Sam is part of Scotty's Little Soldiers. I've talked about them before, to do with birthday and Christmas presents, and fundraising we've done for them with choir and so on.
Their founder, Nikki Scott, lost her husband and the father of her baby daughter and toddler son, on 10th July 2012, a week before Rich died. She has focused her grief into the children, into what happens "When Daddy doesn't come marching home." In 2 years they've raised over £100,000 and are heading towards their first goal of buying a holiday home by the sea, so that children can have a break.
In many ways, the AC and I were lucky when Rich died. I already had the house, and it was mine, sole and whole in my name (although I was asked for the deeds of it before 3.30 on the day he died as part of his estate!). I had a job which paid the bills, and the AC was at a school which loved and supported him. We had the wonderful love of the RAF and the armoury boys who made everything as good as they could, and shared their anger with us when they couldn't make it what they saw as right. We could grieve in safety.
For some Forces wives, the death of a partner isn't like that. If a family are in quarters (base housing) and the serving member dies then the house goes with them. Often there is an agreed period of time - in the RAF it would be 90 days maximum - where following that, the house must be given back - there are service families waiting for housing in some places. When service housing is given back, the council will rehome, after much pushing and paperwork and anger and nagging, but only the council in the place where you were before you became a service family. For some, this can be the other side of the country, away from their support network, from the rest of the squadron or unit.
Private renting can be done - but on what wage? Often the wives can't work, because they have young children at home. The children have to move with their mothers, away from school, away from the secure environment that may be all they know, away from friends, and toddler groups and everything. For most, the death of a partner is followed by massive upheaval, extra trauma, uneccessary pain.
From that pain, Nikki created Scotty's. She is an amazing woman.
That's why today, J and the AC will pull on their Scotty t-shirts, and head out of the door for a trip to Cornonation Street, meeting the cast, having lunch, doing "something" in the afternoon, and generally having a fabulous time.
Yesterday though, when I went into town to get their new Scotty shirts, I had a *moment* when buying them. I'd had to ask the girl in the shop in town that stocks them for the Charity to get the adult one for me. It just hit me, whilst I was paying for them, that I didn't want the AC to go. I didn't want him to be a Scotty child, I didn't want him to, at 8, know the pain he knows, to know how much the death of someone you love so much hurts so hard, to know how horrible people can be to each other through guilt, to know how emptiness and tears take over a family. I just didn't want him to have gone through it. He is a strong child, a brave independent child, and I wished for my baby back.
Rich died. Swiftly, and silently and painlessly, and so perhaps, in the best way possible, he died. Loving us, free on his bike, off to the job he loved, he died age 33 with all of a glowing future in front of him after such a painful past.
In the shop in town, I cried, tears rolling down my face whilst the girl stared and the chap serving tried not to notice. I paid for them, prodding the numbers into the machine whilst the girl folded the shirts so carefully and placed them into a bag. We carried on a normal conversation whilst this was going on, as one does whilst paying "That's £xxxxxx." "Card goes in there." "Thankyou." "Please put your pin in" "There we go." and so on.
The AC will always be a Scotty child. Today he will meet others, some for the first time, who are in the same position as him. Some are just starting their journey towards normality again, some have travelled this road for a long time. Some were babies when their father died and will never remember him. Some were older children whose eyes tell you all you need to know. There is a depth, an age to them, a liquidity under the surface that says "Yes, I've been there and done that, but I got through and you will too."
They can do this, because they have each other, because they are Scotty children, and although all of the mothers would, like me, wish that they weren't, we are all glad that they are.