Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

tell them

The eighty-five-year-old driver who killed my wife, Desreen, was jailed today for eighteen months for causing her death by dangerous driving. He was also banned from driving for life. I suspect he, his family and friends are feeling really quite dreadful right now, and, for what it’s worth, mine and I aren’t exactly celebrating either.

You see, I’ve had time to think since attending the trial and I’ve realised that you can punish a crime but you can’t transfer pain. Any suffering caused to the defendant as a result of his sentencing could in no way take away mine. I’ve since learned that, having suffered so much myself, I genuinely wish no hurt on any other person and I never wished a prison sentence on the driver, either.

In fact, I wasn’t even going to mention the sentencing on my blog at all. But then I reminded myself that justice for Desreen is best served not by a prison sentence but by trying to prevent similar unnecessary deaths from happening again in future. I keep hearing people say that they know someone who should probably give up driving but that they don’t know how to raise the issue with them. Well maybe I can help with that.

Tell them that the judge who sentenced the driver today said, ‘An elderly driver who knows, or should acknowledge, that he or she is losing his or her faculties is no less a danger than a drunken driver who knows the same.’

Tell them that the judge also explained that the defendant’s ‘lifetime of blameless driving is of no comfort to the Brooks-Dutton family,’ (and I assure you it really isn’t).

Tell them that the detective sergeant in charge of the prosecution said, ‘It is important for motorists to regularly monitor their driver behaviour and that of their elderly relatives to ensure that the roads are safe for all road users.’

Tell them that the once ‘blameless’ elderly driver suffered pedal confusion, which caused his car to be travelling at an average of fifty-four miles per hour in a twenty zone when he struck and killed my wife.

Tell them that the impact of this pedal confusion caused one of her shoes to fly off her feet as his speeding car hit her on the pavement where she was walking blamelessly with our then two-year-old son and me. Tell them that I had to keep looking at that shoe in the street on the night of her death and in photographs over the course of the subsequent trial.

Tell them that this is the last photo ever taken of my wife with our son together. Tell them that the paramedics on the scene later that evening had to cut off the jumper she is pictured wearing in order to be able to perform CPR on the pavement where she lay dying.

photo 2

Tell them that what happened was almost even more catastrophic and that the car that killed my wife almost killed our son too. Tell them that the collision investigator found a piece of the pushchair he is pictured in here in the street after the car skimmed it before mowing down his mother.

P1010517

Tell them that the day after my wife was killed my son was upset that he couldn’t find his scooter. Tell them that’s because his scooter was found in the wreckage too.

P1020004

Tell them that every time I look at my favourite picture of my wife and me together I get upset as I imagine how I lost the hat I am pictured wearing on the night of her death. Tell them that I’ve concluded that I must have inadvertently thrown it into the street as I pulled at my own hair through fear that she was going to die.

Ben & Des

Tell them they won’t be the only people who have to deal with the consequences of any potential injury or fatality that they might cause. Tell them the impact will be felt by more people than they can imagine including their own family and friends.

Tell them that the two-year-old boy who lost his mummy is now four and is still so angry and upset that she can’t come back. Tell them that he has suffered immeasurably from the trauma of that night. Show them this picture and tell them that this is him pictured with his beautiful mummy on his second birthday – the last one they would ever spend together.

DSC_0407

Tell them that at thirty-one years old I was the happiest man alive when I married the love of my life. Tell them that I was utterly bereft when I lost her at thirty-three. Tell them I’m thirty-five now and depressed. Tell them that I put a good face on but that the truth is that things haven’t really got much easier. Tell them from me how hard it is to be a bereaved single parent.

Tell them that once disaster strikes no wishing the tables could be turned will help. Tell them that wanting to switch places with the young person killed will make no difference to those who survive.

Tell them that you understand that they may want to stay mobile but remind them of what’s at risk.

Tell them any of these things you like; print this blog post off, email it on, share it online and let it speak for itself.

Tell me you’ll help prevent this happening again, though.

Just tell me that so that one day I can tell my son that his mother’s death wasn’t completely in vain.

426 comments on “tell them

  1. Noel Mackenzie
    February 20, 2015

    Such a tragedy and I’m sure people will respond to this powerful statement. For what it’s worth I don’t think jail helps in this situation an old person isn’t likely to do too well, indeed I’d call it insane judgement. Meanwhile there’s two men killed by a driver with 65 previous who killed at 70 in a 30 zoned Ho got three months despite being high, over the limit. And disqualified and uninsured and having taken his partners car without consent. I’m so sorry for your loss and admire what you’ve said here.

