A Day to Remember
I always find it so interesting to think that everyone has a different perspective on, well, everything, really.
There will be so many different versions of memory of Thursday 5 January 2012.
I want to tell you mine.
A few people know my version already but until now I have never discussed the day publicly. Why now, you may ask? The answer is – for a few reasons, the main one being to remember that Andrew was a living breathing much loved person until 845am on Thursday 5 January not just a name or a case number on a file in the Procurator Fiscal’s office. To let you know of the horror of that day for us and I suppose to say that it never goes away.
The day started like many other days. Ian and I got up around 645/7am – always a bit later in the winter mornings when it is dark. We showered, made breakfast. The radio was on as usual. I remember as I was eating my toast and marmalade (I even remember that it was Craigie’s marmalade, go figure) and drinking tea when I heard on the radio ‘Sally Traffic’ (Radio 2’s traffic news announcer) say “and the Lanark Road in Edinburgh is closed due to a road traffic accident” – or words to that effect. I said to Ian, wow that’s close – must be bad if the road is closed.
Went back to eating toast and drinking tea.
Our plan for that morning was to work on our inaugural Ball – we had laid out the files and made a list of what we were going to do together. But first we were going to do a mini clear-out on Ian’s wardrobe. Oh how I was looking forward to this. I love clear outs! We had just taken all of one rail and laid it on the bed when the phone rang. I went to the lounge and picked it up. It was Ian’s ex-wife, Andrew’s mum. She said, Andrew has been in an accident on his bike and has been taken to the Royal Infirmary. She was going to go there and I said we will too and we will come pick you up. I had a bad feeling. After telling Ian, and while he was getting changed, I went to the computer and onto twitter and asked ‘does anyone know if the accident that’s closed Lanark Road involved a bike?’ – I am kind of glad I didn’t have time to get any reply.
We got in the car and Ian said to go the Lanark Road route to get Andrew’s mum. When we got to the junction of Lanark Road and Inglis Green road there were traffic wardens directing the traffic and sending all the traffic along Inglis Green Road. Nothing was getting up the Lanark Road. Ian jumped out the car and ran over to them and said he thought it was his son who had been injured and could we go up the road. They let us past and I drove up but near the accident scene it was properly cordoned off and any traffic that had gotten through (local access traffic I suppose) was being re-directed round the block. I could see a lot of police personnel and knew this was not good. I drove round the block and came out at the far end of the cordoned off area and out the corner of my eye saw a photographer – was he Police, the Press? I don’t know but my heart was beating much faster and I was properly scared. Ian wanted to go speak to the police at the scene and I said no, let’s go get Andrew’s mum and get to that hospital. I thought he had to be badly injured – you don’t close a main road, have this many police for a broken leg. I wanted to speed but remember quite vividly concentrating extra hard on the road and driving with extra care. After picking up Andrew’s mum, I got onto the bypass and went to the Royal Infirmary that way – on route I asked Ian to call his daughter, Susan. No answer on her phone. I say, try her work number. Do you think it’s that bad he said to me. I said, I think we need her to know. He tries her work. She isn’t there today – she is on a first aid course. I persuade Ian that it is probably best to get hold of her and he calls her work again and asks to speak with her boss, explains the situation and asks if he can get in contact with her for us. By this time we are at the hospital. Now, for the previous 3 weeks my dad has been in the hospital as he had fallen downstairs at home and cracked his pelvis and damaged his spine. We had been visiting daily since the accident and knew that parking is really tricky there. I thought though that at 930in the morning it would be better so drove into the main carpark and looked for a space. And to my horror there were none. Not one. I was really worried by this time and said to Ian and Andrew’s mum – right, you two go on in and I will wait to find a space. They got out and I drove round a bit and about five minutes later got a space. I got out the car and got my phone out, phoned my brother and my friend Janette. I said that Andrew had had an accident and we were at the RIE to see him. I asked my brother to look after my mum (it’s almost too awful to imagine but my mum had also had an accident and without my dad to look after her was housebound. My brother and family were sharing the care of her with me and Ian) as I figured I wouldn’t be able to see her that day. He said he would. I was by now almost at the entrance to the Accident and Emergency department and noticed Ian standing outside it with a nurse – clearly waiting on me. I have never been so scared in my life as I approached him – he took my arm and said to me ‘Lynnie, he didn’t make it’. The nurse behind him was looking at me so kindly but I just remember raising my voice at him and saying ‘Don’t be ridiculous’ over and over again. Meantime the nurse is taking us through the A and E dept past all these folk waiting to be seen for minor injuries, through these double doors that needed a pass to get through, into a long corridor. I was crying hard by this time (as I am now remembering it) and I could see two Police Officers standing outside a room – I remember the look on their faces so well – the sympathy, the sadness for us. Inside the room are Andrew’s mum and his partner. I am only telling you my memories of the day so don’t think I am missing out anyone but theirs is not my story to tell.
