by Gaz Coward
This is where my story begins with a Catalyst.
| My life as a film-maker started the day I lost my father.
The date was January 17th 2002 and my dad had been working the night shift for a milk processing plant for the past three weeks. He took his work very seriously, since his very first day at the age of only sixteen, and saying he was now forty one that just shows how dedicated he was. Each evening he would arrive home at around three pm, go to bed for a few hours then wake up at six pm, unfortunately, on the 17th January this would not be the case.
My mum had just finished making tea and it was almost time to wake my dad, my mum said
"Go and give your dad a shout"
I agreed and made my way upstairs. It was pitch black and I'll admit, even though I was fifteen the dark still kind of freaked me out, to be honest I don't think anyone ever gets over the fear of darkness, correct?
As I reached the top of the stairs I was expecting my dad either to be awake or still snoring his head off. I slowly pushed open the door and made my way into the darkened room. My dad wasn't really that much of a deep sleeper so I only had to whisper to wake him up, so I did just that
"Dad, tea's ready"
There was no reply so I raised my voice a little more "Dad, mum says tea's ready" again there was no reply so I shouted "DAD, ARE YOU AWAKE?" Again still no reply, I was about to turn the light on but then hesitated because if he was in a deep sleep and I'd switched the light on and woken him he would go absolutely mental at me, so instead I felt my way deeper into the room, leant over the bed and poked him. Still he didn't reply so I did what any teenager in that situation would do, I shook him hard. My dad still did not wake up so I gave up, left the room and went back down stairs where my mum greeted me at the bottom, she looked at me with a look of "well?" I replied with "I can't wake him, you better try" she didn't understand what I meant because I had never had trouble waking him in the past, but like I asked her to do she made her way upstairs and I went back into the living room and continued watching TV.
Suddenly, there was a huge scream from upstairs. My younger brother, four years younger than myself jumped to his feet. I did the same and we both ran upstairs. The screaming was coming from my parents' room. The light was now on, when we got inside my mum was standing over my dad who was completely blue in the face, the tip of his tongue was just visible sticking out of his mouth accompanied with purple lips. My mum continued to panic screaming for us to call an ambulance. My brother ran around the bed and grabbed the phone from the side dresser, I didn't know what to do but what I did know is that I was running back down stairs, heading for the front door. I grabbed the handle and rushed outside. A group of friends were standing outside a house next door but one of them was my best friend at the time, Iain Fenton. They shouted my name, I didn't turn and look back, I just continued running in the opposite direction. I ran around the corner, down Coniston Avenue which would lead me to my scout leaders' house Graham Edwards. Finally I reached his front door and began banging on it; the door looked as if it was going to leave the frame work from the frustration of my efforts to get him to answer.
When Graham finally answered the door he had a look of anger on his face as if he thought I was impatient or something, but when I said the words "It's my dad, He.... He's die...." he sprung into action, he rushed back into the house, I didn't hang around and wait but left quicker than I arrived to head back to my house and assist my mum. For some reason, I had a weird feeling of trust in Graham to help assist my mum with the resuscitation technique because he was a trained first aider. It turns out most scout leaders are these days. I ran back the way I came but just as I exited Graham's road I heard a shout from a familiar voice. I turned to see Stuart, my friend and son of Graham trying to catch up with me. Stuart was also a trained first aider, mainly because his parents had him doing all the same courses they had taken themselves throughout the years. Stuart joined me on the run back to my house. On reaching the driveway, a group of bystanders were already starting to ask questions and wonder what was going on. I wasn't really bothered what they were doing. We were about to tell them what was going on just as Graham pulled up, he didn't park his car but instead skidded into position in the middle of the road, I think he was blocking traffic so that when the ambulance arrived, they had room to manoeuvre my dad on a stretcher, Graham rushed upstairs. He must have really cared because I noticed he had no shoes on, only socks.
