This month we are sharing the stories of siblings who are making a difference in memory of their bereaved brothers and sisters.
We share the story of the amazing Hopkins-Davies family, who tragically lost their brother Riley to unexplained SIDS when he was eight months old in July 2015.
Like so many families, the impact the loss of Riley has had on the Hopkins-Davies family cannot be measured.
Riley’s big sister Mali and big brother Liam, are passionate about raising awareness for Red Nose, and have held countless fundraisers at school and in their local community. They are passionate about making a difference, and helping keep Riley’s memory alive for their younger sister Edith, who didn’t get to meet her big brother.
We share below, in Mali’s words, her retelling of the day her world changed.
I was in year 3
“It’s 9.15am on Tuesday the 28th July, so when the bell rang, I was extremely excited about the daily spelling test and a multiplication test. The first two sessions of the day flew by as it was the same bland routine I followed daily.
She shifted her gaze toward me
“It was session three before I knew it, and me and my best friend Karlee are both working on a project together and Mrs Rathborne walked in and started talking to my teacher. But what was strange was when they had finished talking she shifted her gaze toward me.
Your mum’s here to pick you up
“I’m filled with worry as this only ever happens when you’re in trouble but she simply states, ‘your mum is up at the office and she’s come to pick you up early so you’ll need to bring your bag.’
I exhale in relief and pack up, then walk to the office with her.
Things only got weirder
“When we finally make it up to the office, I’m herded into the counsellor’s room. She started asking me such questions such as, ‘what are you doing this weekend?’ So, I’m doing my classic, when I’m excited spiel that go on forever, and I tell her about how I am flying to Sydney as a birthday present.
You’re such a brave girl
“That is when the principal walks in and takes my hand, whispering, ‘you’re such a brave girl’, and leads me into the office. She pushes the door open at a snail’s pace and that’s when I see Mum, her face blotchy, eyes swollen, cradling a box of tissues and holding my Poppa Phil’s hand.
“My stomach drops and I muster up just enough power to ask in a timid, distressed and weak voice, that I’ve never used before, nor will I again. I ask, ‘what’s wrong?’ Mum slowly answers with two words that hold enough power to make my knees quiver. She gulps and states: ‘Riley’s…dead’.
Why me? Why us? Why anyone?
“I couldn’t track the time, I just cried for hours on end, questioning the world and occasionally muttering to no one in particular, ‘why me? Why us?, ‘why anyone’?
“That night all the maternal side of my family turned up, my closest friends and granny (dad’s mum).
“In the last few hours of the day, I just sat there, in silence, not entirely sure I was breathing. So I sat there, not wanting to meet the pitying gazes of my closest friends and family, not wanting to bear the ‘comforting’ pats and slow rubs on my back.
“It was about 8 o’clock that night, I am still silent, as dad pulls up in the driveway, dropped off by one of his workmates, as he was in no healthy state of mind to drive back home to Dubbo from Cobar. He’s crying, which is something I have never seen.
“Liam, Mum, Dad and I all slept in the same bed at my grandparent’s house that night, needing the reaffirmation and comforts of each other’s existence.
Through support I was able to climb out of the dark depths
“Throughout the next year, it was only through the community and my friend’s support, through the fundraising, especially when I saw kids wearing a red nose, smiling and laughing, was I able to climb out of the dark depths known to humans as grief.
”Through the community’s support and encouragement to speak out about how I lost my eight-month-old brother Riley to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, that I opened my eyes up to a broader community, hidden like the catacombs, undiscovered underneath the medieval castles and cities, waiting to be found by eyes that are willing to just peer into the unknown.
Without this happening…I wouldn’t be half the person I am today
“This event, as unfortunate and painful as it was, opened my eyes up to new horizons, and without this happening, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today. Without it I wouldn’t have realised the true beauty in this world.
“I have realised that without this darkness that I have not walked out of completely unscathed, that I have learnt to accept life and be grateful for it.”