At 10.10am on Friday 6th March 2009 the world was still a happy place. One minute later our world changed with the phone call that “Scott has collapsed but the paramedics are with him”. I never thought to ask if he was still breathing, why should I? Scott was a GB Rower training three times a day. Indestructible.
Two hours later, I, Stevie, Lee, Gemma (Scott’s girlfriend) and Henry (Scott’s best friend) were standing by his dead body in a pathetic waiting room in Kingston Hospital. Scott had died instantly. He looked so normal, still warm, unreal. I had no idea what true shock and numbness felt like until I experienced this.
The next few hours were a haze. Phone calls, disbelief, what next? Scott was 25, training for the Olympics. We stand looking at each other, occasional screams, a feeling of hopelessness, a growing sense of guilt – could this have been avoided?
Life without him is unthinkable. I am not prepared for this. How, why did he die? Why an inquest? Don’t disturb him. Leave his body alone. Please just bring him back. Maybe numbness is the body’s defence for all these questions that I am not prepared for?
Everyone wants to help and we realise we are starting to judge people on how they react to the news. Who has been in touch, who hasn’t. Our world has changed forever and we don’t know how to deal with it, with each other. How much pain can the human body take? The Rennie family is in turmoil. Different views on everything – how he died, how he lived, what he liked, the inquest, burial or cremation? How do we stay together and strong for each other?
People care, friends can be brilliant. Disbelief is a common theme. Grandfather wants to swap places; he is 83, has had a good life – take him. We all agree! Messages, letters arrive. Young and old. This outpouring of grief, joy and fantastic memories of great times with Scott, help get me through each day.
There are still real issues, our daughter is struggling. We don’t realise how difficult it is for her and for us to show our true feelings. How we interact with one another when emotionally unstable is a real problem. The simplest of tasks seem a challenge and minor comments can be misinterpreted.
The compass guiding me through life has been switched off. No map, no reference points. I cannot come to terms with the death of my child. We have been brought up to think a funeral is for old people. My brain does not want to accept anything else. Who cares what music is played? What flowers? Nothing matters anymore. Life has lost its purpose.
If a funeral can go well then this one did. Pershore Abbey was full. I didn’t realise how important this part of the grieving process was until I spoke to people during and after. Began forgetting my pain, realising just how many others were suffering too. We were not alone and will never forget all those young faces looking so distressed. For some, a funeral is seen as the end. For us it was just another phase – still numb, in shock, expecting him to walk through the door. My mind played tricks. It was all a dream. People want to move on, talk about other things, but we cannot. Reading other people’s views and experiences and sense of loss helps lighten the load; but it cannot teach me how to deal with my wife or daughter, who blame themselves for not pushing Scott to
have more medical examinations. Most men are not good with feelings and nothing is more sensitive than this situation. There is a raw nerve around every corner. It is so easy to say and do the wrong thing; and this is one of the strangest conundrums – that nothing seems important anymore, yet everything matters.
At a time when I just wanted to curl up in a corner and hide away from the world, I still found the energy to argue about the silliest issues. Love got us through it. Love for Scott and each other. Without it I would sink. Knowing we need each other and that we all feel the same helps to understand one another’s point of view. Love kept us together, sharing the worst but helping us find glimpses of happiness that are still there. Yes, we are still allowed to enjoy life, there is a future, we can still laugh. The sun will shine again.
I lurch from hope to despair as reality kicks in, reminding me that serious issues lurk, like inquests and pathology reports and tests. Is it genetic? Could our daughter, Lee-Anna, be at risk? CRY screening comes to the rescue and our knowledge of heart conditions is shown to be non-existent. I did not realise how medically ignorant I was. I hadn’t a clue how the heart worked, the electrical impulses required to make it pump, how much we still have to learn. In Scott’s case we had differing expert opinions creating uncertainty and heated debate, but the truth is we will never know.
We must have said “what if” a million times and will continue to say it – can’t help it, every day, every Friday, every anniversary, every birthday, every Christmas, every time we read about another young death.
This emotional roller coaster is hard to deal with and pushes the strongest relationships to the very limit. That couples, families and friendships can fall apart is no surprise. It makes me feel inadequate. Men are tough, can cope – but don’t. They say “time is a great healer” but this pain does not heal. A huge part of my life has gone and much as I try and concentrate on the positives, there is a hole that cannot be filled.
My wife has kept me sane and although we have all gone through this, for a mother to lose her child is just wrong. There was a bond between Scott and Stevie that should not have been broken. It was unfair and cruel watching her endure such sorrow. Stevie has, more than anyone, kept us together and moving forward. I know I have stretched our relationship to breaking point and still she would not give in and for that I will be eternally grateful and in her debt.
Scott inherited the very best of his mother’s easiness and attitude to people and willingness to help others. At school it was well known that people sought him if they wanted help. When ‘Head of School’ was chosen in his last year, it was unprecedented that both teachers and pupils voted unanimously for Scott. That is how he was with his family too. It was only after he had gone we realised how much we sought Scott’s opinion. He was our rock.
My final words are ones Scott wrote in a ‘Year Book’ he and his best friend Oliver created for everyone in their year to comment in:
“Everyone tells you that your school years are the best years of your life. Now, as I come to the end of mine, I realise how true these words are. If these were to be my last years I would not feel short changed”.
Sadly, son, you most certainly were.