  2. cece
    March 7, 2015

    I’ll pray for your family. I pray for peace and I pray you can once again have a family and a women who deeply cares for you and your son. Your sons look just like mine. It hurts to hear stories like this so I will keep you guys in my prayers and thanks for
    sharing your story.

  3. nelainedahlia93
    March 12, 2015

    Reblogged this on Nene Fashion.

  4. wangariwanjogu
    March 18, 2015

    Reblogged this on wangariwanjogu and commented:
    Sad..and yes tell them

  5. Reggie
    March 21, 2015

    I can’t even remember where I randomly came across this post. But I read it just when I’d been arguing with my mom about taking away my grandpa’s keys. He’s been acting more erratic and belligerent the last few years and it seems to have escalated recently. But my mom wasn’t going to take away the keys because he didn’t want to give up driving and he should get to make that choice. After the doctor also recommended he stop driving and he refused, my mom and aunt were just going to let it slide because they didn’t want to upset him. I had bookmarked this post and I had her read it. The next day, she took the keys away and although he calls and demands them back, he’s no longer driving. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss and so thankful that I won’t have to regret another family’s loss due to my family member.

    • Julie Khadem
      November 10, 2015

      wow well done to you.

      Currently in the process of trying to get my nearly 84 year old dad to stop driving. Getting nowhere with it at the moment. He says he’s fine. He’s not -he’s too old. He’s had health issues as well. I worry every day about this. His doctor signs him as fit after a ten minute chat with him each year. For that ten mins my dad can put on a good show. Doctors neither see nor treat the whole person. they do not see how often he tires etc. Sigh. Any suggestions gratefully received.

      NB. Not all siblings are in agreement with me over this issue.

      • Charlene Konersmann
        November 15, 2015

        In Missouri…One can submit a complaint which remains anonymous The person is called to come in and given testing…they are told to bring a licensed driver with them. It is a physical and psychological test. My mother learned to drive in her 60’s. She was erratic and would be out driving in a bad part of town at 4 am….HER INDEPENDANCE don’t mess with it…She would be heading for a town an hour and half, north of us and end up 4 hours west in Kansas and then drive all the way back. She would drive out 30 miles to my sister’s on a secluded cul de sac, drive past fast, not stopping and go home. No one wanted to “Bell the cat” One day she couldn’t figure out how to start the car, another she did a 360 in the middle of the street..(Yeah I have done that but there was no ice, no reason) She played/plays the game…She was furious when her license was revoked and told to come in 6 months for a recheck…which she refused…”They were calling me crazy!” The way she looked at it…She is 88 now and constantly pointing out…”so and so is as old as I am and driving”..and “If I find out who reported me” If you think you father has problems …fill out the papers and have the State handle it…. Better than having to worry about them getting killed or killing someone else. I am 67 and more than welcome for my children to take my keys when they feel I’m out of control.

  6. Coralie Guberman
    April 24, 2015

    I am regretfully as heartbroken as you are. My 37-year-old son Sam was killed in October of 2014 when a 91-year-old entered the expressway from an exit at 9:30 at night and was driving on the wrong side of the road when he hit my son head on. Both of them died in the accident. This man had a wife and 4 children who did not take his keys away. When a neighbor was interviewed on the T.V. she said that he had had a series of accidents recently and seemed to be showing signs of dementia. REALLY? The state of North Carolina had recently renewed this man’s driver’s license. My son was on his way home from choir practice where he had just been given the biggest men’s solo in their upcoming Christmas concert. He would have graduated this May at the top of his class with a new career as a radiology technician. I am now collecting signatures here in South Carolina where I live to get the legislature to road test drivers over 80 every 2 years and those over 85 every year. Many states simply renew a license with an eye test and I am going to try and change that in my son’s memory. Good luck to you and your son in the future.

