10th January 2015
Today, we will finally able to see my brother’s body. Since the moment news broke of Peter’s death all I have wanted is to see him, it has felt like torture that he has been on his own for weeks and weeks in the morgue. I probably sound crazy – but I wonder if he was lying there wondering why his family hadn’t visited. Yes, I do feel like I am losing my mind. The funeral directors have warned us that seeing Peter will be extremely upsetting, they say we should think carefully about it and that they have done their best to make him look peaceful. I travel in a taxi with my Mum and Aunts, from Redditch to the undertakers in Birmingham. When we get in the taxi, the driver asks if we are going to a party; how do you even begin to answer that? I think the penny drops as he inputs the address into his sat nav; we stay mostly silent on the journey – small talk is exhausting.
We meet my Dad and Robert outside the undertakers. Mum and Dad go into the room first, the rest of us can hear them crying, my Mum is saying a prayer. Mum comes out to get Robert and me. I stand on the edge of the room – I can see the coffin and I can see Peter and I am so frightened to look at him, and to take in just what has happened to him. My whole body is shaking. Robert and I go in, and stand between our Mum and Dad, this is the last time we will ever be together. Our Aunties come in the room, and everyone cries and cries. My Auntie Pat helps me to hold Peter’s hand. We put his Christmas presents and cards, letters and photographs in the coffin; we put a teddy bear with him which has the words ‘one in a million’. Peter has been wrapped in a shroud, we can see his face, his right hand and the top of his shirt collar only; the rest of him is too damaged for us to see. I can’t bear to think about it. Leaving that room, leaving him there, feels so unnatural, I don’t want this to be the last time I ever see him. Why did this have to happen?
15th January 2015
I am sitting in the back of a funeral car; I am in the back-middle seat and have a clear view through the windscreen, to the hearse which is ahead of us. I can see the coffin which contains Peter’s body, and the flowers and other tokens which have been put in the car to travel with him. I feel like this image is being burnt into my brain; I will remember it forever. My Dad and my brother Robert are in the funeral car too, as is Peter’s girlfriend and her parents. I have so many shared memories and experiences with the people in this car; this is not a moment we ever imagined we would be sharing.
I feel like I am not properly here; as though I am floating somewhere outside of my body and looking down on events. I feel crazy. It is like I am watching the final scene to an episode of Eastenders and at any minute the music will start, and the credits roll; and I can change the channel and watch something more enjoyable. The trouble is this is real; today is my brother’s funeral. It just will not sink in. Even as I stare at the hearse ahead of us, it just will not sink in. Robert is shedding some tears, I feel like I should cry too, but I am so numb, it is like I cannot feel anything. That Peter is gone forever, is a reality I am nowhere near ready to deal with – I just have to get through today, our family and friends just have to get through today. Everything is one day at a time right now, that is all we can cope with. Those that tell us we will heal once the funeral is done, have no idea what we are living through, or that we know that this is just the beginning – there will be a court case to come.
As the car turns into the cemetery, we become aware that there are loads of people; we expected a big turnout – but the car park is full, and cars are parked all around the crematorium. I see my Mum and Aunts waiting for us to arrive, and I see those of my brother’s friends that have been chosen to be pallbearers listening to the funeral director as he tells them how to lift the coffin. Everything is totally surreal and weird. My brother’s girlfriend is distraught, and I have no idea how to comfort her; we follow the coffin into the chapel and there are so many people standing and watching. I feel sick. I see my friends Adam, Rosie, Amrit and James; they all grew up knowing Peter, our friends always mixed with each other, they don’t know what to say to our family, but they are here with us, and that means everything.
My Dad speaks first – he talks about Peter’s childhood. He talks about the difficulties he overcame in life and how he grew up to be determined and hard-working. I’m watching my Dad give this eulogy knowing that it is one of the most painful moments of his life and there is no way I can make it feel any better for him. I speak next – I am so nervous, I hate speaking to groups and usually avoid it at any cost, but I have been determined to do this. I have written a poem for Peter, I get through it by blanking out the fact that he is lying in his coffin, just behind me. In my head, I imagine that I am saying the words directly to him. Peter’s best friend speaks next and recalls the tales of them living together in Erdington; there were 4 lads sharing a house and they had the best time, these are memories that can never be stolen.
The rest of the day seems to pass in a blur, when we arrive at the wake the number of people is again overwhelming – but a complete testament to Peter and the fun-loving life which he led. A group of his friends stand up and sing ‘On The Wings Of Love’ which Peter loved, and I feel sure at any moment he is going to appear, it is so strange seeing them all stood there without Peter in the centre. A group us take taxis into town and we go the Trocadero. Again, I expect Peter to be standing there, this is his haunt and it is wrong to be here without him. I suppose you could say we are partying now; someone buys shots and we even end up in Reflex. I don’t think any of us have accepted Peter has gone, I am looking at the door willing him to turn up. This is what he loves – everyone together, having a fun time – surely, he will show up in a minute?
