The date July 12th 2014 is the date my life changed. The path I was on suddenly closed and I was moved to a different path, a path which for the rest of my life would not include my brother Gareth.
Lunchtime on July 12th would be the last time I would speak to him. Rhys and I had been to Ikea and I had checked us in on Facebook. Gareth was always teasing us about our fascination with Ikea! We were in the car on our way home and my phone rang, it was Gareth. His first words were “there can’t be anything left in Ikea for you two to buy!” and we howled with laughter. We chatted for about 20 minutes, he was telling me how busy he was, he had a party he was catering for that night and then a first birthday party he was catering the next day. I was pleased for him because the outside catering arm of Fingerprints was doing so well, but at the same time he was still working around the clock and I worried for him. Eventually he had to get back to work, we said goodbye and that was to be the last time we ever spoke.
The call came at about 2:20am, the next morning. It was my mum and she told Rhys to bring me home straight away. We dressed and rushed off, we barely spoke. I knew someone was dead and the reason I knew, was because my mum hadn’t said “don’t worry, everything’s ok…” As we drove the 10 minutes to my mum and dads house I ran through who it could be, who would they wake me up for? Not once, in that time, did I consider it could be Gareth. Why would I? At 33 it wasn’t his time.
Two police officers were sat on the sofa, my mum and dad in their dressing gowns. It was a moment that will last with me forever, I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest, the physical pain was immeasurable. He had been driving home from the event he was catering at about 11pm and a polish man had hit him head on; the polish man was on the wrong side of the road. They said that he was killed instantly and would not have known. One minute earlier or later and its possible Gareth would have seen him and swerved; the accident could have been avoided or at least lessened. As it was, it happened as Gareth was coming around a corner and he would not have realised what was coming towards him.
My brother was an incredible person. I know I’m biased, but he really was. He was kind and generous, he always had a smile or a joke, a scheme or a ‘new idea’; he was ambitious and driven and loved a good time. He and I were close, we were best friends, I could always rely on him if I needed something and he gave the best hugs out of everyone I know. We worked together abroad, snowboarded together, drank together and always watched out for each other.
The time between the death and the funeral we spent organising everything. At some point my mum said she wanted the cortege to go past his business, the lovely Fingerprints Deli café on Queens Road in Leicester. She wanted him to be there one more time, it was important. As the day drew closer, we heard that some people might come out of their shops to pay their respects to him as we came past. We thought what a lovely gesture that would be, so nice.
What we met that day on Queens Road, none of us were prepared for. The shops had all closed and there were hundreds of people lining the street. The funeral director walked in front and would later tell us that in his 30 years as a funeral director he had never experienced anything like it; he said you could hear a pin drop. The local papers and local radio were there (Leicester Mercury Story ), reporting on the scene; once again my brother would make the front pages – he would have loved that kind of exposure had he been alive to enjoy it. Seeing that amazing outpouring for him, all that love for him from everyone in the Clarendon Park community was incredible and so overwhelming. A lady even wrote a blog post about it – Liz Gray Blog
I wish he could have seen how much he meant to everyone, I wish he could have known how loved he was.
When we booked the venue for the wake, we had the choice of two rooms. One was the right size but contained a football table and dart boards and wasn’t really what we were looking for. The other was beautiful, great swathes of white fabric hanging around the walls, very dignified, but too big. In the end we picked the big one and just hoped that we wouldn’t all look ridiculously lost. After the church service we indicated that people could go directly to the wake and we would catch them up after the internment at the crematorium. When we got to venue, there were about 50 people sat outside. I immediately thought that they hadn’t gone in, that they’d waited for us to arrive, which we were really hoping they wouldn’t do – we wanted them to go inside and get a drink. I saw one of my best friends and said to her that they didn’t need to wait for us, they could have gone in. She looked at me incredulously and said “mate, it’s rammed, you can’t get in!” She was right, the place was full, there were hundreds inside – for the second time that day I was to be amazed by how many lives my brother had touched and by how many people had turned out to show their love and affection for him.
Almost exactly a year after the accident I would stand up in court and read out my Victim Impact Statement. I wanted, for 5 minutes, to tell the court about the person that had died. The person they knew as ‘the victim’. I wanted to give them a small insight into his character and his life, so just for a moment the victim became Gareth Carnall. (Leicester Mercury Story)
1,096 days ago my life changed forever. Gareth is never far from my thoughts and I often talk to him, asking him what he’d do about different things. Going through infertility has been made so much harder because of missing Gareth, he was an incredible support to me and also he was one of my husband’s best friends. We both miss his cheekiness, his infectious smile and his ability to make you laugh… even when you didn’t want to. I know I will see Gareth again someday and when I do, I hope that we sit together with a Vodka and Diet Coke; and laugh about all this…