Twenty minutes into the ordeal and the first responder, and I use first responder in a very clear way. I always thought that when someone has a serious accident, heart attack or anything along those lines that two or three first responders turn up! It took another ten minutes for the second one to arrive. The other thing that baffles me is that they didn't go upstairs to assist my mum and Graham but instead tried there hardest to keep me, Stuart and my little brother downstairs. Trust me, my brother wasn't listening because this is the first time I witnessed him lose his cool. The first responders kept telling us to stay calm, don't go upstairs and don't leave the house. My brother couldn't hold back anymore, he ran out of the living room and almost tripped over the first responders bag which lay on the floor, he quickly reached down, grabbed it then swung round and threw it at the first responder without a care in the world. I swear he almost knocked the woman out.
Another ten minutes went by and even more people were starting to gather outside the house. Why is it that when a life and death situation is taking place, people can't help but intrude and ask questions? Don't worry.... you don't have to answer that because I've been asking myself that question for years and I've put it down to instinct. January 17th, 2002 has stuck in mind and I don't think I will ever forget it. I remember sitting on the couch, my heart pounding with the thought of my dads life fading away. I was staring at the clock and twenty minutes into the ordeal I finally heard the sirens from the ambulance. Stuart jumped to his feet "I'll run to the end of the street" he said, "Ok, I'll stand at the end of the driveway" I replied to make sure the paramedics found the house. I exited the house, looked at the group of now ten teenagers and shouted my mouth off. Even though they were my mates, I couldn't hold back my words which to this day, I know hurt them and the reason I know is because none of them have ever had the guts to repeat what I said. The group of teenagers turned their backs on me and walked away. I slowly walked out into the middle of the road and I laid eyes on the flashing blue neon lights of the ambulance speeding towards me. I moved to the side as the vehicle came to a stop in the middle of the road as Graham's car was still blocking the traffic in the opposite direction from his quick thinking twenty minutes earlier.
The paramedics jumped out of the ambulance and quickly rushed inside the house as I told them where my dad was and that my mum and friends dad were already doing CPR. As I was about to follow the paramedics, I heard another vehicle come to a stop outside the house, when I say a stop, I mean the car literally skidded a few feet past the house. It was Russell, my dads brother, my uncle. I told Russell that if he wanted to go upstairs and help the paramedics, I wouldn't stand in his way. His eyes started to fill up. I could tell he was trying to hold back the tears as he made his way inside the house. Just as he was about to head upstairs, the first responder stepped in his path and told him it was best to stay downstairs asthe paramedics knew what they were doing and everything would be ok.
Russell took a step back as we could hear the commotion from upstairs. The paramedics wanted to get my dad off to hospital as quickly as possible which meant putting him on a stretcher and putting him in the back of the ambulance. Russell realised my dads car was parked in the driveway and that would hinder their efforts. He turned and grabbed the keys from the hook and rushed back outside. He unlocked the car and jumped in, started the engine then started backing it out of the driveway, because we live in such a small village, the driveways weren't that big either which made it very hard for my uncle to back the car out onto the road. Remember Grahams car was in the way, my uncles car was in the way and to make it an even harder job the ambulance and bystanders were also in the way. Oh yeah..... Did I mention the two first responder's cars also being in the way? My uncles emotions had completely taken over his body which meant, he didn't give a shit what or who was in the way causing him to un-expectantly scrape the whole passenger side of the car against the back of the ambulance. Let's just say, the car was pretty beaten up by this point. The next few minutes happened very quickly so please try and keep up with me - Once the car was out of the way the paramedics carried my dad downstairs on the stretcher, out of the door and finally out into the road and into the back of the ambulance. They didn't hang around for much longer as my mum climbed into the ambulance with one paramedic as the other closed the doors, jumped in the drivers side, sounded the siren, put the vehicle in gear and put his foot down. My uncle told me that my dad would be ok as he jogged over to his car and jumped in to follow the ambulance up to the hospital, Stuart, Graham and I watched the street become silent just as it was before the events unfolded. I don't actually remember much of what took place in the hours that followed, but I do remember a few small details, these being the following.....
