It is only in times of sadness and horror do you realise what matters. 2 years ago, I sat on a cold winter’s morning saying goodbye to my two favourite people. As they kissed me goodbye, I felt so happy knowing that they were together, knowing that in their lives the only thing that mattered was each other. Safe and completely reliant on the love they shared, oblivious to what was going to happen.
Ten hours later I sat alone in a hospital room with Louis, on our own. For the first time in his life, he was apart from his ma-maa. The horror of the situation barely registered. Torn from her arms she lay no more than 50 feet from where we sat, with an army of some of the most incredible people, fighting to keep her alive. At that moment I was at peace. Having been told Louis had died and Rachael wasn't likely to make it I knew it was ok. At least they'll always be together I thought. I don't know why that was comforting to me, but nevertheless it was what I needed to stay strong, an acknowledgement that even if things got worse for me there was something positive.
"At that moment I was at peace."
As the sun rose the next morning, having just got home from a night at hospital, nothing had sunk in. As I sat in our lonely bedroom without Louis or Rachael, I said to myself you've got two choices, you give up on everything or you be strong.
A few hours before, I had overheard some doctors at the hospital talking about me, one said something, referring to me as 'Louis' dad'. This was the first time I'd ever heard anyone say that. I'd never thought of myself as Louis's dad, but at that moment I knew who I was and I needed to be, it was crystal clear. Without a moment’s hesitation I got in the shower, got dressed and then started another day, a day that two years on still hasn't finished. A lifelong journey now to get some sort of justice for Louis and a promise to make sure his ma-maa survived and was ok.
For the next year I carried on, being incredibly strong and devoting my life to ensuring Louis' ma-maa got better. I was told numerous times, she won't survive, if she does, she'll require round the clock care for the rest of her life and one day she'll likely die of infection or some complication. Even in the best scenario she will never be independent, she'll have significant mental or physical issues. Whilst I understood what doctors told me I was going to accept this, she deserved better, Louis deserved better. The truth is I lied. I lied to myself, I lied to my family and I lied to Rachael. I knew things were bad, but if you give up then that's it, you just accept the worst with an inevitability that the worst is now the reality. I wasn't willing to accept that. I wasn't willing to give up on our family.
"The truth is I lied. I lied to myself, I lied to my family and I lied to Rachael."
Suffering trauma means you go through many stages of emotion. I know today that I'm still 'not right', you feel sudden waves of sadness or guilt that you can't explain. You just feel it and it makes no sense. After well over a year of lying to myself I stopped and decided it was time to face the music. I had let Louis and Rachael down. I was there to protect them and I didn't. I knew that there were no more lies I could tell myself to conceal this. The question was, how could I live with it. At that point we had 'moved forward' by moving back to London and leaving our family home. The truth is we hadn't moved forward, we had run away. We ran away from our lives, our homes, our memories, the happiness but also the horror.
"The truth is we hadn't moved forward, we had run away. We ran away from our lives, our homes, our memories, the happiness but also the horror."
I couldn't cope. I had to return home and deal with what I had run away from. Rachael will never understand why, but it was what I needed to do to get better. I was a different person when I was back in my home, the home where Louis lived, his home, our home. Every room full of memories and every piece of furniture a history of us and our family. I ran away but I came back to deal with the past.
With a certain inevitability I started this year thinking positively, the past 2 years were gone, I had so much to look forward to, my ultra-positive mindset working overtime. New job, new family, new opportunities. But then the horror of the past catches up with you, the happy memories tarnished by sad, the happy family times eradicated by arguments and the fight for justice broken by incompetence, laziness and unearned privilege.
But then it dawned on me. I’m not moving forward, that’s just a smokescreen. I’m running away. I’m running away from the sadness and pain, I’m running away from the people who don’t matter and most of all I’m running away from the loss I’ve suffered.
I'm running to a happier place and my Louis is with me everywhere I go. I always know we'll be together and that's enough for me.
The Louis Thorold Foundation is a charity registered in England and Wales with the aim of preventing all deaths of children on Britain's roads. For more information about our campaigns or to donate visit www.louisthorold.com.