I was 39 years old when I lost my son Josh. He was late so we went looking for him at his friend’s house and learnt he was in an ambulance on the school field. I ran and got into the front because they wouldn’t let me into the back. The paramedic told me that it wasn’t good.
I didn’t know that he had died.
My wife Donna followed in her car as we drove the twenty miles to hospital with sirens screaming and blue lights flashing. It seemed to take forever. Josh was brought out and his arm flopped down by his side. The whole time they were trying to resuscitate him I held his hand, talking to him, telling him his mum was on her way, and about being here for the start of the football season. But eventually they said “there is no more we can do”.
I had to find Donna to tell her the unbelievable news and met her coming down the corridor. I shook my head and she dropped to the floor screaming, “NO, NO”. Donna’s heart broke that night she lost her son and the pain she felt was unimaginable. That night part of me died too, alongside Josh. We rang our parents. It hit them hard too. They expected to die before their grandchild.
We left the hospital with just a carrier bag of his clothes and at home went straight to his room. Donna threw the bag onto the stairs saying “that’s all we have left of our son”! It was about 5am when we started walking around our town, no-one around, just us. Josh’s sister Jasmine was at home with her Grandma. Unaware. We told her in the morning that Josh had died. She cried for ages. She had walked the dogs with him the night before and now he was gone. How on earth does a nine year old understand that! She is lost without the big brother who looked out for her. We spent the next few weeks numb from the loss of our loving son.
The lead up to the funeral was awful. We cried together as we planned it. We wanted Josh’s History teacher, the Rev. Steven Knapton, to do the service. I didn’t want anything too religious. A celebration of Josh’s life as he would’ve liked it – not that you get to discuss your child’s funeral with them. We buried him on our 16th wedding anniversary. When the funeral car brought him to our house, the Hull City flag draped over his coffin, the football shirt and football flowers, it made me realise that he was never coming back and I broke down.
His friends had tied Hull City balloons to lamp posts and kids were lining the school drive on the way to the church. I couldn’t believe the amount of people waiting there that day for Josh. Hull City had donated 80 shirts for family and friends to wear at the funeral, a sea of black and amber. The church path was lined with family and friends and there weren’t enough seats so people were standing and waiting outside and family had to squeeze in where they could. Even two representatives from Hull City Football Club were there. Josh was a massive Hull City fan. We chose the music that was played at every home game for his last journey.
The service was emotional as his friends stood up one by one to read out their memories. One of them couldn’t manage it so I stood with him while he spoke. I was too upset to speak but was right next to the coffin while Donna read a poem. His friends joined us at the cemetery as they needed to say goodbye as much as we did and placed sweets, chewing gum, cans of pop, and letters in with him which I found heart breaking but
comforting to know he was so well liked and loved. The hardest moment was seeing Josh lowered into the ground. How could I be burying my son at such a young age? Afterwards we gathered at a club near his school where more friends joined us. He was a good role model to his mates and looked after the younger kids. We laughed and cried together hearing all the stories about Josh from his friends.
I felt I had waited so long to lay him to rest, that after the funeral there was a strange sense of relief. I could finally go and visit him whenever I wanted. I could say goodbye to him on my own, talk to him about football and work. The thought of having to get used to living life without him is unbearable – not being here with us, seeing him, hearing his voice or him in his room, tidying up after him. The house is no longer a home without him in it and the big empty gap in my life will never be filled.
As Josh’s post mortem was “inconclusive” his heart was sent to Dr Mary Sheppard at the CRY Centre for Cardiac Pathology. The cause of death was SADS so there was no Inquest, but it left us with many unanswered questions.
I feel lost without him and weekends are spent in the cemetery. Nothing is the same anymore. Hospital flashbacks haunt me. I watch his football team with Jasmine and Donna. It helps me remember my caring, thoughtful son. People say time heals but it doesn’t. You learn to live with the loss but the pain and sadness are there for eternity!
Due to years of operations for Crohns disease, Josh saw much suffering for someone so young. I will never forget him kissing me on my cheek and telling me he loved me after my surgery in 2010. That memory will stay forever, along with his text messages.
I have been lucky with my relationship with my wife. For Donna and I our loss has made us even stronger. We grieve together ensuring we don’t push each other away. We are learning to live with our loss as a couple, there for Jasmine and each other, and concentrate on fundraising for CRY to provide screening for others so they don’t have to go through what we are.
Although always a close family, we are now more aware of how important family is. We talk more now and it has brought me and my twin brother closer. We are all dealing with missing Josh in different ways but he will always be part of us and I make a point of toasting him at family occasions so he never gets forgotten. Since Josh died, most of the family have helped us with our continuous fundraising efforts for CRY, in his memory.
Losing Josh has affected so many, even people that didn’t know him. In fact our whole town! I have good friends but have made many new ones since losing Josh. My workmates have kept me going too. Some like to talk about Josh, but others really struggle. I prefer talking about him as I like to know he will always be remembered and it’s like he is still here.
Josh was 15, a typical teenage lad. He loved life, football, friends, family, music, playing on his PS3 and jokes on me. Always smiling, happy, mischievous with everything to live for.
I long for the bear hugs you used to give me Josh and chats about football.
Thank you for the 15 years you gave me.
You were the best son a Dad could ever wish for.