Sunday, 3 October 2010

Saturday 30 May 2009 later that night

Once my little girl’s sobs subsided a little, I asked when I could see my boy. The Police Officer told me that he was still at the scene of the accident. Over the next 45 minutes, my sister and sister-in-law arrived, followed by my brother and then my eldest daughter. I thought that the news was far too terrible to hear over the phone and had asked the police to let my eldest daughter and my ex-husband know what had happened so they had visited her flat, broke the news to her and, at her request, brought her to the hospital.

Unfortunately, the Police somehow delayed getting the message to Al’s dad (no apologies for that – just excuses) and an extremely stupid/busybody relative called him, got him out of bed, and broke the news over the phone. He then called me and I had to cope with him screaming a torrent of foul language and abuse because I hadn’t called him first. He seemed incapable of hearing anything I said, incapable of understanding that I might have been in shock, incapable of thinking that maybe attacking me was completely inappropriate. I tried all ways to calm him down. I tried to explain that I had tried to ensure he was contacted as I hadn’t wanted him to get this terrible news over the phone but all he could shout at me was that it was his right to be told over the phone – as if I should have applied some level of telepathy and simply known this was what he wanted. Nothing I could say could calm him and the abuse and screaming worsened.

Eventually, my sister-in-law took the phone, left the room, and did what she could to calm him down. I sat there feeling more traumatised by my ex-husband’s abuse than the fact that my son was dead – that was still completely unreal.

He called me back some time later and was calmer and no longer as abusive. By then shock was beginning to set in and I was reduced to giving Yes/No replies and said I’d call him when I got home.

I repeatedly asked to see Al but each time was told that he was still at the scene of the accident. Eventually, so that the girls couldn’t hear me, I popped out to the loo, did some slow breathing exercises, and returned to the Relative Room where I positioned myself with my back to the girls and faced the officer and quietly snarled at her, “Just what are they doing with my boy? Scraping him off the road? I need to see my son.”

She then left the room and returned a few minutes later telling that someone would be there soon. Unbeknown to any of us, Al had been lying in the Morgue since just before I had arrived at the hospital. I have received an apology for this but still no explanation of why this woman, who I later learned was an Acting Police Sergeant, lied so blatantly.

I requested that his organs be donated as we had discussed this very subject when he was completing his driving licence application form a few weeks earlier. He had said that was what he wanted should he die. When the Family Liaison Officer arrived, I again asked about organ donation but he told me that this was not possible as Al had died instantly and therefore had not been put on a life-support machine. Although I made my wishes very clear re donation, no one told me that other parts of his body could be donated provided a blood sample was obtained within 12 hours of his death. I discovered this 2 days after he died – too late for any action to be taken.

I asked again to be allowed to see him but I was told that was not possible. I pointed out that he was my son – implying that I had a right to see him. He replied with, “I can’t allow you to see him as he is – no mother should have to see that.” He suggested I come back the following day.

I asked if it definitely was my boy.

He said it was.

I asked how he knew.

He said “It is.”

I asked if they had his wallet.


His mobile phone?


Then how could they be so sure it was my boy?

It is.

“You’re telling me you have no proof it was my boy and insist he is dead. And you want me to just go home and come back tomorrow? How am I supposed to accept this if I can’t see him? I’m sorry – I feel guilty for even saying this - but it might not be my boy - it could be someone else’s child.”

At that point, he told me that Al’s friends had been with him when it happened. I didn’t want to hear that. That confirmed it. It was unbearable.

I said again that I needed to see him. Although I was quietly stating my need to see him. Inside I was screaming, “You bastard. Let me see my son.” But this was a Police Officer – he held all the power and I knew that he could do pretty much anything he wanted and I was powerless to stop it. I knew I had to be polite and not annoy him because he was a man in a blue uniform, which sent out a clear message, ‘I am in control. I will decide what is best for you and therefore I will do this and you can’t do anything about it.’ It was terrifying. He held all the cards - every fibre of my being was screaming to be allowed to be with my boy and he was refusing to allow it because he, with his infinitely superior, powered-up ego, deemed it too upsetting. By now the mental image I had of my son was horrific - a crushed, mashed up, unidentifiable, gory mess. The irony of my earlier sarcasm was not lost on me – now I genuinely believed they’d had to scrape him off the road.

