A few short weeks after this photo was taken in Lake Windermere, that last glorious summer we spent on holiday together as a family, Matt was dead.
I can write those words now.
It used to take me every ounce of courage to say them in those early days. Even opening my dog eared diary is like looking into another universe. There are the "before Matt died" and the "after Matt died" universes. We all inhabited one then in which life went on with its ups and downs, petty squabbles, mundane routine, a family complete. Ourselves, Stephen and I, Matt our eldest son (married to Heidi for almost 6 years in November 2006), and Alan, our youngest son, still at home but studying at University.
The "after Matt died" one is a bewildering place, one where we exist alongside all the other normal events and routine ones, but it doesn't make a lot of sense.
One of us is missing................................forever. That "forever" is a harsh reality and a frightening one at times. That fateful evening of 10th September will always be etched in our hearts and memories.
Here are some extracts from the diary I began to write to put my shattered feelings and grief on to paper. I wrote pages and pages.
"..............What do you do when the 'phone rings at around 2.45am? If you're like me you ignore it, thinking it is another crank caller once more. Then it rings again, more insistently.Start to wonder why..........
It begins again and this time my younger son, Alan rushes down the stairs from his loft bedroom to answer the phone on the landing.We are all wide awake, listening to him talking to someone at the end of the line.... faint stirrings of anxiety begin to creep in.....is it my dad, has something happened to him?
Alan comes into our bedroom to say, in answer to my question "What is it? What's wrong?"
"It's the traffic police. They want us to go to Heidi's house."
My heart stopped and my blood ran cold and icy fingers of fear started to grip my throat.
We all knew then it was something major and all three of us threw on our clothes and drove to Heidi's and Matt's home, just twenty minutes away at night without the traffic. Alan was praying loudly in tongues in the back of the car.
The verse which came to me was:
"I will build my church and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it"
But none of us wanted to believe it was going to be SO bad. Maybe a bad accident, someone in hospital, intensive care, but surely, surely, not death?..................................................................
So around 3.15a.m or 3.20a.m we arrived outside Matt's home, and we were confronted with the sight of a large 4x4 Police Range Rover. A young policeman was waiting for us on the pavement, and took us in to meet a young police woman, who was standing with our daughter-in-law.
"What is it?" I cried out, "Is it Matt, is he hurt, injured?"
"He's dead" said Heidi, simply, and I shouted and sobbed, and I don't remember anyone else's reactions at all..................the world was spinning out of control in my head.
There was worse to come.....................Matt's friend Chris, our pastoral minister, was also dead. Heidi was in shock. She was totally numb and acting as if she was in a different place.
We were then gently told as best it could be told, that they had both been in stationary traffic at Junction 11a on the M6, that evening, after just having left Matt's under 30 minutes earlier, to drive to Liverpool, when they were hit from behind by a lorry. It takes awhile to process information when you don't want to accept it.
We were taken a step at a time, through what had happened, what would happen next, an inquest, possible charges, against the lorry driver. Not a straightforward accident......how can anything like this be straightforward? How do you hear all that is necessary and still comprehend it?
How can I ever describe the shock, horror, numbness, and the awfulness of that night which claimed two other lives, besides Matt and Chris, and left others injured? A blur, A scream? A dropping into space? "....................Even now it's as though it happened in a dream and we weren't really there..........