For those who knew Alex, he certainly was a character, he had met the love of his life Becky, he was a fantastic son, a ‘big’ little brother and was soon to become an uncle. Alex was the life and soul of every party and could make a room full of strangers his best friends even if they didn’t speak English! You couldn’t be around him and not have a smile on your face – he was infectious. He was the one who looked after all of his friends and made everyone laugh, bringing everyone together. He wouldn’t hesitate to get up and sing on the karaoke or be the first one to dance on the dance floor – the lunge move in particular.
Alex’s day job was to look after seriously ill and sectioned mental health patients, from young children to pensioners. Alex was trained in restraining patients however very rarely needed to use these methods because he could hold a conversation about absolutely anything and easily defuse difficult situations. Alex was known for his extensive knowledge of facts and used to enjoy baffling those he knew; “did you know you could make tequila with potatoes?!”, “don’t eat too many bananas because they contain large amount of potassium which can be lethal”. I think he used to like seeing the confused look on our faces. I wish I could remember just half of the facts he used to tell me but they used to just confuse me too much.
I still refuse to believe Alex has left me, mom, us, Becky, his friends and the list goes on. As a child, i used to innocently pray that my mom would never die, I didn’t once pray that my brother wouldn’t. I didn’t think that was even a possibility. I try to convince myself he’s just on holiday. For months I convinced myself he was lost in a foreign country and was trying to find his way back home.
Looking back now, April 7th was one of the best days and the absolute worst days of my life. There was only ever me, mom and Alex. We were always so so close as a family and had such a great childhood; vividly remembering how we all used to snuggle up in the winter to keep warm in bed. April the 7th was no different to any other day. I was due to give birth to my first child in 6 days and as I was feeling slightly under the weather, Alex suggested that everyone came to my house to have a roast dinner. The sun was shining so we spent most of the day outside; playing table tennis and talking. I remember Alex chasing the dog round the garden with a stick and me staring at him while he was lying on the sun lounger eating an ice cream. We all sat at the dining room table and had a lovely lamb dinner cooked by mom and we all had a really good laugh. Alex finishing off pieces of meat that mom couldn’t eat, like always. It was the best day because I will never be able to recreate how much fun we had that day and how chilled it was, like always. I remember feeling very lucky that I had such a wonderful family and things were only going to get better.
Alex was so excited about being an uncle and I was so excited at the thought of him holding my daughter for the first time. Being such a small family with no little children I just couldn’t wait. The week before, Alex and his girlfriend threw me a surprise baby shower and although I didn’t want one at the time, it was such a great day. Our daughters name was top secret! However, months before I had sketched her name in a pad and hid it safely away. I now know that Alex found her name whilst looking for some paper at the baby shower. He was so upset that he had found out, apparently he quickly put it back and only told his girlfriend what had happened. I’m so glad he knew her name. Alex had bought my little girl a lovely blanket and wonderwoman outfit.
Alex left our house early that evening, saying goodbye to my husband with his funky coded handshake and giving me a kiss and a hug as he left, like always. He got in his car and turned his music up loud so we could hear. He loved his music and had recently got into Queen; he was playing “who wants to live forever”. Alex left and went home because Becky had netball at 8 that evening. Alex stayed at home and kissed Becky goodbye at the door as she left for netball, he gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her that he loved her and with a smile on his face said “try and win this time”.
Alex always wanted to do things for people and one of those things was to cook, he loved cooking new dishes and experimenting too, often having loads of people round to entertain. Alex would have been a proper house husband with Becky, he did all the household chores! Cleaning, washing the clothes and finding and chopping the wood for the fire. Whilst Becky was at netball that’s was he was doing; chopping wood. Apparently he had chopped so much wood and was cleaning everything away. Becky returned home from netball to find Alex on the floor in the back garden. I don’t know much else from there and haven’t yet got the strength to hear what happened, I may never have the strength. I still have so many nightmares, one of those nightmares is the moment my husband walked into the living room and told me that Alex had gone. I automatically thought it was a car crash and what ever it was, there was still a chance he was alive, but no. I couldn’t breathe through being sick, lying on that bathroom floor. I silently went to hospital, on what felt like the longest journey ever. I wanted the journey to last forever, I wanted to wake up from this nightmare. I saw my beautiful brother in hospital looking so peaceful. I always called him my big little brother because even though I was older than him, he looked after me, my protector. He was 6ft 3 and of medium build with a cute bum, big thighs and big hands. He was so handsome, always smart; my eyebrow threading partner.
Why, is the biggest question everyone has? How can life be so cruel? Alex was always so worried about catching illnesses and obsessively cleaned his hands when entering hospitals for his day job. I remember last year he hurt his arm and went to a and e to get it checked out when all he had done was pulled a muscle. How can his heart stop and Alex not have any symptoms? Alex went snowboarding at high altitude early in the year why didn’t something happen then when it’s such an intense sport? Why did I not know about sudden adult death syndrome? And why oh why aren’t young hearts tested on the NHS? I’m sure many people have had similar question, none of which will bring them back. Why after Alex are so many more young people still lying this world too soon?
The hospital staff were in disbelief and I saw many of the nurses crying, probably asking the same questions we were all thinking. At hospital, I was put on a monitor to check my baby, she was ok. My daughter was 6 days old when we celebrated Alex’s life. All his friends wore pink shirts, mainly because Alex was colourblind and it was a running joke between them. My little girl wore her wonderwoman outfit, little did I know that she was now going to be my wonderwoman; the one who gives us focus, a smile on our faces and a reason to go on. My mom was hysterical at Alex’s celebration and those visions still remain with me. The church was heaving with hundreds and hundreds of people, so many people standing outside. My brother had touched so many peoples lives and losing Alex has left such a hole in our lives. People try and advise you how to grieve which just makes me angry. I know they’re only trying to help but how can they possibly understand? I can’t understand what mom is going through and she can’t understand how I feel?! Scared? Scared of grieving because I’m now a mommy and my little girl needs me as well as my mom, more than ever. I can’t lose anyone else. My daughter gives me so much strength and always put a smile on my face when I’m feeling sad. Some people don’t even ask you if you’re ok anymore, I think its fear of breaking down on them or not knowing what to say.
Our lives will never be the same again and somehow we have to go on for Alex and my baby. I believe my brother is around, looking over us and my beautiful daughter. I’m trying to live my life like Alex lived his, he taught me a lot. He was never shy, feared anything, yet so sensitive and caring. I believe I will see him again, one day but not yet. I try not to think to far into the future because I panic and find it hard to breath. When I turn 35 years old, he should be 30, Alex will never see my little girl grow up, he will never come snowboarding or on holiday ever again, he won’t get married or have children. He will never hug me again. Things weren’t supposed to be like this but when I see him again, it will be for eternity. Me and muddy duck love you stink. Our Al.
Since this devastation, myself, his girlfriend and Alex’s friends have been organising events and raising money for CRY. So far we have raised £8,000 from events such as a charity football match, donations given at Alex’s celebration and the London CRY walk where we took a coach of 40 of Alex’s family and friends down to London. We are now in the throws of organising a charity rugby match with his friends playing. Alex loved rugby, already having tickets for us all to go and watch the Rugby World Cup. I’m also setting up a memorial fund for Alex so we can hold a heart screening event of our own as well as raising money to install defibrillators in some of Alex’s favourite places. Even if just one life is saved, that one less family heartache that ripples through so many people and lasts forever.
Rachel Dingle, Alex’s sister