I've always been a law-abiding woman. I used to take my children to say hello to Police officers in uniform so that they would know that was who they should look for if they ever needed help. I taught my children to respect the Police. I was stunned and horrified at what I was now learning. It was as if every drama about Police Officers on power kicks was true. My world was imploding. My son was dead and I was confronted with a Police Officer who had decided that he was going to control me 'for my own good'. A man who was using his position to prevent me from seeing my son. What I was requesting wasn't against the law - but he could stop me anyway.

I sat trying to breathe and look calm and silently repeated the mantra, “Don’t upset him, don’t annoy him, don’t make him angry,” over and over again. I tried again. Come on Beverley, you can do this. “I appreciate that this might be difficult and I certainly don’t want the girls to see him in his present condition but I really, really need to see him. Please can I see him?” I remember thinking that if I sobbed dramatically, it might help but the tears just wouldn't flow and I wondered just how bad a mother I was if I couldn't even cry when my son was dead..

He said they’d call someone out but it could take a few hours. I could see this was another attempt to get me to go home but he’d said it so I defiantly folded my arms across my chest and said “Thanks. I’ll wait.” At that point, I think he realised I wasn’t going anywhere. I later learned that the mortuary assistant was pregnant and they had wanted to avoid calling her out late at night so he arranged with a nurse that they would prepare my boy for me to see him.

All I wanted to do was hold him, and cuddle him, and tell him, ‘It’s OK, Mum’s here – it’ll be alright.”

Thirty minutes later, at 12.30am, he returned to take me to see Al.

I stood to leave and my eldest daughter also stood and said “I’m coming. I want to see him.” I said I didn’t think it was a good idea. She insisted, “I *am* an adult. I’m coming too.” I didn’t know how to find words to say that I needed to do this for me. I needed to be Al’s mum right then – not her mum. I wanted to be me. - not someone who had to take responsibility for her or to have to comfort her. I was barely holding it together and I needed time alone with him. I hadn’t the strength or the ability to articulate that in any way in which she could hear without making it all worse so I said nothing.

We followed the Police Officer out of the room. As we walked away, my brother followed us and asked if I wanted him to come with us. I realised that I needed someone to be there for me because if not, I was going to have to be the one who kept it all together. I needed to lean on someone. He has since informed me that my sister and his wife made him come with us and he really hadn’t wanted to but he had felt pushed into it. He sounded so resentful when he told me and I never did figure out whether he was annoyed at me for putting him through it or his wife and our sister for pushing him - tact and diplomacy aren't traits which run in my family.

We were driven to the morgue round the back of the hospital. Just before we went in, the Police officer announced that I wouldn’t be allowed to touch Al, “for forensic reasons.” He didn't elaborate - my knees were feeling as if they might buckle under my considerable weight - all my strength was going into staying upright so there was no energy left over for arguing. And, as I deduced from his tone of voice, no point anyway.

He explained that Al would be in another room and I could see him through the window but I couldn’t go into the room and I couldn’t touch him. I just felt so utterly bullied and crushed by this man and the foul rule he had waited to hit me with that I simply nodded. I must have appeared so passive at that point. If he’d have given me a gun and told me to shoot myself, I’d have probably done that too. I truly believed that he was completely in control of me and I had no choices left at all.

We went into the viewing room. I wanted to go in alone but my daughter followed me in. I couldn’t argue – I had no words left in me.

He stepped into the next room and pulled the blind back and there he was. My child. My little boy. My blue-eyed, blonde, beautiful cherub. My big strapping 6-foot tall son. My little man. My baby. Lying on a table covered by a sheet. It also covered his left eye. Apart from that, he looked as if he were merely sleeping - nothing like the horrific image I'd had in my mind courtesy of the Police Officer.

I became aware of my daughter crying so I put my arm round her shoulders. I wanted to hold him. I needed to hold him. I looked towards the door, which lead to the room where Al lay just inches away and wondered if I could simply push my way through it. I think he must have realised what I was thinking becuase the Police Officer shifted his weight slightly towards the door.

I put my hand up to the glass as if by doing that, I could somehow feel him through it. I was surprised when it felt cold and hard. And then surprised at myself for being surprised that glass would be cold and hard. Again, I was observing myself and my behaviour - completely detached from myself. I again became aware of my daughter's sobbing and I knew it was no place for her so we left.

It's just over 16 months since that night but it still feels as crystal clear as if it happened an hour ago.