  7. Frankie
    April 24, 2015

    Dear Ben, I witnessed some rather scary driving by an elderly gentleman today and contacted the police. The police said if any member of the public witnesses any dangerous driving and fear in any way for the driver or other drivers/pedestrians, it is better to call 999, rather than 101 for local police, as calling 999 may mean they can send out police officers straight away who can potentially follow the car. They said they can’t do very much unless the police witness it themselves or if two separate/independent witnesses contact them. I thought this might be a good message to get out there. All the very very best to you and your son – hope you’re doing ok. xx Frankie

  8. Jane Bagwell
    May 1, 2015

    Hi Ben, 8 months ago I found myself in a very similar situation to you. I am 35 and have a 4 yr old son, I had been married for nearly 8 years. An 81 year old man turned out of a stop sign not seeing my husband on his motorbike. It was on a generally quite busy open road, but amazingly there were no witnesses so the police enquiry has only just been finished, with no verdict yet on blame etc. I am torn about pressing charges – my husband was going at the speed limit and, according to brake marks, tried to avoid the accident, but I don’t want for this man to go to prison because (like you point out) it won’t take any of the pain away and I see no real benefit. I completely understand how terrifying life can be for you, just getting through every day. Some days are easier than others, but I find that I hold back a huge amount of grief to “stay strong” in front of our son, so that we can continue to form plenty more happy memories together, but it just means that as soon as I read your blog, I completely broke down and turned into jelly. I wonder if it will ever get any easier. I am a strong, independant woman, but feeling so incredibly lonely – whilst surrounded by people that care about me – it something that I am really struggling with. Please feel free to email me if you want to chat to someone out of your regular circle of support, I am so sorry for you that Desreen is no longer here to share your precious moments. Sending you massive hugs.

  9. Ruth
    May 2, 2015

    Thanks for your honesty and heartfelt vulnerability. May you find peace as you feel the overwhelming support of strangers to give you hope that this world still holds some pockets of happiness and goodness despite the deep pain you have encountered so far.

  10. Christine summersby
    May 7, 2015

    So sorry for your loss x

  11. thebantamblogger
    May 29, 2015

    Reblogged this on thebantamblogger and commented:
    This is devastatingly sad. As someone who knows an elderly driver who refuses to stop driving regardless of anything he is told the frustration is sickening. Please, please if you think you may not be in full control of your vehicle for whatever reason, just don’t go. Nothing is worth risking an innocent life for.

    • faith.
      June 3, 2015

      I wrote a note when this first happened saying that b/c of my circumstances that I decided to give my licence up due to arthritis and my declining ability to shoulder check and my slower responses. I will tell you I am 71 not all that old to do this, but I did.
      I can drive, I want to drive, but more than that I don’t ever want hurt some one and live with that on my conscience for the rest of my life. So I did not renew my licence this year because of this article. Now that being said it is the hardest decision of my life. To now rely on family or friend to do all the things I did on my own is not only hard but sometimes degrading to go begging for all the things I need and doing the things I could do on my own.
      So Family’s here’s my advice to you. Please get together with your Elderly person. Talk of all the needs their is to be done. Make a schedule for any one who can help for appointments, drs dentist or any thing else that has to be done for your loved one.
      . Also if possible the person that is willing to give up a drivers licence feels lost unable to do store runs outings and just enjoy others company. The solution to this for many elderly person is a electric scooter. Oh my goodness so many many things I can do for myself with out burdening my family completely. I do not feel so isolated and can enjoy my outings with my puppy so life does not feel so ended with giving up a drivers license. It is a big decision for a older person but it can be made bearable with help.
      FAITH.

  12. Rebecca
    June 7, 2015

    I witnessed my daughter in her pram being pushed 2 metres by an 70+ man today at a pedestrian crossing .there to be a change ! And promptly !
    So sorry for your loss 😪

  13. chrispain
    June 17, 2015

    Just come across your site/blog sorry a Tragic loss. I’m really really struggling with the loss of my wife 5months ago. i think everyday why why Louise had to die so young and thinking others aided in her death is driving me nuts, all the best

  14. Lindsay Easton
    September 9, 2015

    Your brave story is very affecting. I write to acknowledge that and perhaps to tell you that others support you.

    I was lucky, I managed to get my father off the road before he hurt anyone. He has never forgiven me, and knowing I was right doesn’t ease my regret at hurting him, but it had to be done.

    You know how you never think of the right thing to say at the moment? I once did, unfortunately. I told an old man he couldn’t drive any more.
    “But Doctor,” he said, “I only ever drive on the quiet back roads.”
    “Ahah,” I said, “but my children only ever ride their bikes on the quiet back roads.”
    He crumpled before me and I felt a complete heel. A correct, but complete, heel.

    I have to learn from these things and have already changed my plans for where I will live, so that as I age I am not dependent on a car and will give up my licence by 75. I will hate that, but less than I would hate being the driver in your story.

