Our son Sam was born on the 12 of November 1991, he was an “adventurous” boy with us always having to have eyes in the back of our head. He was into everything from ironing the carpet, flooding the house, and at four years old reversing my car off the driveway. Sam struggled with his behaviour throughout his school life and by the age of 14 the Education Department had pretty much washed their hands of him. So at 15 he came to work for me in my CCTV business and he blossomed, he loved being around the other engineers and learnt very quickly and became the most reliable, trustworthy and hard working person on the team. In 2010 following a night out he got into a fight which led to him being sent to prison for 8 months, this was tough on us as a family and we made sure we went to visit every week. On his release he threw himself into the gym training at least 5-6 days a week, he was on a strict diet and his goal was to compete in the British Power Lifting Championships. He was a transformed person and totally dedicated, he made a load of new friends that were to prove to be a god send to us as a family. Sam not only competed at the GPC Powerlifting event but smashed a number of British records, we were so proud of him and what he had achieved.
In August of 2014 Sam was involved in what could have been a fatal road accident when for no apparent reason he blacked out at the wheel and swerved across the road into oncoming traffic. Fortunately he just clipped a car and ended up in a ditch, the car was a write-off but gladly Sam was ok. This was something that we should have taken a lot more notice of but Sam being the man he was shrugged it off and thought no more about it.
In the summer of 2015 Sam was to meet the girl of his dreams. He fell madly in love with Kim and his life was complete, they certainly were a stunning couple, they shared loads of weekends away and holidays abroad living the life most young couples dream of. Sam worked hard fitting in his own CCTV domestic jobs on a weekend and he would always say that if you wanted the nice things in life you had to work hard to get them. This work very quickly snowballed to the point where between us we decided that it would be good for Sam to set up his own business, to continue to work for me a few days a week but to then concentrate on getting his own business properly up and running. He got a new website set up, cards and brochures printed and took on a lease on a new van which he fully kitted out with all the tools and equipment he would need so by the end of November 2016 he was all set to go. He had the world at his feet with a whole future ahead of him could life get any better?
Over the months leading up to the night of December the 17th Sam had been complaining of heart palpitations but again Sam being Sam was “too busy” to go to the doctors, my wife had even said to him the Thursday before that she would make an appointment for him but again he was too busy. The 16th of December started out the same as any other day, as a family we were looking forward to Christmas which was always a big deal in our home, Sam had been to the hairdressers before coming home to get showered and ready for his night out with friends in Liverpool, they had booked a hotel so they would stay overnight. As always he gave us all a hug before bouncing out our door with the words “love you Mum, love you Dad, see you tomorrow” and our reply as normal “have a great time, just behave yourself and stay out of trouble”.
The following morning my wife received numerous messages from Kim asking if she had heard from Sam as she hadn’t heard from him since about 2.30am when he messaged her to say he was on his way back to the hotel. This was unusual as Sam would always ring or text, we tried ringing, his phone wasn’t answered and now we started to worry, at about half two I decided to ring the hotel and was passed across to the hotel manager, his words sent a chill right through my body “all I can confirm is that there has been an incident and the police are here at the moment”. Our immediate thought was that maybe he had fallen out with his mates and caused some damage to the room. At 3.30pm I spotted a police car drive past our front window it turned round and the police officer came to the front door, he politely asked who we were and asked us to sit down, as soon as he said that we knew this was serious. He confirmed that Sam had returned to the hotel about 3am getting up to let one of his friends in about 20 minutes later, at 1.30pm that afternoon the maid knocked on the door to get the lads on their way as they should have checked out at 11. Both Sams friends woke up, but Sam didn’t move he was “still asleep”. Despite shouting and shaking him he still didn’t wake up!!!! They quickly called the paramedics who pronounced Sam dead at the scene. How could this be? How could a fit, healthy young man just go to sleep and not wake up? Our whole world collapsed. Our precious boy would never walk through our door, we would never get to hear his voice or his funny little laugh or feel his strong arms around us again. Sam was released back into our care the following Wednesday once the autopsy had been completed, he was taken to a local funeral home and we were able to go and see him that evening. He looked like he was just sleeping, looking immaculate and on point, oh how I wished that he would just get up and for this all to be just some crazy nightmare but that was never going to happen. Sam had been staying at Kim’s house for a couple of months so a few nights later myself my wife and my daughter went over to sort through Sam’s belongings, it was whilst going through one of the large plastic tubs that we discovered a small box, on opening it we saw a stunning engagement ring, Sam had obviously been planning this as a surprise Christmas present for Kim. Kim just burst into tears and taking the ring from out of the box slid it on to her wedding finger saying “I would have married your son in an instant”. So many plans, such an amazing year ahead and sadly Sam was never going to see it. Christmas was tough but we made it the best we could, we had to make it as special as possible for our other three children and three grandchildren. It was pretty much the same for New Year’s Eve, how could it be a “happy new year” with what had just happened?
The funeral was arranged for January the 4th, the funeral cars came to our home, the funeral director walked in front as we made our way to the church, four of his gym friends, two either side and Kim’s father bringing up the rear. Our village seemed to come to a standstill that day, the church was bursting at the seams with Sam’s family, friends from the gym, friends from the village as well as our own personal friends all wanting to say their last goodbyes. It was a send off I know he would have been proud of.
Since this happened as a family we have wanted to make a difference in our local community to try and prevent this happening to another young person and a family having to go through the sadness and devastation that we go through every day. With this in mind we provisionally booked the first weekend in February 2018 to get 200 local young people screened and set about raising the funds to do this. We have been overwhelmed with the support we have received from friends and family in helping us to raise both awareness and the funds to cover the cost of the screening, there was a non school uniform day at Sam’s old infants/junior school, 26 of us took on the Zipline Challenge in May the longest zipline in Europe, three friends ran in the Chester Half Marathon, 12 friends did a 160 mile bike ride round North Wales, Sam’s gym friends allowed us to attend the Chester GPC Power Lifting event with collection tins, myself and my daughter stood outside a local nightclub with collection buckets and 60 local shops and businesses have taken a collection tin. With this massive support network and peoples generosity I am pleased to say we have smashed the target in just four months and can now start putting money to one side for another screening weekend in 2019. We have also had the most amazing news recently that thanks to the awareness we have blasted across social media a young 21-year-old seemingly fit and healthy young lady has taken note and following her collapse at work went to a local hospital. There she was diagnosed with a heart condition and is now in the process of receiving ongoing treatment and is the first of what we hope will be many young people saved.
Sam will always be in our hearts. The void he left can never be filled, some days it still doesn’t feel real and we just expect him to come bounding through the door, but as a family we have been able to rely on each other and have supported each other through these darkest of times and been able to find a strength that we know comes from the way Sam lived his life.