone book and the phone. I was shaking, so she gave me a hug and we both said, ’with God’s grace,’ …then I made the phone call. In that joyous visit I met all four of my sons and two beautiful granddaughters! Joyce and I became good friends and I saw her on the next three visits I made to Sydney. I shall never ever forget her or the coordinator who met me at the airport in Sydney. Without the hard work they did for me at the meetings with the other charities there, I would never ever have been reunited with my sons after 23 years.
I remember coming out of work one day in 1975 after a very long period of depression, when the pain in my heart was so great I wanted to hurt myself somewhere – anywhere - to replace that pain just for a little while. The blossoms were out and I stood in the middle of a very busy road...and thanked God for my survival. That winter he gave me a Christmas miracle on my dad’s balcony. There, in the snow, a tiny yellow marigold was in full flower. From then it was never if but when I saw my sons again. I constantly felt the hand and grace of God in so many things that happened. It has strengthened and emboldened my faith and trust in him. But that’s a whole other story.