oI remember walking down the street to my friend's house and for some unknown reason knocking on the door, not to ask for my friend but to say 8 words "My dad has been rushed to the hospital"
oGraham left and went home to try and grab his thoughts on what had just taken place but left Stuart to spend some quiet time with me.
oI couldn't bare entering back into my house for the rest of the evening; I just stood at the end of the driveway smoking cigarettes. (2 packs of twenty to be exact)
oThe final thing I remember was my grandparents car pulling up next to me at around 11pm, my granddad stepped out of the vehicle, he had a tear in his eye and he said the most dreaded words in the English language "Sorry son, there was nothing they could do, your dad died at the hospital"
Have you ever been to the cinema and watched a film such as a period drama where someone from the main cast dies and his/her life flashes before their eyes? That's exactly what happened to me thirty seconds after my granddad told me my dad had died. It's very hard to imagine what you see unless you've lost someone very close to you and experienced it for yourself. One day, it will happen and I personally would never wish something like that upon anyone. When my father was alive I would plan what I was going to be doing three to four weeks in advance, but now I live my life one day at a time, I don't plan anything because for all I know, tomorrow I could leave my house, walk down the street and be struck by a bus.
Later that night, I think it was around eleven pm, my mum finally got back from the hospital. My uncle realised that my brother and I were in a bad state of mind. He also realised we hadn't eaten, so he offered to take us out for something while my grandparents stayed with my mum to comfort her in the passing of my father. At the time it was a very good idea in my mind that we should have gone and got something to eat, but when we actually arrived at the local takeaway and ordered the food, the fact of actually eating what we had bought didn't appeal to us at all!
Placing the food in our mouths was like eating a worm from the garden, it just didn't taste good. I know for a fact that I was very hungry and needed to eat my food but I couldn't, images from what had happened earlier that night were still fresh in my mind, in fact they still are to this day.
Let's fast forward a couple of weeks to the day of my father's funeral....
February 4th was the day in which the whole family woke up to a doormat piled up with cards of condolences. There were so many, it would take me forever to post every name and message within this paragraph so I'll just say they were all very appreciated that day, days to follow and for years to come. On getting out of bed I opened my curtains to a very nice day, the sun was shining and the birds were singing, all nice and relaxed but then I remembered why I was up so early because to be honest getting up has never been my strong point, I'm a bed person, if you know what I mean? So anyway, I got dressed into a shirt, tie and pants and went into the front room, I realised I was the first person up so I went to turn on the TV, only to be interrupted with a knock at the door. I went and answered it. It was my best mate Iain Fenton. I invited him in and we went into the kitchen, made a brew and smoked a cigarette, yes that's right a cigarette, the exact same thing that killed my dad.
As we sipped our brews and smoked in the corner of the room I kept looking at Iain and asking him why he was so quiet, he kept replying with "forget it!" I knew it was something concerning my dad, after all we were burying him later that day.
A few minutes into our conversation, I realised that Iain had his paper bag over his shoulder so I looked up at the clock and noticed it was 08:00am, I had woken up way to early. Maybe that's why Iain was quiet because he knew I was never the person to get up early, no matter what day it was. Our conversation lasted a total of forty five minutes, with Iain's final words "See you later mate, take care and don't do anything stupid." I knew what he was referring to as a few days earlier I told all my friends that I wasn't going to attend the funeral; it was a stupid thing said at a stupid time. I wasn't thinking straight.
Later that day, I think it was around eleven am, I could be wrong but that's what my brain is telling me, the hearse pulled up at the end of the driveway. People came out of their houses and just stood at the end of the driveway to pay their respects. My brother and I walked to the end of the driveway and the first thing we saw was the wreaths of flowers that surrounded the coffin, one was spelt "IN LOVING MEMORY" the other was "HUSBAND" and the final one was "DAD".