  15. Dave B
    November 9, 2015

    As a former prosecutor I have seen many similar situations. The closest to home was the daughter of a friend who had taken her kids to school and was waiting at a pelican crossing when she was struck and killed by a car which mounted the pavement and failed to slow down, let alone stop. When the police traced the vehicle the driver turned out to be 85 and suffering from dementia to the point that he claimed not to have driven for six years. He had no recollection of having been in the car that morning let alone of killing an entirely blameless young woman going about her daily life. Unfortunately he was also legally unfit to stand trial so the family didn’t even have the satisfaction of seeing him prosecuted for the devastation he had caused.

    All drivers should have to resit the driving test at ages 70, 75 and 80. Drivers over 80 should be tested every other year. A diagnosis of dementia should result in the immediate suspension of any driving licence held.

    I fervently hope that your petition to the Transport Minister succeeds and then some good might come out of your dreadful loss.

  16. Nikki
    November 9, 2015

    I just wanted to say that I have been saying this for ages about elderly drivers, I have shared your petition on Facebook in the hope of getting more signatures. I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious wife and hope you can get enough people to sign to get this looked at seriously so that it wasn’t in vain. I feel so strongly about this following a young girl killed by an elderly driver up the road when she was waiting at the bus stop with her mum and another one crashed outside my house bringing telegraph wires down because the impact was so hard only a few weeks back. Good luck with your cause

  17. Maria
    November 9, 2015

    My cousin and both her children perished in a fatal car accident in Spain whereby the car was being driven by an elderly man who apparently didn’t have very good coordination. This destroyed my cousin’s parents and the rest of the family but this didn’t launch any changes in vetting drivers when they reach a particular age to be subjected to eyesight and reaction timing testings. This goes to show that the laws are frighteningly weak where this is concerned and this loophole needs to be closed as quickly as possible to avoid further tragedies! My thoughts and prayers go to you and your son in this most heart rending moment after your beautiful wife was suddenly taken away.

  18. Tracey Newell
    November 9, 2015

    So sorry for your loss.
    What would be great is if there was a law to ensure health care professionals must report a persons mental health to the driving authorities who can then do a driving test evaluation on the person concerned. Then, if so proven a danger to drive to revoke their license immediately.

    Thats what I would like to see as health care professionals come across these cases and has information from relatives that this person is a danger on the road.

  19. Bulky Owolabi
    November 9, 2015

    Hi Ben, I only came across your blog through the petition you made on change. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your grief is well descripted and I empathise with you in every way. As a mother to an almost 2 years old boy, I can’t imagine what life would be like if I lost my partner in a similar tragic circumstances or vice versa. Wishing you all best with the petition and sending you and your little man lots of love.. xx

  20. Silvana Fishlock
    November 11, 2015

    I’ve signed and circulated your petition. I don’t drive myself and have no elderly relatives who do, but your post is a solid wake-up call that we have to be responsible for the ageing and changes we see in our family and friends – we should be anyway, in terms of what help a no longer physically able person might need, but even more if they are in charge of what can turn into a killing machine. Just now in Glasgow there is a yet further example of how lax safety controls on drivers are – the bin lorry disaster, where versions of who knew what about the driver’s medical history and what if any checks were done and by whom, are cutting across the grief of those who lost loved ones on the pavements of one of the main shopping streets of a big city. It seems as if the state pays more attention to collecting road tax. Hopefully this petition will be a first step towards dramatically reducing unnecessary deaths on the roads. My thoughts are with you and your little boy.

  21. jim
    November 12, 2015

    SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS BANNING OVER 70S IS NOT GOING TO BRING YOU LOVELY WIFE BACK,HE COULD JUST HAVE WELL BEEN A 20 OR 30 YEAR OLD DRIVER I THINK ALL DRIVERS SHOULD BE RETESTED EVERY 5 YEARS,MOST THINK WHEN THEY GET THERE LICENCE THAT THE HIGHWAY CODE IS NOT FOR THEM, I WAS A H G V DRIVER I PASSED THREE DRIVING TESTS FOR THE DIFFERANT LICENCES, FOR MY PEACE OF MIND THAT I WAS COMPITANT ENOUGH TO DRIVE THESE VEHICLES, I ALSO READ A NEW HIGHWAY CODE EVERY THREE TO FIVE YEARS TO KEEP UP TO DATE,
    I AM ALSO IN MY 70S,MY THOUGHTS GO WITH YOU AND YOUR SON.