I suddenly thought of Susan still making her way to the RIE and said I had to go wait on her – couldn’t have her just arriving to that news. I went outside and texted her and said where are you? To which she said she was on a bus heading to get her car and I called and said please just hop in a taxi and come here now. She said later that she knew it was bad from the tone of my voice even though I tried to stay light. While I was waiting I texted my brother and friend Janette and they called me and we talked. I know now I was in shock but at the time thought I was doing sort of ok. I texted Susan again to find out where she was, and eventually saw this taxi coming towards me, I thrust a note in the driver’s hand and this bit does make me laugh, waited on the change. Susan got out the back and I held her so tight. Again, I say this is my memory of the day so I make no bones about not telling you about anyone other than me and Ian that day.
After a few minutes the lovely nurse assigned to us (what a hellish job for her that day) asked if we wanted to see Andrew which we all did. She took us through to another room – first explaining to us how he might look. The Police Officers moved along the corridor to be outside this room. I don’t know what I expected but he was lying on a trolley with a hospital gown on and a blanket too. His hands were outside the blanket. He looked asleep. There was a tiny cut on his lip and one on his eyebrow – otherwise there were no signs of injury. I touched his hand and it was already cold, his fingers turning blue-ish – I tucked them under the blanket. Ian went up to him and with the back of his hand rubbed his cheek and said, Wake up, son. To this day that memory shakes me.
We stayed a while trying to take in what we were seeing, trying to understand what was going on.
Ushered back to the other family room we waited on Andrew’s best friends arriving. Shortly after they did, one of the police officers came in and asked Ian and one of Andrew’s friends if they could come with him to formally identify him.
At this point I want to tell you how much Ian and I appreciate all that the first responders did to try to save Andrew’s life and we now know it was a lot – from the two police officers to the paramedics and the staff at the RIE. We owe them a great deal.
I asked Susan if she would come with me to see my dad, I wanted to tell him myself but didn’t want to go alone. I remember it was a palaver to get from where we were to the main bit of the hospital. When we got to his ward I stuttered something to the staff on duty about telling my father some bad news – I will be honest here and say they looked like they couldn’t care less and waved us on. After his experience on that ward I know that not all nurses are caring. He saw us and managed to stand up and hugged me, saw Susan and held her so long and tight I thought she might faint. He loves Susan a lot and I could see how much it hurt him to see her like this. We sat and talked for a few minutes with him and Ian appeared too – there is much affection and friendship between my dad and Ian and my dad has said since how much he wanted to get out of hospital to be of help to us (little realizing that he already was just by being him).
We all drove home to our house. I made tea, and put out some food which none of us ate till later. Ian spoke with the organ donation people. Decisions were made about undertakers, and people to tell and we did some of that. I made more tea.
My brother and nephew arrived – wanting to do something, show solidarity, help. There was nothing really to do though. We were and remain so glad of the support and love shown to us by family and friends.
I made more tea. Why is tea such a panacea? I don’t know but it seemed caring, nurturing to me to keep making it even if half the time none of us drank it.
The low point of the afternoon was when Ian put his head in his hands and just shook with sobbing. I held him but couldn’t make it better.
All sorts of things were beginning to happen – other family members were making plans to come up to Scotland, talk of funerals, calls from the police about post mortems and press releases. We didn’t even have anything of Andrew’s – the police had to keep it all. We were trying to figure out what had happened. I think all we knew was he had been hit by a lorry that hadn’t stopped and been thrown into a parked car.
We weren’t even sure how he died. Or where. At the roadside? In the hospital?
Other members of the family arrived. And then everyone left to go home.
We made something to eat. I think we ate it. We went through to our den and talked for hours. We knew the police had put out a press release so watched the TV and heard the report of a male cyclist killed. We cried.