Finally, behind the hearse arrived the passenger car, my mum, brother and I jumped in the car along with my grandparents and we slowly set off. As we rolled down the street, a few cars joined the first two and we made our way to the end of the street. As we reached the end of our street we turned left, then down the main road and finally we left the main road and turned into a side road where the United Reformed church was located. It was only a small church and big enough for the ceremony size that my mum had planned. The following was easier said than done, yes guests were already standing outside the church but that was nothing until everyone laid eyes on a passenger coach as it left the main road and struggled to pull into the side road. It was home to over forty - fifty of my dads work colleagues from the milk processing plant in Bamber Bridge just past Preston. As the coach pulled into the church car-park everyone got off, luckily if my mum hadn't have put names to some of the faces, you would have sworn they were gate crashing. Once all the guests had arrived, we headed inside the church. I remember the songs that were played during the ceremony but, unfortunately I can't remember the exact order they were played in. The songs were: My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion & Endless Love by Diana Ross & Lionel Ritchie.
Let's fast forward a little more to after the ceremony....
We all got on our feet and left the church. My father's coffin was placed in the back of the hearse once again and just like earlier me, my mum and my brother got into the funeral homes passenger car along with my grandparents and the guests got into their own cars and we began to follow the hearse down the road to the village's big church on the very outskirts. I remember the drive down to the bigger church very well as this time, it wasn't just a few cars following the hearse; instead there were over ten - twenty five cars in one big convoy.
When we arrived at the bigger church, the funeral directors waited until everyone was out of their cars so they could again lift the coffin from the back of the vehicle and carry it over to the graveside. As they did this, I watched along with another guest. My mum was crying, my brother was also crying along with my grandparents and guests, the only problem was, I wasn't crying and I couldn't cry. I don't know why but I still haven't cried to this day. I should be saying, "I have not grieved for my dad but I so badly wish I could but the tears just won't come". As we stood by the graveside the vicar read a passage from the Bible and the coffin was lowered into the ground. Iain was standing opposite me, every so often he would glance over and give me a little grin from the corner of his mouth. It was his way of letting me know he knew what I was experiencing and that he was there if I needed someone to talk to. To end the ceremony we grabbed a handful of soil from a little box, this would be our final goodbye. I don't truly understand what throwing soil onto a coffin means but I kind of have an idea; I think it symbolizes the body returning to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust....I could be wrong but let's hope I'm on the right track, worshipping god has never been a strong point of mine so I apologize to anyone if what I said about throwing soil onto a coffin is wrong.
When the funeral finally came to an end, everyone slowly started dispersing, some stayed and stared at my father's coffin for a little while, most of the people who did this were my dad's colleagues. When they turned and left the graveside, they approached my mum and gave her their final condolences. One man had a few short words to say which have stuck in my mind since that very day.... "I told him time and time again that he should have slowed down, but he didn't, he just kept on rushing around" I actually walked away when the man said those words because I don't honestly think it was the right time or place, I'll let you decide. I walked over to Iain who was standing off to one side while his mum paid her condolences to my mum. Again, he didn't have much to say other than "sorry mate, I can't imagine what you're going through". Once everyone had said their final words of condolence, we all headed back to the vehicles to drive down to a local pub for some food and drinks.
On arriving at the pub, we all walked in to find the guests already standing around and enjoying drinks with family and friends. I laid eyes on some very familiar faces, two of my best friends from high school, Ben Reynolds & Jamie Dawson. I knew they had attended the funeral, but because of the circumstances, I didn't see them in church. To be honest, I don't think anyone really notices anything or anyone at a funeral, you always kind of blank things out and go into your own world. Ben & Jamie were standing by the pool table, Jamie held out his arm, handed me a cue and said "Go on mate, rack 'em up!"
That saying was very popular with Jamie when we attended high school.