Is halfway through a good place to be or a bad place to be?
Halfway out of darkness, half into the light.
But do you always know that you are halfway through or can you only know this looking back when it’s over?
Is even calling something “halfway” the sign of an optimist, or the sign of someone desperate to put a marker up to say that even though there is still some way to go, there’s a measureable space that’s gone and past?
I was in Oxford on Friday at a meeting for Making Families Count. We were there to discuss what we’re doing to get ready for next year. There was the usual mixture of everyone talking and lots of laughs, some moments so acutely painful, some statements that made your hair stand on end and some moments desperately sad and hilariously funny. But as I came away from the meeting it very much felt as if we were acknowledging everything we had learned from the first year; chucking out some bits and keeping other bits as we moved forward with a lot more knowledge and confidence into our next year. Not halfway by any means and in fact with a project of this kind I suspect there’ll never be a halfway.
After this meeting I had another meeting. I went to talk to one of the people who will be on the interview panel with me next week at the final interview to appoint the head of the Independent Investigation into Nico’s death. We talked about the last set of interviews, about the next one and also about what’s going on at the moment in the world of justice fighting. A world where many halfways, many endings and sadly, still too many new beginnings, are always going on.
After I left her it occurred to me that we are halfway through.
Maybe I’m wrong in that. Maybe I’ll only know for sure when I reach that vague, shapeless place which now only exists in my imagination. The place called “the end”. But it seems to me that the search for justice after Nico’s death has come in two parts. Part one was definitely the inquest. Not only the inquest itself, but the years of tortuous investigation, all the meetings, the countless emails, reading the awful statements, the hours spent writing even more awful statements. The hours, days, weeks, months and years of reading and re-reading everything written by our legal team, by their legal team and dealing with the frightful, traumatic contents of the so-called “bundles”. The crushing search to find the money to pay for representation at the inquest, the endless worry about funding and funding running out. Finding a legal team and trying to understand anything they said to us. Over and over and over. It was all part of the inquest. That was a very, very long 2 years and 4 months.
For me all of that time was part of the inquest and if the inquest was “part one” then it seems to me that the independent investigation is part two. We were told many times that no matter how much the inquest felt like the culmination of the long, long fight, almost two and half years out of our lives; in fact it wasn’t and that what came after the inquest would be every bit as important, if not even more important. I couldn’t see that or really get my head around that concept while the inquest was still on-going. The inquest felt like a many-headed beast which completely ruled my life and all my thoughts.
But now that it’s over I see more clearly that it really was just part one. It ended. Unbelievably we have waited almost a year for the Independent Investigation to begin, for part two to begin and in that time I have been very busy. Personal growth, I’ve discovered, is tiring. But it feels like another gift from Nico.
I thought the fight for justice was the last, best present I could ever give my son. But in doing it my son has in return, given me a gift so precious; a gift that I can take with me everywhere I go for the whole of the rest of my life.
He has helped me to become who I was always meant to be.
On the journey home, driving towards the train station, my taxi took a short cut through the backstreets and took me through a street where I had never been before. We hit rush hour traffic and held in a long queue of cars I could clearly read the road sign for this street; “The Slade”. A name that once would have meant nothing to me, but now meant such a lot. We inched slowly up the road in heavy traffic and slowly, slowly inched past the horrid building where Connor Sparrowhawk died. I had never been past it before and only recognised it from the news. The sight of it chilled me.
I wondered if Connor’s family ever have to pass this awful place and how they must feel if/when they do.
I thought that I will never ever again go past the house where Nico died. I know I will never again have to even enter the place which holds the house where my son cried out for help that never came. For a trusted, caring someone to save him from the death that he feared most.
Yesterday the first week of Connor’s inquest ended. One more week to go.