Saturday 30 May 2009

My son Alexander, known as Al to his family (Alexander when he was in trouble) and Alex to his friends, died whilst crossing the road at 9.20pm on Saturday 30 May 2009. He had been hit by a large taxi. I am told he died instantly and suffered no pain. His friends saw the whole thing happen in front of them. They were traumatised by it.

I received a call from the Police at 9.30pm telling me that he had been involved in a Serious Road Traffic Accident and asking me to make my way to the hospital, which I did with my 13-year-old daughter. I was painfully aware that 'Serious Road Traffic Accident’ meant more than a broken bone or two and as I drove there, I just kept thinking, "Please don't let him be dead. Please don't let him be dead. Please don't let him be dead." I have since learned that I should not have received that news by phone but that someone should have come to my house and taken me to the hospital. Several months later, I complained and received an apology but have never received an explanation about why that error was made.

On our arrival, less than 15 minutes later, no one seemed to have heard of him and I was told to wait outside the A&E entrance to meet the ambulance as it came in. I deposited my daughter in front of the TV to watch the end of Britain’s Got talent, went outside ... and waited ... and waited ... pacing up and down. After 10 minutes, I went back into A&E and asked if there was any news.

Again, I was told to wait outside. I persisted – surely they knew something? I’d had time to get all the way to the hospital so why wasn’t my son there? I then began to question myself and wondered if I’d gone to the right hospital and asked how I’d know where he had been taken. After asking how old he was, the receptionist went to ask the manager of the Children’s A&E dept next door. Several minutes later, she returned and told me she knew nothing and again told me to wait outside for the ambulance. I knew something was wrong. She was speaking to me but wouldn’t look at me, let alone meet my eyes. When she told me to wait outside, she actually used a shooing motion with her hand.

Frightened but strangely compliant, I returned outside, and began to wonder if this were just a sick hoax so I called the police who confirmed that Al had been involved in an Road Traffic Accident and instructed me to wait where I was as someone would be along soon. I asked where the accident had taken place and was given the name of the road - it was half way between my house and the hospital.

I agreed to wait and called my sister-in-law just for someone to talk to as I was becoming very frightened. My family were all at a BBQ at my sister’s place 15 miles away. They’d all had wine and were therefore unable to drive so all my sister-in-law could do was talk on the phone.

A police car arrived 15 minutes later. I approached the car and asked the Police officer if she knew anything about my son. She nodded and I said goodbye to my sister-in-law. She wanted to take me into a Relatives Room. I realised that the news wasn’t promising but I couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait to hear if my boy was dead or alive, or how hurt he was so I took the bull by the horns and decided to get my worst fear out of the way. I was hoping the answer would be ‘No’ and then we could move on from there so I asked, “Has he died?” She replied, “I’m so sorry.”

I remember backing away from her saying, “No - he can’t have died – he’s only 17 – it’s not possible – it’s too soon.” I was strangely aware of a sensation of almost watching myself. As I was speaking, I was thinking, “Well that’s a stupid thing to say, people die at all ages – age is no protector.” And, “Stop it – you’re frightening her - you sound hysterical.” The Police Officer looked terrified and completely out of her depth so I stopped speaking and walked towards her. I knew one of us had to be in control of the situation and could see that if I lost control, she wouldn’t cope at all.

She nervously suggested I sit in her car. My sister called and asked me what was happening. I didn’t dress it up in any way – I realised there was no way to say it easily so I just said, “Al died.” She said they’d come straight away. I argued, saying that I was aware they’d had a glass or two of wine so it wasn’t safe. However, my cousin and her hubby were there and he was the designated driver so he was able to drive my sister and sister-in-law to the hospital. I told the Police Officer I needed to go to my daughter and that we now needed the Relatives Room. As we walked into A&E, the receptionist who had previously been so sure she knew nothing, leapt up from her desk and rushed to unlock a door to let us into the Relative Room.

We took my daughter in and I told her that Al had been in a bad car accident and that he had died. She cried and I held and rocked her. I didn’t cry. All I could think was that I needed to keep things calm for her. And none of it felt real anyway.

First post

I'm Beverley.

Mum to three children. Two girls (14 and 22) and a boy (17).

Hmm, I feel really odd saying that these days. I have my daughters but my boy was killed last year - run over by a Ford Galaxy taxi. Nowadays, I never quite know how to answer when people ask me how many children I have. If I say 'three' - I might have to say their names and a little about each of them. And the only, all encompassing, thing to say about my boy is that he's gone/dead/no longer here. And let's be honest, that's a bit of a conversation stopper.

Here is my story: