Sammy’s Story

Today’s post isn’t really about running, not directly, but I wanted to explain why I’ve chosen to raise money for The Lullaby Trust by running the Marathon des Sables, and maybe inspire you to make a donation.

Today would have been my brother Sammy’s 30th birthday. He would be exactly two years and one month older than me and I like to imagine we’d have been close; I consider my younger brother amongst my best friends and it’s nice to think I’d have had just as good a relationship with Sammy. Sadly I’ll never know because when he was around 11 months old, over a year before I was born, Sammy died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or ‘cot death’, as it’s commonly known.

Actually I’m not sure you can really die ‘of SIDS’, as that’s just the same as saying he died of death. Perhaps he ‘died in an incident of SIDS’. If that seems like an trivial point, it isn’t – to me it illustrates how confusing SIDS is: imagine wondering what on earth caused the death of your apparently healthy baby and being told, in effect, simply that they died of sudden death.


As I say, I never knew Sammy; though I can only assume that at least for some of my early years the pain and grief for my parents must still have been very raw. We did talk about it occasionally and I always remember knowing about Sammy, and accepting matter-of-factly that he had died when he was ‘very young’. With the impeccable logic of a child, (and somewhat ironically given I was only a few years old myself), I came to the comforting conclusion that it can’t have been that big a deal because he was just a baby, not a real child with a personality like me, and therefore not missed like a real person would be.

Perhaps incredibly, I didn’t really question that childish assumption for many years, and I remember when I was 20 or so and working at my first job in London that my boss announced he was soon having his second child. His obvious excitement and his love for an even as-yet unborn child made me really think for the first time about what it must have been like for my parents, at only about the age I am now, suddenly and unexpectedly losing their son – a cheerful and adventurous little boy with a thoroughly-developed personality and, of course, loved just as deeply as any child of any age would have been. Now, it makes me go cold to even imagine the sense of loss my parents must have felt or to think about my mother making that discovery, and what the days and weeks afterwards must have been like for them both. That they went on to give me and my brother and sister the happiest childhood any of us could possibly have wished for is testament to their resilience, courage and love for each other and for us.

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Twenty-nine years on, Sammy’s short life and tragic death still play a part in all our lives as a family, I think. Maybe not every day, but I know my parents still think about him and that my siblings and I have all been affected; rather more than we might have imagined considering that my brother and I weren’t even alive when Sammy died. Giles Fraser, a remarkable man whom I once had the privilege of hearing give a superb Remembrance Sunday sermon at my local church in Putney, wrote in a column about his own brother’s early death how odd it felt to miss his brother, having never met him, but that his brother would always remain a big part of his life. Reading this struck a real chord with me, matching many of my own feelings about an event that I wasn’t alive for and I almost never talk about. It’s striking to find I have such similar feelings to other people affected by a similar event, and so I hope that by raising money to support the amazing work done by The Lullaby Trust I’ll make a real difference to other families who need ongoing support after a tragedy of this kind.

Please do support me if you feel inclined.

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