I know most of my blogs are tongue in cheek and hopefully bring a little laughter to your day so I apologise in advance for this installment.
I’m writing this following the recent storyline in EastEnders. The tragic death of Paul brought back memories from my early twenties.
When I was 24 I lost my boyfriend to an accident at work. We’d been going out together for about 8 months. We had plans to move in together and had been on holiday to Torquay in his little red Fiat. The night before his death we’d been to our usual Thursday night karaoke at our local The Dorset. He’d wanted to stay the night but I sent him home (my mum wasn’t keen on boys staying the night), he hadn’t been drinking as he was driving. I remember him joking about and skipping up the garden path. It was the last time I saw him before his accident.
Friday was like any other day. I got up and went to work. The door buzzer went and I was called downstairs. When I got to the top of the stairs I could see a yellow hi vis jacket. I thought it was my uncle, he’s an electrician and sometimes wore one for work. It wasn’t my uncle, it was a policeman. He told me Richard had been in an accident and I needed to get to the hospital quickly. He wouldn’t give me any more information. I remember being in the car. I remember a white van being in the fast lane slowing us down and the policeman getting cross that he wouldn’t move. I remember there was a work experience kid in the front of the car and thinking this was a really shit introduction to the police force, ferrying a distraught girl to the hospital.
We got to the hospital and I was taken to a room where Richard was being looked after. There were tubes everywhere. They’d broken one of his teeth and I remember thinking he’s going to be really pissed off when he comes round because I’d just forced him to go to the dentist to get all his teeth sorted. Boys need girls to do that sort of thing.
It transpired that the forklift he was working on (he was a mechanic) had somehow rolled forwards and pinned him by his neck. One of his colleagues found him and performed CPR. I cannot imagine what that man went through.
Richard was in a coma. The chances were that he’d need a wheelchair and have brain damage.
We were sent home. My mum’s boss gave us a lift home. I sat in the back. I asked mum if Richard could move in with us when he came round. We’d have the house adapted. We’d figure it out. I was desperate.
Early evening we received a phone call from Richard’s sister in law to say we needed to go back to the hospital quickly. Richard had had a heart attack.
We waited in the relatives room. Me, my mum, Richards mum, step dad, sister-in-law and brother. There may have been others there, I can’t remember. A doctor came in and told us that it was a matter of time before Richard had another heart attack and we had to make the decision whether to let him go. We all agreed it was fairer to let him go.
There are times in your life you’ll never forget. Good times and bad. This was one of the worst experiences, one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Sitting next to the man you love, holding his hand while he slips away. It’s not like the films or Holby City. The monitors didn’t stop beeping. A nurse had to tell me he’d gone. I didn’t have an epiphany. I was numb.
The days and weeks that followed were, well, difficult. I was given Valium. I wanted to die to be with Richard. My mum did a sweep of my bedroom from anything I could harm myself with. My poor mum. It’s been just the two of us since I was 7. She’s gone through a lot with me. Watching your child go through so much pain, only now I have my own children can I appreciate how she felt.
A little funny anecdote from the time is that I used to frequent the local tanning shop and the lady there decided that, rather than send me flowers, she’d give me a spray tan so I looked better for Richards funeral. Never again! I text a friend the morning of the funeral telling her that Richard would be pissing himself, I looked like a fucking Oompa Loompa. I even took a buff puff to my skin to try and tone down the orange, to no avail.
During this time friends and family came out of the woodwork that I hadn’t seen for a long time, others crossed the road to avoid me. Death has a funny way of weeding out friends. Some people can’t handle death and I’ve learnt that it isn’t a reflection on your friendship really although at the time it seemed like it was. A couple of weeks later my grandfather died and I lost my job. Yup. I had a bit of a rough couple of months.
I drank. A lot. I said things I wish I hadn’t. Grief brings out the worst in people.
But. I picked myself up. Got another job. Took my previous employer to a tribunal for unfair dismissal and settled out of court. I’m a tough Mother even if I do say so myself. And, you know what? Life does go on. This was over 15 years ago. A lot has happened since and I’m sure a lot is to come. People ask how you get over something like this? It’s different for everyone. For me, I have a little chest in my head where I bury these things. I get on with day to day life. Every so often the lid of the chest opens up a crack. I have a little melt down and get back on with it. This is when my little motto “it is what it is” started. It gets me through on a daily basis. Life can be really fucking shit sometimes but there’s always someone worse off. When you’re in the depths of despair it’s hard to see any light, but it’s there, shining like a lighthouse in a storm. I never thought I’d want to meet anyone else but all these years later I have two beautiful boys and I’m engaged. I never thought I’d be happy again but I am.
Writing this has brought back so many memories. It’s been a long time since I thought about what happened although Richard is never far from my thoughts. The little treasure chest in my head has opened up a crack but I’ll get up in the morning and get Big L’s breakfast and hug both my boys that extra little bit and be thankful for what I have.
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