Since the Mazars Report on deaths in the care of Southern Health NHS Trust was leaked to the BBC on Wednesday it has burst out of our TV screens almost without ceasing. For families like ours, families both featured in the report and affected by the reporting, it has been incredibly hard. We had no warning, the first we knew about it was quite literally when we were seeing it on television for the first time.
It has been shocking. But we are families still living with the shock, the pain and the heartbreak of losing family members, so watching every report is almost an extension of this. These are emotions which every single family involved are used to dealing with. Most of us have already experienced years of anguish at the hands of Southern Health.
Now seeing it being discussed in the House of Commons, on the television and in the papers, seems almost surreal. Even more bizarre are the people in the pub, in the shop and in street who suddenly want to talk about it. They’ve had no interest in talking to us about it for 3 years, but now they do.
Perhaps the clue is in an email we received yesterday. I won’t say who sent it because it might embarrass him and I’m the last person who would ever want to cause embarrassment or suffering. I know suffering. Part of the email reads:“All the things you were saying, Rosi, when we were talking, were true – and it is terrible that it has taken all this time to bring it to light. I admire both of you enormously for your strength and for the way you have held things together in the face of such grief – and such injustice”
Never at any stage since Nico died has it occurred to me, till now, that anyone might think that what I was saying wasn’t completely true. Now I realise that perhaps one of the reasons why we have been distinctly lacking support from family and friends is because they (at worst) doubted the truth of what we were saying and (at best) thought it possible that our pain and grief was causing us to look for wrongdoing where there was none, or exaggerate what had happened to us.
Or simply see events through the distorted glass of grief.
Now they can see that not only have we said the truth, but even more powerfully, we are very far from being the only family it has happened to. Since Wednesday there has been so much discussion in the media about the “1,000 deaths”, meaning the 1.200 people who have died in the care of Southern Health.
The focus seems to be so much on the number of deaths and of course that’s completely right. But in the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that before there were 1,000 deaths, there were 1,000 lives. Before these people became death statistics, they had lives. They were real people.
My son Nico had a life. He lived to be 23 years old. He died very young it’s true and many, many years before he should have. He should have outlived me. But nevertheless, he did have a life.
He was the centre of our family. The bossy little Aires in a family of Libras and Pisces. We all danced to his tune and we did it happily. Nico liked a lot of attention and he liked to be the centre of attention (can’t think where he got it from!). Growing up in a wacky household like ours suited him perfectly. We really didn’t do “can’t” and so neither did he. When he was really small I was still dancing professionally and he often came to the theatre, or the club or the party, wherever I was performing. By the time he was 5 his older sister had started to dance professionally too and so he was completely at home backstage in a theatre, in the rehearsal studio, in a TV studio – he thought all families were like us and because we always acted as if Nico was just, well Nico, everyone around him did so too.
He loved sailing, so we took him sailing. He loved animals, so we took him riding. He loved mountains and dangerous, precarious paths – so that was where we went too. His father was utterly fearless with him, so Nico had no fear. I taught Nico to love all types of music – there was no “cool” music, just great music. So Nico loved Flamenco, Faithless and Sean Paul with equal devotion.
Nico was never surprised when people flocked around him adoringly. He more or less expected it! He knew how to play a crowd though. He had this neat little trick which absolutely never failed to work (particularly on pretty women) of dropping his head and then looking up at them through his very long eyelashes with a little coy smile which would widen and widen into a great big grin when he saw how utterly they had fallen under his charms.
Nico had his “special” people. People who knew how much he loved them and their shared love could fill a room with the joy it brought to both him and to them. I’m so lucky; I was on that list of special people.
Nico, I miss you a lot. Oh, I miss you so much more than I can write down here.
But I remember that long before you became a “Thousand deaths” statistic, you had a wonderful life and now we need to bring those responsible to book for the loss of those 1,000 precious lives.
Then we need to make sure that all our special young people live out their lives without fear, without pain and without becoming more statistics.