This post has been a long time coming and as it's Fathers Day could there be a more appropriate time for it. For the last 6 years I've been the 'front man' the one willing to get out there and talk about our tragedy always with the fantastic support of Ian who has encouraged me at every turn.
I always think Daddy's get lost in the midst of grief, having that typical male reaction that they must be strong for the family and therefore they get forgotten and people focus on the mother and her suffering.
This is the first time to my knowledge other than that short few minutes on This Morning that Ian has told his story and it's not an easy story to tell or read but both of us hope that it will help other's and it's about time I shut up for once and Alexander's very much loved Daddy has a chance to speak.
I’ll never look at a clock again at 07:51am.
That was the time my phone rang on a ‘normal’ Friday morning on 9th February 2007. I thought it was Nicola until I answered it and Thomas was on the line. I can’t remember his exact words but it was simply you need to get home, Alex isn’t breathing and there’s an ambulance on its way. I could hear Nicola in the background on the other phone I think, looking back probably speaking to the person after she called 999.
I immediately rang my mum and dad and told them to simply get to our house.
The next 10 minutes or so I don’t remember specifically, other than I rang 999 to let them know I was doing over 110 mph heading South on the M1 and explained why. The lady was so understanding but told me to drive carefully and that she could not really do anything or stop any patrol cars who may attempt to stop me. Thankfully on that day the M1 was pretty clear and no police cars were around !
I called my dad who by now was at our house, I distinctly remember him saying they were still ‘working’ on Alex but to concentrate on driving carefully and there was no point me having an accident. I didn’t call again.
I possibly broke all land speed records between coming off the motorway and getting to our house. On getting to our house I didn’t even notice the ambulance had left. I got to the house to obvious concern, upset, tears etc. Nicola wasn’t there. I asked where Alex was, assuming he was there somewhere. He’s gone to the hospital I was told. Nicola appeared from getting dressed. I cannot describe the look on her face and never want to see it again. It was obvious we were about to leave to go to the hospital. Clearly the boys were very upset too. At this stage, not knowing what I think Nicola, my mum and dad knew, I was putting a positive slant on the situation. I distinctly remember crouching down next to Tom, Jack and probably Harrison and saying, “me and mum are going the hospital, we’ll get it sorted and we’ll be home soon with Alex”.
We set off to the hospital. Again I don’t recall what conversation we had. ( Looking back I remembered in the following days the journey and Nicola, as she has said in the past, deep down knew Alex had gone, but was putting on a brave face for me. )
I dumped the car outside Barnsley hospital, Nicola acknowledged the two paramedics who had been at the house earlier. Running into A&E I stopped a doctor and told him who we were, they immediately got another doctor who had no hesitation in taking us to what I think was a theatre. The door opened. I saw Alex and again remember sort of sighing and saying to Nic, “look he’s here”. It then took about a millisecond to realise that he was on his own, no one there with him and no one there helping him.
We spent some time with him, suffered emotions I would never ever want anyone ever to go through.
On leaving the room we were introduced by a doctor to a clergyman, local to Barnsley. He was dressed horrendously is all that I can recall, no laces in his shoes and mumbling. I think he said a prayer, I could hear him but wasn’t listening to what was a complete stranger.
A doctor then introduced us to a policeman, who because if the circumstances, had to be there. As it happens it was one of the ‘dads from school’. He explained once we got home that there was a good chance the police would be there.
Then a friendly face appeared. David Hopkin. “Father David” from the Church in Penistone. He’d heard in the school play ground what had happened and had come straight to the hospital. We hugged and cried and he did say a prayer that bit I do remember.
Not long after this Nicola wanted to go home. I couldn’t understand. I didn’t want to leave Alex, not that I could do anything. Nicola didn’t want to leave him either but was clear of mind we had to get home to Tom, Jack and Harri.
On leaving the hospital Nicola again saw the paramedics, thanked them for obviously all they had tried to revive Alex, all they could do was raise a smile, sharing in our loss they had no words.
I rang my boss ! Up to that point we’d ‘got on’. I shared the worst minutes of my life with him and now I would say he’s now one of my best friends.
On the way home Nicola rang my mum, listening to the call, she was confirming what they already knew. I rang some friends.
On that day I would guess we had about forty people go through our house, family, friends and strangers. I only lost the plot at one point. I came downstairs to find we had three old men sat on our sofa. I don’t even remember now who they were. ( local vicars / ministers I would guess at ). I politely asked my dad into the kitchen and gave him one minute to get them out of my house ! Probably a bit harsh ! Credit though to my dad, they were soon gone.
The following days all really blur into one. Harrison and I built tower after tower with his blocks for him to knock over. Family and friends doing everything they could for us. Food being delivered like you could not imagine. Nicola’s dad taking Tom and Jack for walk after walk. The police, who I have to say were faultless, needing interviews and statements. Andrew, again now a ‘friend’, from the funeral directors. Just a blur though. But often when thinking back, apart from the loss of Alex the over riding emotion was guilt which I just can’t shake off.
Six years on all of the emotions and upset we went though that day never goes away. For a long time afterwards I could not forgive myself for not being at home. Why on that particular Friday morning did I walk past the twins bedroom door and not check in? Nicola should not have had to go through what she did without me there. To this day a sense of guilt still hangs heavy. Similarly Thomas and Jack also, as two little boys, should not have had to see what they saw that morning. Images I have to guess and try to picture in my mind from when I was doing 110mph on the M1 to moments of thought today and most likely tomorrow. Images I don’t want to ‘guess at’ but still do.
I miss Alexander every day. The times it strikes me most is when Harrison is playing by himself, or especially when he asks for someone to play with him. I feel cheated, robbed and on Father’s Day more than any other day I always take a moment by myself picture his image sat next to Harrison, his brother, his twin and what should have been his very best friend and think of what should have been.
Time passes, people move on but the love and friendships we have never go away and it is so heartening to know so many of our friends still talk of Alex. Just the other day Harrison asked for the first time some ‘proper’ grown up questions about Alex, and with a tear dripping off his chin he finished by saying, “I just miss him”. All I could add is ”we all do”
. . . and I will always go out of my way never to look at the morning clock at exactly 07:51am ever again.
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