Viewers of repair shop left in tears by parents and premature son

Viewers of the repair shop were left in tears by the story of a couple whose painting has been restored in memory of the premature son they lost.

Jenny and James Halse, from Sheffield, turned to experts on the BBC1 show for help repairing a seascape by 19th century artist Edwin Hayes with close ties to their son, Elijah, who died in March 2013 just 37 days.

“His arrival and departure was a life changing experience,” Jenny said on the show. “You have before Elijah and you have after Elijah. And we are fine. This is not all bad.

In the year Elijah died, the family went on vacation to the Pembrokeshire coast, a place now inextricably linked to their son, and which they see reflected in Hayes’ painting.

Jenny said, “In the event that your baby dies, you come home with a little box rather than a lifetime of experiences. So the painting links the past to a new chapter in Elijah’s story. ‘

Jenny and James Halse, from Sheffield, turned to Repair Shop to help them restore a painting by 19th century artist Edwin Hayes with links to their son, Elijah, who died in March 2013

Elijah, pictured, was born at 25 weeks and three days at Jessops Hospital in Sheffield.  Despite good progress initially, Elijah died in hospital after contracting necrotizing enterocolitis (ENC), a disease in which tissue in the gut dies

Elijah, pictured, was born at 25 weeks and three days at Jessops Hospital in Sheffield. Although he initially made good progress, Elijah died in hospital after contracting necrotizing enterocolitis (ENC), a disease in which tissue in the gut dies.

The year Elijah died, the family went on vacation to the Pembrokeshire coast, a place now inextricably linked to their son, and which they see reflected in Hayes' painting.  In the photo, the painting after the restoration by the expert Lucia Scalisi

In the year Elijah died, the family went on vacation to the Pembrokeshire coast, a place now inextricably linked to their son, and which they see reflected in Hayes’ painting. In the photo, the painting after the restoration by the expert Lucia Scalisi

Viewers praised the couple’s bravery and resilience, with a tweet: “Oh what are you doing to me @TheRepairShop, absolutely sobbing.

“Total admiration for these parents who have gone through such a tragedy and can discuss it so beautifully and calmly #therepairshop.”

Another posted: “The story of Elijah’s painting. My heart is broken. #TheRepairShop. ‘

Elijah was born at 25 weeks and three days at Jessops Hospital in Sheffield.

“He had an incubator and then a ventilator to breathe for him,” James recalls.

Jenny continued, “I waited 16 days for a good hug. It was unbelievable. He was perfect and miniature. Then he got really, really sick.

Jenny and James, who had two sons when Elijah was born and had a third, have returned to Pembrokeshire most years since.  In the photo, Elijah with his brothers

Jenny and James, who had two sons when Elijah was born and had a third, have returned to Pembrokeshire for most years since. In the photo, Elijah with his brothers

Jenny waited 16 days before she could hold her son (pictured) and described him as

Jenny waited 16 days before she could hold her son (pictured) and described him as “perfect and miniature”. She spoke fondly of the life-changing experience of losing him

The family wanted to have the painting as a physical reminder of Elijah and as a symbol of the “next step” of his journey.  In the photo, Jenny and James with their sons and photos of Elijah

The family wanted to have the painting as a physical reminder of Elijah and as a symbol of the “next step” of his journey. In the photo, Jenny and James with their sons and photos of Elijah

“They operated on him and he was stabilizing, but his brain had been catastrophically damaged. He was never going to get out of neonatal care.

Although he initially made good progress, Elijah died in hospital after contracting necrotizing enterocolitis (ENC), a disease in which tissue in the gut dies.

Jenny and James, who had two sons when Elijah was born and had a third, returned to Pembrokeshire most years after losing their child.

“It feels like an extra place that we belong to,” Jenny said. “We have very special memories.

Before the restoration (pictured) the paint was faded, with a trail of mold in the sky

Before the restoration (pictured) the paint was faded, with a trail of mold in the sky

Painting expert Lucia Scalisi took on the challenge of restoration, bringing the scene back to its former glory and bringing out details that were originally hidden

Painting expert Lucia Scalisi took on the challenge of restoration, returning the scene to its former glory and bringing out details that were originally hidden

To add an extra layer of emotional weight, the painting was inherited from the grandparents of James, Alex and Eileen.

Painting expert Lucia Scalisi took on the challenge of restoration, giving the scene back to its former glory and bringing out details that were originally hidden.

Jenny said: “It’s amazing. I can’t believe the sky, and the light on the water … How the hell did you do it? It’s absolutely beautiful. Thank you very much. ‘

Viewers praised the couple's bravery and resilience and took to Twitter to share their support

Viewers praised the couple’s bravery and resilience and took to Twitter to share their support

Leaving the repair shop barn, James said, “It speaks to us in so many different ways. It’s incredible.’

Jenny added, “Leave the hospital and leave him behind. You walk away empty-handed.

“To have something really special and meaningful that you can hold, own, and really love is something. It is truly exceptional. Unbelievable. I love it.’


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Margarita B. Bittner

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