  22. Mrs Helen Fox
    November 22, 2015

    i am so sorry for you and your little boy, the loss at such a young age for the loss of his mother is so hard to deal with and I commend you on the way you are dealing with this because of your own grief. Writing about it and talking I have found it a good way of helping. I think that every driver when they reach the age of 80 should be made to have a test we all know that our reactions are much slower as we get older. having said that it is 42 years since my 11 year old daughter was run over and killed on a Zebra crossing by a speeding police was car. He was also found guilty of death by dangerious driving he was banned from driving a police car but but he could drive his own car, I am not sure but I think he would think twice now about speeding. What he did was to leave us as a family grieving all these years not just because he killed my daughter but she was holding her younger brothers hand and he has suffered all his life. Good Luck to you and your son.

  23. Flo
    December 25, 2015

    I can tell you are still grieving and hope you and your som are getting the help and grief counselling you need.God bless and hope the pain diminishes in time.

  24. Joe
    January 8, 2016

    I strongly believe that we need a change in law, there should be testing but there should also be a ban in driving after a certain age. I`m very sorry for your loss, I have also lost someone killed by a drunk driver. The good thing is that your little boy is here to carry on his mum`s legacy.

  25. alissa
    February 15, 2016

    wonderful pics…

  26. Oladimeji Famuyiwa
    April 4, 2016

    How sad. This is an important lesson and I pray that those concerned will comply. Having been in two automobile accidents in 2015, I know that the life that you take for granted can be changed in less than a minute. I will pray for you that God will comfort, strengthen and settle you and your son. My advice to anyone reading this is to pray over yourself and family before getting on the road. Pray before going outside. And be careful if you are a driver. Be alert and careful if you are a pedestrian. Pedestrians have little or no protection against automobiles except their awareness. So be aware of your surroundings out there. Look out for crazy drivers. Do what you can to protect yourself and family. And even with all the precautions, you still cannot stop some of these tragedies from happening except that you pray.

  27. Foluke
    April 4, 2016

    Thank you. For sharing. Teaching. Giving direction. Prompting action. For putting on strength so that your son can also stand. Thank you. Sending love to you.

  28. Nicola grijalva
    June 16, 2016

    Wow.a beautiful son you have.not right that his mother was taken from him so young.not right at all.reading stories like this makes you wonder what the purpose of life is.none of us know what is round the corner.big hugs.keep it up.you make compelling reading.

  29. stephanie
    August 11, 2016

    I am a bereaved mum. Googling grief brought me to your site years ago. Today I sent this blog post to my great uncle in the hope to open up a conversation about his driving. Or his inability to drive. As those who have lost know – life can change in a second. And you do not get a chance to take back bad decisions. Thank you for writing this post. We will see how my uncle takes it. All my best to you on your journey. I sincerely hope that hope and love and joy will return to your life in full force in the years to come.

  30. El
    January 29, 2017

    I have come back to read this again, just to keep reminding myself of this message and feeling the emotion of it. I will once again look at my own behaviour and remain so sad about the loss for this beautiful family.

  31. Alan Häckling
    April 3, 2017

    Hi, my name is Alan. And I too am a widowed father… the hardest thing was telling the kids mummy’s never coming home….. it’s been nearly 4 years since that fatal day, and nothing in this world can prepare you for that…. my heart goes out to all men and women who are in this situation….. And after now seeing Rio & Ben on the BBC show just gives me the boost and strength to succeed in my parental duties. Only now have I found it time to seek the professional help I believe I need….
    Thank you guys for opening your doors and showing us we are not alone…..
    And that men can do it too…. 😳
    AH.

  32. Tessa
    April 17, 2017

    I reported an elderly driver to the DVLA via their online form – https://emaildvla.direct.gov.uk/emaildvla/cegemail/dvla/en/drivers_med_03.html
    with the following detail:- “N’s driving is erratic and potentially dangerous. He won’t always wear his spectacles which he is supposed to, to drive. He is very hard of hearing. Lately he has been harassing a local resident by sounding his horn at her and making rude gestures – when he should be concentrating on the road and hazards. I refuses to accept that at 83 his driving is anything less than perfect. He has had a few near misses. He has driven the wrong way up a dual carriageway. He has attended a speed awareness course but refused to accept any shortcomings in his driving. He doesn’t seem to know the basics of the highway code. I believe he should undergo a driving assessment.”
    I had no response, but heard on the grapevine that “N” was “assessed” as fit to drive. Happily he no longer has access to a car, however.

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