Brian Sacks

I could not speak about Daniel's later life more beautifully than Jessica and Daniel's friends have done.  But some of my most poignant memories of Daniel are of his pre-school years. Right from birth he was unusually sensitive and intelligent. From his first few weeks onwards, he used to settle down to sleep to the futuristic and complex sounds of 'Ricochet' by the group 'Tangerine Dream', showing a taste far more developed than my own.  Michael Gould tells us that it remained one of his favourite pieces of music.

I remember that my mother's first piece of advice to me in my new role as father was "Don't teach him to run before he can walk". Well, by the time Daniel was two, each Shabbat I was walking with him across the local playing fields to a playground within which was what we called the 'orange-and-yellow slide'. On the way back, he would run round the outside of the football field I can't remember how many times, but his legs were pounding and his stamina was already there. I remember that when he was five years old I took Daniel to Copthall Stadium and he said he would run '10 times round the track'. I only managed to persuade him to come off the track on the sixth lap because a thunderstorm had started.

He taught himself to read fluently by the time he was three years old, using a kind of Lego set where the pieces were letters. Joanna and I simply answered his questions. Before he started school he had an amazing ability whereby if you told him any date past or future, he would tell you what day of the week it was.

He loved his playgroup. His playgroup Auntie used to tell us little incidents; like when she asked whether he would like to pass the biscuits around, he replied "I aren't plannin' to"; and when she held up cards of different shapes he correctly identified them all. She held up a circle - he said 'circle'; she held up a triangle - he replied 'triangle'; she held up a cloud shape - he replied 'irregular shape'. He looked back on his days at playgroup as probably the happiest of his life.

He was a quiet, sensitive little boy, prodigiously intelligent but not yet aware that in this respect he was different from other children. He retained a lot of that fragile simplicity throughout his life. He always loved the three or four hundred cuddly animals that he and Jessica shared. Each animal had its own name, its own voice, its own birthday, and sometimes its own animals. The animals' birthday parties were delightful occasions; and given that eventually there were more cuddly animals than days of the year, these parties were never far away.  The animals for their part were wonderful advocates for Daniel, pleading for the postponement of baths or household chores as appropriate.

A quarter of a century on from his playgroup days, and almost a year after Daniel's death, we still cannot make sense of what has happened.  It seems that all of his wonderful talents and qualities he did not see as important, and yet he was keenly aware of the things that he found difficult. Owing to his unwarrantedly low self-esteem, it is clear that he did not feel that he would marry; he probably foresaw an uninviting future. There is no relief for us in the sense of any satisfactory explanation. We just pray that his soul is now at peace, and he finally knows how fine a man he is, and how much he is loved.

Brian Sacks, 26th September 2006