2014 – Painful Endings & New Beginnings

Its really hard writing this as death is a very private thing for many people but I feel compelled to pay a tribute to my Mum and Dad who have helped shape my life and values in countless ways. I am very used to dealing with death in my police career but the sudden brutal end to two deeply loved characters albeit in the autumn of their life has cut deep leaving a sense of profound loss. I have momentarily lost my compass and the deep ties all of us feel to our parents have been ripped away. One moment all is seemingly normal the next all has changed for ever.

12 weeks ago on Friday 5th September I left my parents home in Hereford to attend a short training course. In reflection the entire day was strangely surreal as the weather was misty with narrow shafts of hazy sunshine penetrating the gloom. The mist lay in layers across the fields all day. I had left both at the breakfast table and with a cheery “see you later” had left both getting ready to do some grocery shopping in Leominster.

I returned at 1.30pm and their car was not in the drive so I let myself in and made lunch. At 2pm there was a ring at the doorbell. I half expected that it was them and I had mistakenly locked the side gate; instead a uniformed policeman stood there. My entire world was then turned upside down as he verified that this was Mum and Dads address then told me they had been involved in a very serious road crash 45 minutes earlier. I stood there trying to comprehend what he was saying as he was taking live radio messages from the accident scene. Then at 2.10pm he uttered the crushing words “I’m sorry but the lady in the car has just died at the scene” My Mother who had been such a rock to me throughout my life constantly encouraging, supportive and insightful had gone, just like that.

Their car had been involved in a head on crash with a large HGV lorry 7 minutes from home. Mum had taken most of the impact on her front passenger side. My Dad had not been seriously injured but had been flown to Birmingham QE Hospital by Air Ambulance helicopter. He died there 3 days later.

The only items to return from the car 7 days later was a tube of special toothpaste I had asked Mum to get and a rocking chair which they had both chosen for me in the St Michael’s Hospice furniture shop. Out of 120 grocery items for the toothpaste to come back as the only item was very unsettling indeed.

Both Mum and Dad were war generation children. As a result they were both very frugal and sparing with no lavish luxuries spent on themselves at all. This combined with a very humble outlook on life has had an impact on my own values highlighting the qualities of simplicity, modesty and graciousness. Mum had a steely side to her character and definitely exuded a sense of business mindedness having set up several small entrepreneur enterprises. She was a constant sounding board for my own business aspirations.

This terrible tragedy has reminded me of just how tenuous our hold on life is and how in a blink of an eye all can fall. However, what endures for eternity is how you inspire, support and comfort those around you. These are legacies which live on in those whose lifes you touch, especially your children.

2014 had started so well for me with the purchase of my very own ancient wood near Monmouth. It nestles in a small valley overlooking the river Wye on steep rocky ground. Its a very raw and magical area with an abundance of wildlife. Woods have always had a special place in my sense of well being. They seem majestic, all knowing and seeing places that have watched time passing over many generations. For me they have also played a key role in rehabilitation from injury to body and mind. To have my very own wood and be its custodian was an unequaled pleasure and an honour. The objective was to gradually move my base of operations from London to South East Wales. Training, coaching and forestry work could then be combined into one woven enterprise. Whats more the area was steeped in medieval history being the birth place of King Henry V. Many of the 3rd Welsh Archers who fought alongside him at the battle of Agincourt were brought up and trained in the woods surrounding me.

The year had been an incredible mix of hard physical effort to start managing the woods wildness and make it safer to work in. Felling, fencing and clearing some routes was a priority whilst also being able to observe the incredible range of birds such as Goshawks, Wood Peckers, Tree Creepers and Wrens. It was and is a truly wild spot and 4 weeks ago this was highlighted when I was literally charged by a large antlered Fallow Deer. Only my chainsaw, orange forestry trousers and a few well chosen and shouted expletives saved me from a goring.

Now I must come to terms with my loss and turn my mind back to this responsibility as there is so much to do and develop. Somehow I must take Mum and Dad’s qualities forward embodying them in this timeless place of wilderness and beauty.

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