I lost my twin brother Paul to sudden infant death when we were four and a half months old.
Our family had nicknamed us Bear and Lamb; a reflection both of the noises we made and of our characters. I was Bear; growly and gregarious, while Paul was gentle and placid.
We didn’t share a placenta but we shared a womb, a pram and the cuddles of our parents and sisters, and we shared a place in the hearts of our family. Then one morning, on my parent’s wedding anniversary, I woke up and Paul lay cold in his crib. Just like that.
I don’t understand it now any more than my four and half month old self did then. Is it even possible to understand such a loss? My mum, dad and sisters endured the worst agony imaginable, the whole family was devastated.
I’m told that after Paul died I was very unsettled until Mum and Dad showed me his little body. On seeing him I calmed down and was more content. Mum said that I became much more Lamb-like after Paul’s death, even making the noises he used to make, but Bear has stuck as my nickname to this day.
Paul was very much part of my life growing up. We always talked about him and I don’t remember ever being sat down and told about Paul, because he was always there in our collective memories, in our conversations and in everything we did. But more than that, I just knew, in the same indescribable way that I still know, that somehow I’m missing something. I do remember him, but I remember him in a place that is much deeper than memory.
Not very long after Paul died, my mum and dad got involved with FSID (now The Lullaby Trust) raising money and awareness, and befriending parents and families who had lost babies to cot death.
Some of my happiest childhood memories are of our fundraising adventures. Every year the whole family and many friends turned out to walk a circuit from
our village to the next and back, stopping in the pubs along the way. Between us we have done parachute jumps, desert treks, marathons and beard shaves to name but a few.
For one such fundraising adventure, the local news channel sent a journalist and camera man out to interview us. I think I was about 12. I don’t remember now exactly why they were there, but after interviewing my mum and dad, and sisters in turn, the journalist turned to me and said “I suppose you were just a baby, so it wouldn’t have affected you”. I could only nod in reply as I knew that there weren’t the words to express how I felt, and I knew that it would be impossible for her to understand even if I managed to find the right words. She was wrong.
The Lullaby Trust have done incredible things with the funds they have received over the years. Probably most important was the Back to Sleep campaign, which has resulted in a 85% reduction of sudden infant deaths in the UK. On top of that they have supported bereaved families, when they needed it most.
My family continue to fundraise for the Lullaby Trust. My cousin Jon, the boy front left of the photo (he’s now a bit bigger), is about to run the London Marathon in Paul’s name. You can visit his fundraising page and donate here