Ian said it would be best to put something on my facebook page – better it came straight from me than folk heard it elsewhere first. It took me a while to figure out what to say but I used most of the same words I wrote for the Police press release going out the next day. I hit the post button. Within seconds the first comment came in and then the next and private messages too. We had dozens within minutes and we spent the evening crying as we read them.
Going to bed was a waste of time as we barely slept – the events of the day ran over and over in our minds and we talked often during the long night.
We went away early the next day to collect family to go to our appointment at the undertaker and were probably away for three or four hours – enough time for lovely friends to pop by and leave Tupperware boxes filled with home made soup, flowers delivered, and meals made up for us. We wouldn’t have eaten much if at all in the two weeks after Andrew was killed if it hadn’t been for friends especially Janette and Donald who not only fed us they fed our extended family for many days as we planned Andrew’s funeral and started the arrangements so necessary after a sudden death. They even provided all the food for the after funeral gathering we had at our house. Friends like that are like gold dust and must be treasured.
Late on the Friday night Ian asked me if I would set up a charity in Andrew’s name with him and make it a way to not let his death be in vain- he didn’t want people to send flowers to the funeral but wanted instead donations to something longer lasting. So I emailed Lee, our friend who made the It’s Good 2 Give website and asked him for advice – listed questions. The reply came back instantly – whatever you want I will do. And he did. Stayed up till the wee small hours of Saturday morning designing the website using material I sent him. It was late Friday night – around 10pm when I thought that we should ask our accountant if he would mind taking the donations to begin with – so that we showed transparency in our new charitable venture. I emailed him hoping for a reply early on Monday. I sent the email at 11pm and had a reply by 1130pm – he would be more than happy to deal with anything financial for us and more if we needed it (all on a pro bono basis by the way).
The kindness shown to us in those early dark dreadful days was quite astounding and I have written about it often but I come back to it time and time again – it is so comforting.
I asked the family and Andrew’s partner, if I could read my favourite poem at his funeral. They were all pleased that one of the family would speak at the funeral – I have said often that it was the most scarey thing I have ever done but I am glad I did it – for Andrew and for us as a family.
That poem was
The Dash by Linda Ellis
The dash represents the time between your date of birth and death and what you have done with it.
Andrew had done much. Loved and lived and laughed. Travelled for a year round the world, loved his rugby, beer, red wine, mates, family, partner. Loved his car and bikes. Probably equally! He would often take his car to his sister’s house to wash and polish it. His brother-in-law was his equal in taking care of his car so they had that in common. He joined the Edinburgh road club for cycling and had been going to classes at lifecycles club too. He shared his love of Scooby cars (I think that is how you describe them) online joining a network to discuss engines and car stuff.
He had just bought himself a new road bike three weeks before he was killed. A real beauty and barely had a chance to ride it.
He had studied hard to get his insurance qualifications (he had achieved the industry gold standard in July 2010 and was now a Chartered Insurance Practioner) and had been in his new job less than a year. A job he was really enjoying and where he was appreciated.
Ian and I talk about him most days – about not just our loss but HIS loss. He isn’t here to see the sun, wind, rain, to rail against cycling home in it, he didn’t get to watch this year’s rugby games, or see Andy Murray win Wimbledon, or the cycling in last year’s Olympics, to see his oldest nephew go to Uni or his youngest nephew get earrings (!) – he would have loved it all but he didn’t get the chance. All he was doing was cycling to work. Trying to stay fit (he was very fit and very strong), trying to save money by cycling, doing something he loved.
All he has now is us, his family, to speak for him. To tell you what he was like, what he is missing, how much we all miss him. I will continue to do that for him and for us. I won’t let him become just a name on a piece of paper. I want you to feel as though you knew him too.
I can assure you of this. Andrew would have known we would do this – he would have said yep, Dad and Lynnie will be vocal on my behalf.
I can rely on them.
We won’t let you down, Andrew.
31 August 2013
Note: A person has been charged with causing Andrew’s death and we await the outcome.
Lynne and Ian set up the Andrew Cyclist Charitable Trust in 2012 – to campaign for safer cycling in Scotland.
They are members of the Cross Party Group on Cycling in the Scottish Parliament and have worked with the City of Edinburgh Council on its Streets Ahead campaign.
They are strong supporters of The Times Cities Fit for Cycling Campaign and the Pedal on Parliament campaign.