It was eighteen months on Christmas Eve 2009 since my son Luke died and I’m still struggling to find words adequate to describe both Luke and the impact of his death.
On June 24th 2008 I’d gone straight from work to Luke’s house; he had only just moved in and the house really wasn’t liveable-in and he was literally camping in a bedroom. My job for the evening was to put kitchen units together prior to the cooker being fitted – he could then at least stop surviving on takeaways! Early evening Luke arrived home from work and as he pulled up in front of the house the tyre on his car blew. My husband and Luke tried unsuccessfully to change the tyre but quickly gave up. Luke was fretting about everything he still had to do including picking up his girlfriend from work and going to the gym as well as eating and working on his house. I lent him my car and said we would try and sort out the tyre while he was gone. That was the last time we saw him alive.
At approximately 8 o’clock that evening I had a call to say there had been an incident and Luke had collapsed at the wheel of the car. We were told to go straight to A & E. I have no idea why, whether it was the wording the policewoman used on the phone, but there was this cold fear in the pit of my stomach and from then on nothing seemed to take me by surprise. The three of us – me, my youngest son and my husband – were shown straight to a family room where we were joined by the policewoman and Luke’s girlfriend. Medics came in and out asking questions then briefly everyone left. When the police, the doctor and the nurses all came back in, I knew. Despite the efforts of a passerby and the paramedics by 9.00pm he had been pronounced dead. Luke died at 24 years old of Hypertrophic Cardiomyiopathy.
Luke was the middle of my three sons; he was a real character and larger than life in so many ways. From the moment he was born Luke seemed to have something to prove, he was never satisfied unless everything he did was bigger, better, stronger than everyone else and of course he demanded to be loved the most. Of course I love all my sons equally but some of you will recognise that some children just demand more, Luke was one of those and somehow that makes the loss seem even greater.
As a small child Luke was found to be seriously allergic to many different foods; as a result he was on a very restricted diet – this turned into a lifelong obsession with healthy eating (apart from fast food of course). As a youngster Luke was either giving life 120% or he was asleep; there were never any half measures with Luke and he continued like that as an adult. He worked harder than anyone I have ever met and was determined to achieve something with his life. He would work all day, come home, go to the gym and renovate his house; there were periods when he owned his first house that he had a day and evening job and still managed to renovate a house. This was the second house he had bought which he was going to do up, he’d also just got planning permission to build another house on the site; life was exciting for him with so much to look forward to. Luke still managed to find plenty of time for a busy social life. He was a talented sportsman and until very recently Luke had played hockey for Middleton and Bognor 1st Team and as a teenager he played for Sussex and had trials for the England under 18 squad.
The previous year Luke had both a hernia and a broken wrist, when he returned to playing hockey in the autumn he complained of being breathless and couldn’t continue to play – we all wrongly assumed he was unfit after 10 months of no sport. Looking back – as I can’t stop doing – there were many signs that all was not right with Luke. He was exhausted all the time but we were not surprised – after all, look how much he was doing. Looking back at photographs his colour had changed with increasingly rosy cheeks, he was easily breathless and had briefly passed out but the doctor put this down to acute pain from his hernia. Why would you imagine these as signs his heart was failing? In retrospect I can’t understand how I could have missed all these things, after all I’m his Mum and Mums are supposed to know when something is wrong.
We held Luke’s funeral in the garden of our house under a large marquee and it poured all through the service. It was an unconventional funeral to reflect the kind of person Luke was. He was never interested in conforming and delighted in being different; if Luke was in the room everyone knew it. He was bright, funny, loud, articulate, loyal, affectionate, demanding and volatile I could go on but the words can’t even begin to describe him. Friends and family paid tribute to Luke and we all felt he would have been really proud of the whole event. Such a big personality leaves such a big hole. On the surface I’m surviving – I get on with my life, I go to work, I see family and friends I have a new granddaughter who is gorgeous but none of it is enough; mostly I feel like I’m going through the motions of life and it requires such an effort I am constantly exhausted.