A letter to... The son I loved and lost
You seemed to find peace with your death
As you heaved your bags into the car that day, my heart ached.
You were 18, off to Brighton University and leaving home for the first time.
Your sister Sarah, then 21, had already moved out.
Me and your dad Bill, then 49, were suddenly empty-nesters.
‘I’ll be back before you know it,’ you said.
And you were. Three years later, you graduated, got a job as a local newspaper reporter and moved back in. My little boy home again!
You really made a life for yourself. You had a lovely girlfriend, played cricket, golf and football.
Spent time with your dad at Coventry City matches, or jamming on your guitars.
Only, soon after moving home, I noticed you were constantly thirsty.
‘Another squash?’ I asked as you gulped a third pint.
You became tired, too, started complaining of backache. Despite endless trips to the doctor’s, you were getting worse.
So, when tests showed you had blood in your urine, I marched you back to the doctor’s.
Days later, in September 2014, you were admitted to Warwick Hospital for tests.
And they found a mass on your kidney – it was a 13cm tumour. Sobbing, I’d never held you so tight.
The doctors hoped surgery could remove the tumour, but further tests showed the cancer had spread to your lymph nodes.
‘There’s nothing we can do,’ the consultant said.
You were only 25. Still, I wasn’t giving up, and we threw everything at that cancer. Supplements, remedies, even cannabis oil.
Trying your best to enjoy life, you went on holiday, and your mates arranged for you to meet the England cricket team.
But, eventually, you were too weak to work, and didn’t have the energy to go out.
Writing down your fears and feelings on your blog
and in songs, you were incredibly brave.
In August 2016, surgery to remove a tumour on your spine left you almost paralysed.
‘Mum, you’ve got to be realistic,’ you said as I researched yet another so-called miracle cure.
I held out hope until the end, but you seemed to find peace with your death. Just two months on, aged 27, you slipped away at the hospice.
My grief was immense. All I wanted to do was talk about you, but everyone else was grieving, too...and not everyone wanted to talk. So, I did what you’d done. Picking up a pen and paper, I flooded the page with my deepest emotions. Writing you letters became a way to process my thoughts.
Your funeral came and went. A beautiful church service, then a celebration at Stoneleigh Abbey, where you’d often played cricket.
And I kept writing down my feelings.
It sounds crazy but, one day as I peeled veg at the kitchen sink, I felt your presence. As if you were giving me a cuddle.
That’s when I pictured the cover of my book, Letters to Matthew: Life After Loss.
‘This is amazing,’ Bill said, reading the letters for the first time. It was the first time we’d wept together about losing you.
The book, a compilation of the letters, was published on what would’ve been your 30th birthday, this August.
We all find our own way to grieve. The letters are mine.
I miss you endlessly, but I hope you’re proud, Matthew. Love, Mum x
Louise Bates, 60, Leamington Spa
My brave lad in hospital
I found a way to help cope with my grief
I miss you so much