Regular Disability Horizons contributor, Sarah Ismail, tells us her thoughts on new book “God’s Rich Pattern”, and how she was inspired by one woman’s story.
God’s Rich Pattern by Lin Berwick is a love story on many different levels. It’s a story first of the love between a disabled child and her parents, then a woman’s love for her religion and God. In the later stages it becomes the story of a very deep romantic love between a devoted wife and her equally devoted husband. Finally, we meet the Berwick’s dog, Harvey, a chocolate English Cocker Spaniel, their love for whom is described in a chapter of its own.
Just from the title of this autobiographical book it’s clear that God, religion and Lin’s faith – which, we later learn, is Methodist – are a big part of her life. On opening the book, this becomes even clearer, as every chapter ends with a thought and a prayer, always related to the contents of the chapter they complete. Personally, I am not very religious, so I found that there were too many references to religion in this book for my liking.
But aside from the religious element, we learn about Lin’s life, starting with how Lin took her first footsteps aged 12, with the help of tripods. Tripods are sticks with three ‘legs’ each with a piece of rubber at the end. Any person with cerebral palsy of a certain age will most probably instantly recognise them, even without that description. Just the word brought back a few memories for me! Going back to Lin Berwick, this moment unsurprisingly brought her a great deal of pleasure. She describes it as “my giant leap for mankind.”
We also learn that, in her childhood, Lin spends most of her time in the company of adults, and prefers it. This is another thing that reminded me of my own childhood, as I had the same experience and I too soon found that I preferred the company of adults.
We are told how Lin becomes totally blind aged 15 as she has her eyes removed and replaced with artificial ones. At this point, she loses her freedom and becomes scared to move. However, she also discovers a positive and life affirming love of classical music.
In addition, she is now able to be educated as a blind person. This, to Lin, is the best thing that has ever happened to her.
Lin’s parents were early members of the organisation that is now known as Scope. As a young person, inspired by this, Lin started a social group for young people with disabilities. This got media attention, particularly from radio stations. She was even invited to start a radio show at Moorfield Eye Hospital called Lin Berwick Meets… and subsequently became well known at the BBC. This was a particularly inspirational part of the book, especially as I hope to follow in her footsteps, writing and commenting on disability media and making sure that disabled people’s voices are heard.
Lin even went on to appear in This Is Your Life, which was a complete surprise to her, and how she was very nervous before recording the show.
Lin later describes how she had a near death experience after surgery on her back, and how she woke up knowing that God had special work for her still to do. It is at this point that Lin decided to train as a Methodist preacher. Sadly she was met with ignorance as the local secretary of the Church was surprised she can learn; she would have “thumped him one” if she had not been a committed Christian!
We learn how Lin worked in a bank until the age of 33, when she was forcibly made redundant after her mother, who worked with her, retired. Deeply upset by this, it made her realise the frustration disabled people often face when their lives are controlled by others. She says that she believes disabled people should make choices for themselves if they can, even about small things, like what they wear. This is a view I strongly agree with.
Lin trained later as a bereavement counsellor. It is through this job that she meets her husband, Ralph. He sees past her disability and takes pleasure in caring for her, leading to a very happy marriage and relationship. They shared a love of travel, which inspired them to set up the Lin Berwick Trust in August 1989. This organisation makes hotels accessible and owns two accessible holiday cottages.
However, this love of travel, and life as they knew it, changed after Ralph was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Lin describes how she lost her faith in God after this diagnosis.
The book ends with her describing her feelings after Ralph’s death, in the spring of 2011.
As with any good book, by the end, it was impossible for me not to genuinely care about the main characters. The only complaint I have is that the chapters are too short! I hope I will get to read another autobiographical book by Lin Berwick that will allow me to learn about her life in more detail. This one has left me with no doubts about the fact that she is a very interesting and inspirational person.
By Sarah Ismail