It was the day after my 28th birthday, 26th August 2008.
Everything was going well. I loved my new job and my brother was enjoying the first day of his annual leave. After a very busy day at work I was rushing to get home to my second job but was confused when my Aunt Margaret was there instead of Dad to collect me from the station. As soon as I walked in Dad approached me and instantly I knew something was wrong.
Only four years earlier Mum had been diagnosed with leukaemia. When Dad said “something terrible has happened” I remember screaming for Mum. Dad explained Nolan had collapsed and “there was nothing they could do”.
I fell to the floor and started hyperventilating. Someone called work, explaining I would not be in. When I tried to call Sarah, a close friend, the words would not come out. Dad took the phone and within minutes she was there with her husband, my other best friend Kristy and my boyfriend. They gave me great strength: I am thankful they were there that evening.
Apparently Nolan was watching TV when his stepdaughter left to pop out to the shop that morning. Twenty minutes later she returned home to find him on the floor. At first she thought he was joking around but called her brother and then an ambulance when they realised it was serious.
Nolan had suddenly died age 30 and there was nothing anyone could have done to bring him back.
I felt empty inside.
I broke down every time friends and family visited. I wouldn’t talk about the funeral. The first thing people said was “how are your Mum and Dad?”. Siblings hurt too. Losing Nolan was not just losing a brother but losing my best friend, my security and the person who helped me through bad times.
Close family started arriving at my parents’ house the morning of the funeral which was the hardest day of my life. I did not know what to do or how to act, and was overrun with emotions that could not be put into words. My friend Michelle said she would never forget my scream when the cars turned up to take us.
Hundreds of people were in the church when we arrived. It made me feel happy inside that so many people cared about my brother, and us. There were friends we had not seen in years and teachers from our junior school. All may only have been in his life for a short time but that impact had been memorable for them.
Leading up to the funeral I put a page on Facebook to let everyone know, and to make connections with as many people as possible for him to have the best send off. I feel I did him proud and he would feel special to have so many people there.
Everyone kept telling me I would feel better after the funeral, but in some ways I felt worse. Everyone around us was continuing with their lives, but my parents and I were struggling to know how to continue our lives without him.
We have always been a close family and the four of us never let anyone come between
us. Now there were only three so we had to be even tighter. We did everything together and it definitely has made us stronger. I did not get involved with the Inquest. Mum and Dad must have kept it from me.
They were brilliant because through all the upset of losing a son they were still making sure I was being looked after.
They could not understand how this could happen to a young, healthy and well loved man. Even though they were blessed with lots of amazing friends and family they did not know anyone who had been through this.
A friend had heard something on the radio about CRY so Dad searched the Internet and they found the CRY bereavement days a huge comfort.
On reflection there were things that had made Nolan very happy before he died. In May 2008 he got married and I was very proud to be a bridesmaid. His honeymoon was in Canada where he spent quality time with his cousins, aunts and uncles who live there. This now means a lot to all of us and my parents and I have since visited too, hearing stories of all the fun they had during the three weeks.
Also, on the night of my birthday I had the longest phone conversation I had ever had with my brother. I will treasure that phone call for the rest of my life. Was it fate the night before we lost him?
When I returned to work I became very successful in my job and attribute the inner strength I found to my brother.
In December 2010 Mum’s leukaemia returned and, sadly, she passed away on 10th December 2011. Part of me wonders if the leukaemia came back because of losing Nolan.
Mum lost some of her sparkle after 26th August 2008, and I like to think they are back together again.
Three years on and I am still struggling to come to terms with the huge loss.
I find talking about him really helps as I still want him to be a huge part of my life. There are lots of things that affect me. I find it very hard to tolerate people complaining about small things and become short tempered. I am honest with my feelings and tell people if I am having a bad day.
I worry about the future without a sibling, how to handle losses without him and am sad that when I get married, or have children, he will not be there
celebrating with me.
I try to remain happy and live my life as I know this is what Nolan would have wanted. Nolan you will always be a part of me and I know you will always be guiding me. We had a great 28 years together and I am so proud to be your sister.
I know you and Mum are looking after each other.
Dad and I miss you both every day.