I get home somewhere around 2am, and when I shut the front door the reality that we will never be seeing Peter again tries to creep into my brain; but despite seeing his body and despite being at his funeral, I just cannot believe it. I have no idea how to begin facing up to the facts that my brother has been taken, and he cannot be brought back. I do not know how we will all carry on when we hurt so much.
To our Dear Big Brother, you were a blessing,
And I hope that in heaven, from the place that you are resting,
You can feel all the love that you are being sent,
And know that we will never forget all that you meant.
To our Dear Big Brother, your time was much too small,
And we never could have seen what was to befall,
We never could have known that this would be the year,
That with your friends you’d share your very final beer.
Dear Big Brother, you did more than you know,
You made us laugh so much Pete and set the room aglow,
You kept us all so safe, and tucked us under your wing,
And taught us to pay homage when we heard Neil Diamond sing.
You taught us many lessons Pete, important knowledge and facts,
Like when to win and when to place, and how the horses run around the tracks.
You taught us to dress smart and add a little glamour,
And introduced me to your mate, named Tequila Slammer.
You taught us to graft hard, and always tried your best,
You taught us to stand up and tackle every test.
You stood for what you believed in, and made your opinions known,
And never were afraid to bring an honest tone.
You said it how you saw it, and sometimes made us gasp,
But we always knew the real you, you never wore a mask.
You taught us that a family is about so much more than blood –
But who you would look out for, through the bad times and good.
You were a Price, a Harrison and a Weaver,
And with you around our lives were so much easier.
I never will forget Pete, when I was oh so low,
And wondered where it was my life was going to go,
You took me for a walk and said some words so kind,
Words that I can still hear loud and clear in my mind –
“Dear Little Sister, why didn’t you come to me?”
“Dear Little Sister, why don’t you see what I can see?”
“Little Sister know, I’m always here for you –
And though we might fall out sometimes I’ll always get you through.”
“I know I mess around and act the clown,
But I can be sincere –
And anytime you need it
You have my listening ear.”
Well I never did tell you Pete just what that walk home did,
Or how very much I idolised you when I was just a kid.
Spring used to be my favourite time of year. I loved it, the winter would be slowly disappearing, and you knew that spring was coming. The mornings got lighter, and then the daffodils. Oh, the beautiful daffodils that I so loved, their bright yellow colours. This spring of 2015, I disliked it more than anything. I could not look at those flowers that I once loved. The seasons were changing but the pain in my heart remained. It was heavy and it hurt so badly. Life was moving on, but I was not. My life had felt that it had stopped; but everything was still continuing and changing. Nothing changed the pain that I felt it was still so raw, so real. It felt as though this had happened just yesterday. I can still her voice so clear, our conversations feel like it was yesterday. I miss our conversations – we were always talking and laughing, messing about, I would try on her clothes (she had the best style). Now it feels like silence, everything has gone quiet. I don’t hear laughter anymore; not mine at least. It just feels so quiet. How could this have happened and why does time just keep rolling by.
Spring was no longer my favourite time. I just couldn’t seem to truly enjoy anything. I would smile with my friends but, I felt that I was just not being real I was being fake but I couldn’t stop it. I wondered if they noticed. My lips smiled but my eyes were always ready to spill tears in secret. I didn’t think they could cope with my constant sadness. I could barely cope with my sadness. It was overwhelming and all-consuming at least it felt that way.
Life felt so strange since the funeral; the emptiness shouted louder than anything. Grief can be a lonely road. Despite the fact you have family grieving you all grieve differently because it’s so personal to you.
How were we meant to “just get on with life” with Gina not being here. How could I just go back to normal when in fact my normal was lost. I desired my old life back, my old silly problems. I missed being carefree and planning the future. Now my sister was missing, she was gone, now I was meant to navigate life without her. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know this path and neither do I want to walk this way, but I have no choice. I have to keep going if not for my sake then at least in Gina’s memory; she would say life is for living and in the next breath tell me to stop procrastinating. I was always putting things off, but not Gina she would decide that she was going to do something, and she would have it done. I miss her so much. I keep expecting that I’m going to wake up from this nightmare, that it was all a bad dream and she’ll just be there. I know this isn’t a dream, this is reality, an awful, cold, painful, reality.
It’s hard to find the joy in each day when you’re hurt and your pain cuts so deep. I wish this agony would leave me.
For anyone who has experienced bereavement through road death and may need support, please see www.roadpeace.org (the national charity for road crash victims).