Amy and Ben – two months after the crash

It was a fluke. I happened to see a tweet whizz through my timeline. It referred to a blog written by a widower. I thought it might have been the return of the chap in his 90s who’d briefly blogged his trip to Switzerland but had been overwhelmed by the response and abandoned it.

It was not.

The photo was the immediate giveaway although my eye took in the name underneath a split second later. There could only be one recently widowed husband of a woman called Desreen.

Life As A Widower is written by Ben Brooks-Dutton (he added “Brooks” to his and his son’s name after Desreen died – she had kept her name when they married, just 14 months earlier). His wife was killed in the collision on West End Lane last November.

The blog, which began on January 6th, documents his emotions and the enormous challenge of coping with overwhelming grief and a two-year-old son. This isn’t a diary as much as an anthology of memories and experiences. There must be an element of catharsis here, although my ignorant hunch would be that it’s too soon for that. There is certainly an element of wanting to share the experience, and hopefully to help others:

I can’t help but think that some poor bastard will wake up tomorrow morning, realise their wife has gone forever and that it wasn’t just a nightmare, and search for someone who can relate to the hell that they are going through. Perhaps if I keep writing they’ll find that someone. Perhaps a few more blokes will be encouraged to open up about how they feel. Perhaps the process might act as catharsis and make things easier on me. Perhaps when the next bloke calls Care for the Family there will be a few more guys to talk to.

More bluntly, Ben also says “I think opening up now is going to make living in my own head somewhat less difficult in the future. That’s what the books I’m throwing myself into say anyway.”

That last sentence hints at the humour in this blog. Does that sound odd? Read it, it’s not.

Ben explains his tattoo

Many of the entries are heartbreaking. It will be a harder person than me that doesn’t well up at the image of the toddler wiping away his father’s tears. As Ben says, “It’s just two guys trying to make each other feel better. One 2 and the other 33.”

Amy’s recovery
Meanwhile, across the pond, Amy Werner is having her own battle. The American postgrad who was badly injured in the same crash was put back together by St Mary’s in Paddington, before her parents decided to fly her back home to the US. These sort of medical flights don’t use long-haul aircraft, so Amy and her mother had to hop from London to Shannon to Newfoundland to Boston in early December. She spent a week in hospital in Boston and then she moved to a rehab clinic affiliated with Harvard.

She is making steady progress – her rehab work is both physical and cognitive. Every day she’s able to walk further using crutches, and her right leg – broken in the accident – is getting stronger. She’s also having speech therapy and other rehabilitation treatment to work on functions such as memory. At the moment, the cause for concern is the sight in her right eye, which has yet to return.

It’s going to be a long journey back for Amy, but her mother’s daily updates are full of optimism, and each one describes how Amy’s feisty attitude and determination is leading to demonstrable improvement in her abilities. I understand that Ben is also aware of Amy’s progress and hope that he can take some strength from her determination.

Both Ben and Amy had their lives turned upside down in a matter of seconds. If we can learn anything from either of them it’s to treasure what – and whom – we have; and that human beings are capable of remarkable acts when they find themselves at the very brink. I wish them well.