Sandra Dick: lost loved ones never forgotten

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The annual ritual is never very pleasant. Shoving my way into Card Factory, squashing into a gap among the heaving bodies and finding myself, of course, slap bang in front of the “Merry Christmas Mum” cards.

I’ve not had to buy one of those since Christmas 2011. One glimpse of them, though, and the months roll back and I’m right back there, swallowing back that wave of grief, fighting the urge to just get out of the shop.

Of course, many of us feel fragile at this time of year. And since we launched the Evening News Christmas Appeal, part of our Shockingly Easy campaign which strives to see every sports centre equipped with a potentially life-saving defibrillator, my thoughts have increasingly been with the family of teenager Jamie Skinner.

Just 13 with a dazzling smile and a bright future, his tragic death last December left them completely bereft. Such a cruel, senseless loss of a talented and hugely likeable youngster. How on earth does a family cope with that?

I met Jamie’s family six months after they endured the heartache of burying him with his Christmas presents. Dignified despite being tortured by the lack of answers to their endless questions, numb from their loss, they were determined Jamie didn’t die for nothing.

Our Shockingly Easy campaign was launched with them in July. Since then there has been a tremendous outpouring of support and Jamie’s beautiful smile and the agony of his loss inspired and motivated countless strangers to raise money for heart-start equipment in his memory.

Perhaps one of the most emotional contributions was the one last week from Jamie’s classmates, teenage boys and girls from Liberton High School who gave £5000 to the Jamie Skinner Foundation at a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of his death.

Their incredible contribution 
alone will pay for three life-saving 
defibrillators – an amazing achievement for young people who are still learning how to cope with the loss of their friend, for whom Christmas will always now be accompanied by that stomach-churning loss.

Elsewhere in the school, friends of Keane Wallis-Bennett coped with their grief by creating a fundraising song to pay for a memorial garden to the 12-year-old, killed after a wall collapsed in April. No doubt just like Jamie’s friends, they too must be feeling Christmas has lost a chunk of its magic.

For Jamie’s family – and, I suspect, Keane’s loved ones – knowing there is such love and support out there must be a massive comfort as they approach this difficult time of year.

Nothing, sadly, can change what happened. What matters now is making sure that even though it might hurt a little to remember, no-one forgets.