A FUTURE SO BRIGHT...
By Andrea Madeley
Some months before his death he talked about building a wishing well so that I would have somewhere quiet and pretty for the dog's ashes as they pass away. Daniel's ashes are entombed within the wishing well - this is what his future amounted to.
The idea of building this wishing well for him came to me as the a world wide group of Bernese Mountain Dog enthusiasts, known as the Berner-L, banned together in their show of support. So rather than this being a place for our dogs, it became his place from the good people that shared our love for Bernese Mountain Dogs.
Daniel and I chatted about the 'future' just a week or so before his death. He was so optimistic about where he was headed - so full of excitement. I remember the conversation so well because as a parent, and especially as a single parent, you breath a sigh of relief that your child is headed in the right direction.
...and I remember the conversation because of the tragic irony.
The Future's So Bright...
He was bouncing around in not much more than a pair of boxer shorts on this frosty morning in May while I was drying my hair. He was...for want of a better word, fidgety. After 18 years I'd come to recognise when Daniel was wanting to 'chat' - when he had something on his mind. This wasn't always serious - in fact mostly he was busy sharing some wild grand plan...or some juicy bit of news...who said what and which of the girlfriend's was at the centre of any particular gossip. Often he would talk about his car or Ashley (his girlfriend) and on this day, as I recall, the topic started with something he wanted to do to the Commodore - something about the front end - a glitch and yes I think something else about his cheap runabout car. He was always working on some project - so my job here was, 'take a mental note' - don't even begin to try to understand it at any great depth.
Danny often liked to run his ideas passed people. He didn't lack confidence but I sensed he still liked to feel like he was heading in the right direction. I'd long given up trying to stop him from spending money on his cars. He'd already proven time and time again how talented he was mechanically. It was getting harder to state my case when he constantly was able to show successful gain (profit) from said project. I lost too many times on the grounds of 'under estimating' what he was truly capable of...so as years went by I stopped rolling my eyes and started nodding my head.
When I turned the dryer off and popped it away he just sort of stood there looking at me. "What?" I asked. "Well..." he said with a sheepish grin, "it's pretty cool." He was fiddling around with my sunglasses - these sunglasses, as I recall and according to him were considered a bit 'dorky'. I wore them mostly in public when I was with him - because he would squirm - hey, I can give as good as I can take.
"What's cool?" I asked.
"Well...I was just thinking how everything seems to be really good right now." I can think back to that now and know just how wrong he was but at the time it was a fulfilling moment in my time as a parent. The whole aim is to see your child happy - and he was happy. Teenagers are funny creatures. They get moody, frustrated and they worry a lot. Right at this time though, Danny felt like he was on a high. He had his girl Ashley (his beautiful girlfriend), he had the car looking 'sweeeeet' and he had a future. He'd been talking about opening a home saver account. I had also met a wonderful new man and I know that was a huge weight off his mind. I suppose the reality was that as much as you worry about your children, they also worry about us.
Anyway...yes he was right, there was a positive air of anticipation. Sam (my new man) was actually not unlike Danny in character. They shared a wicked sense of humour with a warm balance of sensitivity without losing those cool 'blokey' qualities - if that makes sense. The weekends Sam would visit it was like a comedian's battle-zone. Sam and Danny would constantly make jokes and smart comments that seemed to invariably lead to who could out-do who. When we were all together in the house there was a warm-hearted cheerfulness that just felt right. That's what its all about isn't it? The family home should be a place of warmth and laughter...and acceptance. Family was important to Danny and while the mix at that time were made up of different families - ie. Sam and his young son Calern, Danny, myself and Ashley ... it felt like 'family'.
And so there he stood as proud and as beautiful as any young man can be as he started singing and dancing down the length of the hallway. It was an 80's tune with a twist, "The future's so bright we gotta wear shades..." I'm watching down the hallway as he disappears into the kitchen and I remember thinking how I wished I had his energy...
The future? Bright?
Yes, I am angry. At times its hard to weigh up which emotion is more suffocating - grief or anger. I was clear about the fact that he was gone - it wasn't like I had any choice...he died in my arms - I felt him stop breathing. You can't run from those images in your mind and pretend it's all a bad dream. But there's more to this process than just grieving. If you push all the sadness aside, you're still bogged down with all the confusion that comes with just trying to figure out how it all happened.
I had not prepared for the expedition into the justice system. Waiting for answers. What we need and what we get - very different things. As time pushed on I watched everyone around me retreat back into their everyday lives. It's understandable of course but there is certainly a sense of abandonment. Even very close friends can not relate - try as they might - and its no ones fault, it just is. Most people have an opinion on workplace deaths. Many will wriggle uncomfortably when I've discussed my anger. "...but Andrea, accidents happen - how do you stop accidents?" ... "Danny wouldn't want this for you..." like - hello? Can someone tell me where to find Danny so I can hear that from him? Like hell he wouldn't want this for me! No one knew me like Daniel and I know with 100% crystal clarity that if someone played Russian Roulette with his life, he would not only support what I am doing, he'd be handing me the tool to sharpen my claws on!
I know that until I understand how and why this happened, there'll be no moving forward. Real answers - the bloody truth - absolute clarification, certainty that it will not happen to some other hard working kid. I'm so damned sick of hearing about the rights of the Company. So many legal terms have flown across my ears that no matter how much I try, I can't make sense of most. The only thing that I think has become painfully clear to me is that the demolition of life is not an issue in Industrial law.
Danny's death in itself is largely irrelevant in the eyes of the law. The system does not give a flying toss what happens to people's lives as a result of someone else carelessness. The system cares about protocol and about the written word - the gospel of law and its interpretation. It's full of loop-holes, strategies and red tape -- and the legal eagles will defend it to their death because it is the law.
I watched in horror a segment on TV not long ago where a man raped and killed a young girl -- and due to some technicality, the evidence that might well have convicted him was not able to be used. He walks away. Justice?
I take notice of Industrial law these days. A director can easily go to prison if he embezzles funds. Not so if he wastes the life of his workers though. Justice?
I know we're not born with the gift of hindsight but sometimes I have to wonder how some laws are ever drawn, let alone passed. Evaluating risk appears to be something we can conveniently forget to do - or at least, it would appear a perfectly acceptable defence to hide behind the "Jeepers, we didn't know" clause. The word 'reasonable' is used often throughout the law but it appears not to apply where reasonable common sense is required.
There's nothing quite like hanging on this wayward limb wondering what happened to the beautiful young man with all his hopes and dreams about the future. He was just 18 - and he was a good kid. Had he been a lazy sod he'd probably still be alive. There are so many ironies here...
Mostly I sense society is generally fed up with the hypocrisy of 'the law'. Police are forever trying to put law breakers behind bars while the 'justice system' continually lets them walk away again.
We're losing faith. We're losing respect for something which was a fundamental expectation - justice.
I think back to movies like "Mad Max" ... set in a time into the future - the justice system completely broken down. Back then, 20 years ago, it was hard to believe that this kind of thing could ever happen ... today, I wonder if its not more like our destiny?