Warning, this article is about bereavement
The Knock At The Door
It was 9th September 2008. I had spent the morning working on my computer when I heard a knock on my front door. A knock on the front door, such an insignificant thing that happens just about every day. But this one knock was about to change my life forever.
I opened the door to find a young policeman wanting to speak to me. I asked him into the house quite unaware of what he was about to tell me. "I have some bad news to tell you Mr Winter. We have found a body and we believe it is your son David. In fact we are sure about it because he matches the photo on his driving licence".
Shock. Complete and utter shock came over me. I needed to sit down. I needed to try and comprehend what he was telling me. How could David be dead? Surely it was a mistake. But no, he was certain that it was David.
I didn't know what to do. My next eldest son was 250 miles away in Wales, my daughter was away too and was heavily pregnant, my youngest son was at work and my wife was also at work. I didn't have the car because my wife used it for work, I was in no fit state to drive anyhow. This wasn't something I could tell her over the phone. I needed to be there for her.
I phoned my sister in law. She had just got in from work, so she was able to drive me to my wife's place of work to break the news to her. How do you tell the woman you love that our much loved son is dead? I was still reeling trying to take it in, but someone had to tell her.
We went to the reception of the school where she worked in and asked to see her. They wanted to know what for. They called the head teacher and we were ushered into his office while someone went to get her.
The Scream Of Anguish
My wife entered the office. She was surprised to see me and her sister there and smiled confusedly. I asked her to sit down as I had some bad news to tell her. She sat down.
I will never forget what happened after I told her, it will haunt me for the rest of my life. She stood up and screamed in anguish, and then collapsed on the floor as her legs gave way. "Are you sure it's him?" she asked. "It can't be him, I would have felt something if it had been him. I would have sensed something is wrong."
My sister in law drove us home. I had the awful task of phoning David's brothers and sister to tell them what had happened. I would have rather had told them personally and to have been there to comfort them than to have told them over the phone. But I was concerned that the news may have got out and someone may have posted something on Facebook. So I had no choice but to tell them that their much loved brother was dead.
We Needed Confirmation
My wife was still in denial. Surely they must have got it wrong. Surely it couldn't have been our David? We needed confirmation. So we went to the hospital mortuary to make sure. My wife, her sister and David's girlfriend all went into the mortuary. Sure enough, there was David, on a mortuary trolley, dressed in a shroud with his head covered to hide the head injuries he had sustained. We all kissed him and left. I will never forget that final kiss, his cold skin on my warm lips. That was the last time I saw him. None of us could bring ourselves to see him at the funeral director's after he had been prepared for burial.
What Had Happened?
An autopsy was done on David's body to determine the cause of death. He was found to have had quite a lot of alcohol in his blood and had died due to massive head injuries due to the fall. We had to wait over a year before the inquest took place. The coroner recorded an open verdict.
David had been found in an alley behind some shops. It looked like he had tried to jump from one flat roof to another and misjudged the distance because he had been drinking. He had phoned his girlfriend earlier to say he was on his way home and to ask her if she want him to get her a burger, he never got home. It is thought that he was taking a shortcut but we will never know, although it sounds totally out of character. There was no evidence of foul play. There was no CCTV in the area, the only evidence was a partly drunk glass of the drink David had been drinking on the roof where he had fallen from. Was he really taking a shortcut or was he running away from someone? We will never know and to be honest it is pointless for us to speculate. My family and I have accepted that this was a tragic accident that we will never fully explain. In the end nothing will bring him back.
David was two months short of his 26th birthday when he died. He was loved by so many people, both friends and family. So many people indicated that they wanted to attend his funeral that we had to have an overflow room with an audio link so that people could take part.
He was a complex character who could be very outgoing and also very shy. He loved to party and get up to mad things with his friends. But he was also a quiet, shy and very caring young man. Those who went out with him thought he was really outgoing, but the people he worked with thought he was shy, kind and caring. He used to work with a care agency and care homes would specifically ask for him to work there because of his quiet, patient and kind manner. .
David was an artist and studied art at college, although if I'm honest his art wasn't my type of thing. He was also a musician and had played in a few bands. He had just finished recording an album before he died. I don't think he heard the final production. Again, it wasn't my kind of music. David enjoyed it if his music made people squirm a little, it was a part of his strange sense of humour. When he was on stage he would become a completely different person. It was an act that covered his shy nature.
It has been 14 years since we lost our David. The pain is less intense, or is it just that its such a constant companion that it feels normal? Next month would have been David's 40th birthday. On that day, as I do every, I will wonder what he would have been like at that age. What would he be like if he had reached 40 years old? Would he have given us more grandchildren? Would he be married? Would he have done something with his music or art? Would he have settled down or still be partying ? It's the 'what ifs' of grief that are the hardest thing to deal with. What I am sure of, no matter what, he would be a much loved son, brother and uncle. Our lives a little less bright without him.
If I could go back in time to change that fateful day, I would tell him to stay at home that night. If he wouldn't stay at home I would go out with him and stay with until he was safe at home. But that would only be any good if I knew what would happen. David was a grown man who made his own decision. If I could go back in time and I could die in his place I would gladly do it.
We all expect to lose people in our lives. Death is a fact of life. But there is something very unnatural about losing one of your own children, even when they are adults. It just isn't supposed to be this way. Children are supposed to bury their parents not parents bury their children. At least in the west, in our generation. In the past it was common for people to lose at least one of their children, as is still the tragic case in some parts of the world. But still it shouldn't be this way and my heart goes out to anyone who has lost a child.
I am grateful that I was there to see my son enter the world and to have had the privilege of watching him grow into a man. I'm grateful for the joys and the struggles, the laughter, tears and the lost sleep. Losing David is hard, but the thought of not having known him and not having been his proud dad would be far worse.
Obviously I could have written so much more and I could have included hundreds of photos, but it is impossible to convey a life in a short article. Below are a few videos of David. One with his band. The video was made by a member of his band in memory of him. I don't know what the turd in the toilet is about, but David would have been amused.
The next one is a video I made for David's funeral using a song he recorded just before he died called It's A Beautiful Life. And the last one is a one that David would have cringed at which was written by me, but performed by a lady called Marri Nallos. David you're not the only one who enjoys making people cringe!