Speak up for road safety – Danielle’s story

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Thursday 19 February 2009 is a day that will forever be etched in my memory. It was to be a day of celebration, a day to celebrate my youngest boy’s 5th birthday.

I spent my lunch break laughing and chatting with work colleagues decorating a birthday cake. After work I collected my two youngest boys and headed for home; excited and ready for a family celebratory birthday dinner.

Travelling home I was confronted by a road block: Ambulance, Police and Fire Brigade; I waited, then watched as the ambulance speed off and the road opened; standing there at the side of the road was my eldest boy.

Our lives were changed forever.

Inside that ambulance was my partner of 14 years, husband of 9 ½ years and father of my three beautiful boys.

Instinct, adrenaline and panic rushed in as the Police try to console and direct me; What happened? He what? How? Who was there? Why is my boy here? Who let my boy see something like this? My husband had crashed, crashed his motorbike into a nearby power pole and unknown to us, he was fighting for life.

I turn and look at the grief on my son’s face, I look at to what he is holding in his hand. It’s his Dad’s surf shell chain, what’s left of it. Each piece slowly falls from his hand to mine, and he starts looking for more pieces on the ground.

I stood and cried and cried some more; our lives were changed forever.

I called my brother in-law; I did not know they had just given way to that Ambulance, speeding on its way to hospital. His sister commented “poor bugger, whoever is in there”, it was her brother.

Family started coming over, to help, to celebrate my babies 5th birthday while I went to the hospital. I walked in and knew, I looked and just knew he wouldn’t survive. I looked again and screamed.

They say talk to him, he can hear; a special moment passed and I thought maybe just maybe. Then it was time to say goodbye, but what do you say to someone who you want see tomorrow? How do you say goodbye, when you don’t want to?

He gets air lifted out for greater medical help, the phone call to say he arrived comes but comes late. It comes full of sadness and grief, he didn’t make it. He passed away on touch down at the airport, it’s as though he needed to keep soring; such a free spirit he was.

A widow 1 month shy of my 30th birthday – I sat all night and cried, I cried for what we lost, I cried for what we would never have again and I cried for all the things we wanted, I cried for my boys; our lives were changed forever.

One by one the boys wake, eldest to youngest. They all come out hopeful, did the blood transfusions work? Did Daddy have surgery? Is Daddy coming home? I say the same thing over and over again, three times trying to comfort them. I was shattered and on auto pilot.

The week went by slow, funeral plans, family who couldn’t agree on outcomes and another birthday. My eldest boy turned 12. A happy day with a cloud of sadness hanging over.

Then the funeral comes and goes, flowers arrive and die, family who came, leave and yet I’m standing there not ready to move forward. I don’t want to do this alone, I can’t do this alone, how do I do this alone?

Our lives were changed forever.

The months roll by and we are lost, lost in our grief and not understanding. The autopsy results arrive, not only does it make it real, it’s raw. It will be one of the most heart wrenching and painful things to ever read; and all it did was create more questions…… when I wanted answers.

Why? Why would you be so stupid? Why would you choose to make that sort of decision? Why didn’t you stop to think of the ones who loved you most and ones you did too? Why were you so selfish? What about your boys? The one person to answer all the questions, couldn’t and wouldn’t, he was gone.

Each year the anniversary comes around and new emotions are stirred up, each child reacts differently depending on their age now. We’ve had the tears, we’ve had the anger, the ‘it’s unfair’, why us? We’ve had the silly and naughty behaviour.

Time helps heal but all the fun, happy and also that painful moment are never forgotten. For my boys growing up without a father, is hopefully the hardest thing in life they will ever have to endure. No one can replace their Dad, I can only keep being strong and try my best to be a positive role model and one hell of a fantastic Mum for them.

As an adult it’s shaped me to try be a better person. It’s an extremely harsh reality check that the little things in life don’t matter, what matters is those around you, the ones we love the most. It’s through supportive family, friendships and new found love that gives us hope, confidence and the extra will to keep living. Because that day, after one stupid and thoughtless decision, all our lives changed forever.

At the time, one of the greatest pieces of advice I received was from a Mum who was facing her own painful grief, “It’s not how far you’ve got to go, it’s how far you’ve come”. We may float, we ponder the ‘what if’, but each day the sun comes up and one foot will always go in front of the other; life is too short to be anything but happy.

Road trauma and fatalities of any cause have long lasting effects and great sadness for families and friends. I encourage everyone to “Speak Up for Road Safety”. Show your support and upload your “why” to Instagram, Twitter or the Join the Drive Facebook page and include #speakupselfie.

Danielle Gatehouse
Principal Customer Service Officer, Mount Isa