I open my eyes and look at the clock, 2am, Mum and Dad are sitting on my bed, the landing light is on. Dad reaches over and turns on my bedside light, “We have something to tell you, it’s about Nick, something has happened.”
“The worse thing that could happen”
Everything shifts, my head starts spinning, Mum runs to her room, screaming, I am sitting on my bed, Dad holding me tight, i’m sure if he lets go, I will literally fall into a million pieces.
“Jenny please come back, I can’t be in two places at once”
Dad goes to Mum and I am sitting on my bedroom floor gasping for breath, I am sure this is not happening, I pick up my phone and call my best friend, she answers and I say the words,
In the long drive from Plymouth to Hertfordshire on that January morning I had almost convinced myself that non of this was happening to me. Staring out of the window as the countryside went streaming pass, the radio a distant murmur, my Mum’s stunned silence broken with gentle sobs, I knew it wasn’t true. He was injured maybe, but we would get to the hospital and find him alive.
We arrived, met by members of my family and were taken to some distant part of the hospital, we walked though a door into a small waiting room big enough for 3 chairs, with another door straight ahead. My mum and dad went in first and I was told to wait, then I heard it …
A sound like no other, it was pain in its purest form. A raw, animal like scream that made the hair on the back of my neck stand, my heart stop and my hands shake. It wasn’t a dream, he was really gone.
Nothing can prepare you for the shock of losing someone so suddenly, the slicing pain that powers straight through your heart, the way your lungs struggle to take in air, the pounding of your pulse in your ears and the overwhelming feeling of falling.
In the hours that followed I went into an auto pilot state, calling my school and informing them of my absence, cancelling dance classes and letting relevant people know, it was if the only way I could cope was to remove the emotion and become practical.
I watched as my Mum, this strong opinionated black women disintegrated into an empty shell, she was completely consumed by her grief unable to function. Meanwhile my Dad fought to remain strong, keeping his emotions under control to be the life raft she needed and the support to carry her. I found myself somewhere in between, I had so many emotions running through my mind but no one else that knew my pain, the way I was feeling it. My friends offered words and sentiments, they gave me physical consolation but I could always feel that somewhere in their sub-conscious they were relieved it wasn’t them. My family were each dealing with their own pain and it was too much to ask anyone to take on mine, so I often found myself working through my thoughts in my own head.
I would get in my car and drive, with no destination, just me and my thoughts. I think I was often hoping to drive to a place where the pain didn’t exist and where these events hadn’t taken place, but at the end of every trip, I had to come home, had to come back to reality.
I went through stages of anger, anger at my brother for leaving, after all he was my big brother and supposed to be able to take care of himself so he could take care of me. I felt anger at the universe for making us endure this, we are all good people, so why should this bad thing happen to us.
Anger at my Mum for being so involved in her own grief that she had nothing left to comfort me. Anger at myself for not being able to take her pain away and for not being able to stay in the same room as her when she was crying her heart out. Anger at all the things I would never get to do with my brother and the things he would never get to see. Anger for not knowing why?!
It soon becomes clear that carrying around this anger becomes exhausting, and it slowly burns out to become a sadness and acceptance. I feel sadness when I think of all the things I have achieved since I was 17, (my age when he died), like learning to drive, getting into Dance College, getting my first dance job on a cruise ship. All these things I would have wanted to share with my big brother, I know how much he would have loved to come and stay with me in London, how much he would love my puppy Ted. However it was on my 25th birthday that I felt my greatest sadness as this was Nick’s age when he died, a number that seemed so big to me then. It was only when I had recached it that I could truly appreciate just how young he was and what a loss to the world it had been.
If i’m honest I still don’t understand why it happened or what good has come from it, I know that many people who believe in God would say that it was part of his plan, however I can’t justify this. There are still times when I suddenly feel overwhelmed by the knowledge, as if I am being told the news for the first time. My Dad calls this ‘bucket of water moments’, you know when someone throws a bucket of ice cold water over you and you can’t catch your breath.
I’d like to think that as a result of Nick being gone, I treasure the people I have more, and understand what it means to be grateful for those around me. I have a rule with my girlfriend to never go to sleep angry as you never know what can happen during the night. As well as a new found appreciation for those days spent with friends, it doesn’t have to be a grand event, you are just spending time enjoying each others company.
In the 11 years since, I have gone through many varying emotions and although it’s impossible to forget it, I think I have found some peace. I know that ultimately Nick would not want us all to dwell on how tragic his death was and how unfortunate it was that he never got to live a full life, because the life he did get to live however short was full. He spent his free time fully devoted to his passion of music, he found true love with a women who he loved unconditionally and I know she still loves him to this day. He was surrounded by the greatest friends, people who made him laugh and who were loyal to him even after he was gone.
It’s impossible to put into words how it feels to know I will never see him again, but I am so grateful that I was not only one of the lucky few to know him, but that I can also call him my Big Brother. I will tell my children about him and they will know just how incredible their Uncle Nick was. I know it sounds cliche but I do believe that he is still around sometimes, it may just be a feeling but it helps to make the feeling of loss a little more bearable.
So Nick, please know that wherever you are, whatever you are doing your little sis loves you.