“I popped home from work later that afternoon to get ready for an evening out with friends. Dad was there so we had a quick chat and he told me he was going to visit Nan and Grandad, his mum and dad. By this he meant that he was going to the cemetery to visit their grave – his mum had passed away a few months previously and his dad six months before that, so it had been a tough time for him. Dad only ever rode his motorbike in nice weather and often popped to the cemetery, which was only a ten-minute drive away. Mum wasn’t yet home from work and he told me he’d be back in time for dinner with her and my younger sister, Kayleigh.
“At around 7.30pm, my mobile rang and I was really confused when it was the police. At first, I thought someone might have stolen my car, but when the policeman said, ‘You need to come home, your mum needs you,’ I began to worry. I immediately thought of Dad as he’d gone out on his bike but the policeman wouldn’t elaborate. My heart was hammering when he asked me if I was with people and could I get home safely. The 40-minute drive home was the longest journey ever and I’m so grateful to my friends who drove me and kept me company. I kept thinking Dad might have been involved in an accident and my friends were trying to keep me calm, saying all the right things to reassure me. When we pulled up, people were standing outside and told me Mum was at a neighbour’s house, which struck me as very odd. My partner, Chris, his parents and sister were there and some of my cousins – I knew then that it was really serious. When I walked into our neighbour’s house, I knew instantly that my dad had died. The police were there and paramedics were with my mum – she had got herself into such a state of anxiety that they were monitoring her. I broke down, and apart from having to tell Kayleigh what had happened when she arrived a little later, the rest of that day is a total blank.
“The investigation into the incident was inconclusive – Dad had come off his motorcycle and although police were looking for another motorcycle which was spotted near the scene, no one ever came forward. The sun was bright and we think that perhaps an animal may have caused him to swerve and fall off. An off-duty paramedic was the first at the scene, about five minutes after it happened, and although it was too late to save him, we take comfort from the fact that there was someone there who did everything he could for him and he wasn’t alone at the very end.
“The police liaison officer mentioned that the Road Victims Trust might be able to help us and gave us a pack called ‘Brake’ to go through when we were ready. A couple of months went by before Mum contacted the Road Victims Trust. She had gone back to work a few weeks previously as a preschool teacher, which had helped a little, but all three of us felt that we needed some guidance with coming to terms with the shock of what had happened to Dad. He and Mum had been married for 28 years and were each other’s best friend. Counselling is something I’d never imagined I’d want to have but I knew that I needed to talk to someone other than friends and family. Mum, Kayleigh and I were assigned a counsellor each and received one-to-one sessions in our own home. The counsellors are all specially trained and it’s good to know they understand what you’re going through. At the time, Chris and I had recently moved into our new house and I’d felt guilty about leaving Mum and Kayleigh. When our house was being built, Dad and I would go to see how it was coming on at the weekends; he was excited for us and Mum told us that he’d have wanted us to carry on with our plans.
“Having counselling in my new house helped me to accept that I’d done the right thing in moving out – I’m just sorry Dad never got to see us settled. Kayleigh and I had weekly hour-long sessions for about a year and Mum continued for 18 months. In January 2015, our counsellors attended the inquest on our behalf, which we feel was above and beyond their remit, but they put themselves through it for us, in order to answer any questions that we might have later on. Chris, my cousin and Mum’s best friend’s husband went too. People have been so kind and thoughtful, we’ve had amazing support from family and friends and Mum’s work colleagues have been so understanding – they’ve played a big part in her recovery since Dad’s accident.
“The counselling sessions weren’t all about Dad; they were a safe place where I could discuss how life was going in general – sometimes I would get emotional or irate about things that had never bothered me before, which I was assured was a normal part of the healing process.
“Chris and I are planning to get married next year. Before he proposed to me last August while on holiday in Santorini, he wrote a letter to my dad asking for his permission and placed it on his grave. I know Dad would have given us his blessing – he and Chris got on so well. We’re getting married in the same church as Mum and Dad and Mum is going to walk with me down the aisle – I asked her on Mother’s Day and she cried for about a week!
“Following the counselling I received, the Road Victims Trust has asked if we would be ambassadors for the charity, attend events and share our story with others to get its message across. We were happy to help as I’m not sure where we’d be if we had not been living in this area with access to all the free counselling we received. The volunteers are totally unpaid and want to help families through the worst times of their lives. And this is why we’re helping to raise money for them too.
“This month, there’s a Masquerade Ball to raise funds for the charity and we have a large table booked for 12. Last September, Mum, Kayleigh and I hosted an afternoon tea event at my house and we raised more than £1,000. I help to run a netball team, the Caldecote Coyotes, and we’ve organised a tournament in the new year; Dad used to watch us play and the girls are all on board to raise as much money as possible in his memory.
“Every year, on the anniversary of Dad’s death, we have a get-together for family and friends. People often comment on how well we’re doing and we know this is directly to do with all the help we have received from the Road Victims Trust. The people there reassured us that it’s OK to feel happy: Dad was such a positive, generous and popular person, it’s important for us to celebrate his life while living ours to the full – we miss him every day but know it’s what he would have wanted