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AS Christopher Finney lays a tender kiss on his girlfriend's welcoming lips, his thoughts suddenly turn to his wife.

For he knows that she is watching. And he knows that she approves.

But this is not a sordid three-way fling and Christopher is no two-timing love rat.

Rather, he was a broken man who has hauled himself from the brink of suicide and learned to love again.

It is something he never dreamt was possible when his life changed for ever in December 2002.

For it was then that his beloved wife Yvonne, 26, and their two sons - Clayton, four, and baby Christopher - were wiped out in a horrific car crash.

"It felt like the end of my world," admits Christopher, 32. "I'd always wanted a big family with lots of sons.

"And my dream came true with Yvonne and the boys, and then it was suddenly taken away from me. In one day I lost the love of my life and two boys I adored.

"And because I was driving the car I couldn't help but blame myself. Some days I just wanted to curl up and die."

But the one thing that kept him going was looking after their other two children - Nicole, now 10, and six-year-old Blair. "I had to be strong for the girls," says Christopher.

Then on his first night out after the tragedy he met Kerry Luckett. Now, two years later, they have a five-month-old son, Maxwell, and Christopher is smiling once again.

And amazingly, he claims that his dead wife has given their relationship her seal of approval - from beyond the grave.

"I know it sounds weird but I speak to Yvonne and the boys every day. I can still hear her voice in my head and I know that she wants me to be with Kerry," he says. "She wants me to be happy."

As Christopher, from Burton Fleming, East Yorkshire, plays with his baby son it's clear how much he means to him.

"Children are so precious," he says with tears in his eyes. "So fragile. People don't realise that. I see parents telling off their kids in a supermarket and I know they'd give them more care and understanding if they had any idea what it's like to lose them.

"I wonder what Clayton and Christopher would look like now, how tall they'd be, what sports they'd like. Clayton would have been seven - but I'll never see him in a school uniform or watch him play football. Every day I wish it had been me that died in that crash instead of my boys or my wife. But I can't change what's happened."

The family had been driving to collect daughter Nicole from school when a Toyota Landcruiser slammed head-on into the family's Ford Orion.

Clayton and baby Christopher died instantly. Blair was revived twice in Scarborough Hospital - Yvonne was pronounced dead two minutes after Blair was revived for the second time.

"I don't recall anything until I was in intensive care," says Christopher. "They were patching me up and I could see Blair, but not the boys or Yvonne. When I saw three policemen walk in, that's when I knew. I knew that if they'd survived, they'd be next to me.

"Days later I went to identify them in the morgue. It's a sight that will never leave me - walking into that cold room to look at my dead wife and children. I wish I'd been blind that day."

A jury at Hull Crown Court found the other driver, local businessman Geoffrey Reynolds, guilty of death by dangerous driving and he was given a two-year prison sentence.

But in the immediate aftermath of the crash, Christopher fell apart.

"I remember nothing of those first few weeks. I cried for hours, for days - I lost track of time altogether. My girls would walk in and find me sobbing my heart out. But we tried to be there for each other and pull through."

He had first met Yvonne in a local nightclub and was instantly struck by her friendliness and twinkling smile.

"She just lit up a room," he recalls. "I was smitten. I moved in within three weeks and after 16 months, we got married. I'd gone down on one knee with a rose between my teeth and ring that was far too big! "The wedding day was the best day of my life, matched only by the birth of our first son, Clayton. He was a gem. I called him my shadow because he followed me everywhere and we did everything together."

After the accident, Christopher slipped into a cycle of despair - until one night friends insisted he came for a rare evening out.

That night, at a local club, he met hairdresser Kerry who had known his late wife and was aware of the tragedy that had befallen him.

"I'd cut Yvonne's hair in the past and read all about the car crash," says Kerry. "He was really easy to talk to and I thought he was very brave." Over the next few days Kerry couldn't get Christopher - or his girls - out of her mind. And because she lived nearby she popped round and offered to cut Blair and Nicole's hair.

"I wanted to help any way I could," admits Kerry. "But I immediately liked Christopher and it was a great excuse to see him too."

The pair were friends for months before Christopher realised his feelings for Kerry had grown into love.

"I never tried to fight my feelings for Kerry because I felt it was what Yvonne would've wanted. In fact I believe Yvonne sent Kerry to stop me being lonely."

Still, it was awkward when they kissed for the first time.

"One night I suddenly threw my arms around Kerry," he confesses. "That felt totally natural but it had been so long I didn't know what to do next. So I said to her: 'Kerry, help me out here.' She just smiled, took my face in her hands and we kissed. It was wonderful.

"After Yvonne, I thought I'd never feel like that again - never feel loved. I felt normal again for the first time in ages."

Over the following weeks, their love blossomed and Kerry moved into Christopher's home. Soon they were discussing babies and in December 2003 - a year after the tragic car crash - Christopher underwent a vasectomy reversal.

"I had a vasectomy after Christopher was born because my family was complete..." he says, his voice petering off.

Now Christopher proudly holds their baby and sighs: "I feel like I've been given a second chance. Life is about being happy, not just surviving from day-to-day - and I fully intend to do that.

For Kerry, Max, the girls and me. And for my lost family."


SAFE: With Nicole and Blair; MEMORIES: Yvonne and Christopher get married; FRESH START: Kerry and baby Max with blond-haired Christopher; TRAGEDY: The crash scene; GRIEF: Blair and Nicole with lost brothers Christopher and Clayton
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 24, 2005
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