Hugging in heaven

Dropping my twins off at Mum's, it'd be the last time I saw them all

Published by: Amy Thompson
Published on: 20th January 2011

Blonde hair swishing, my five-year-old daughter Jessica twirled around the living room in a pink fairy costume. Seconds later, she was joined by her red-headed twin Grace in a purple fairy costume.
‘Together, together, together everyone!’ Grace sang.
‘Come on let’s have some fun!’ their big sister Kaitlin, 11, chimed in as they danced to High School Musical. My youngest Alice, three, bopped around, too.
Me and my hubby Michael, 38, had always wanted a big family. But after having Kaitlin, I’d miscarried. We’d had fertility tests, and the results hadn’t been good.
‘IVF is your best option,’ our doctor had said. It was expensive, and there was no guarantee it’d work.
‘We’ll give it one shot,’ I’d promised Michael.
Someone up there must’ve heard our prayers because, a few weeks later, I discovered I was pregnant – with twins!
My mum Denise had been thrilled. She’d always been my rock, on hand to babysit, or to pop over to for a cuppa. She was even with me when I’d had the twins. And it was Mum who’d bought me and Michael a new bed – resulting in our fourth little miracle, Alice!
In fact, Mum was such a gem she even babysat two of the girls one night every week to give me and Michael a break.
That’s where we were going now. The twins were staying with Mum, and they’d dressed up for the occasion.
‘Come on girls,’ I smiled. ‘Let’s go see Mimi’– the nickname Kaitlin had given Mum, which is what all my girls called her.
‘Mimi said she’s going to paint my nails purple like my dress,’ Grace squealed excitedly. ‘And she’s taking us to McDonald’s.’
‘Mimi spoils you,’ I laughed.
When we got to Mum’s, the girls raced inside.
‘Have fun!’ I called after them.
‘Love you, Mummy,’ they shouted back.
‘I’ll pick them up in the morning,’ I smiled, giving Mum a hug. ‘Enjoy the chaos!’
‘Enjoy the peace!’ she winked.
When I got home, Michael had just got back from dropping off Kaitlin at her mate’s for a sleepover.
‘Almost forgot,’ he said. ‘It’s my dad’s birthday today, we should get the twins to call him from your mum’s.’
‘I’ll call her in a bit,’ I said. ‘Let them settle in first.’ Just before 6pm, I called Mum. No answer.
‘Maybe she’s taken them to McDonald’s,’ I said, leaving a message. ‘I’ll try again in an hour.’
But when I called back, there was still no answer. ‘It’s not like her,’ I frowned to Michael.
‘I’ll pop round,’ he offered.
When he called, he sounded confused, though. ‘I’m on your mum’s drive,’ he said. ‘There’s a car here and the lights are on.’
‘So why isn’t she answering the phone?’ I worried.
‘I’ll go and knock,’ he said. ‘I’ll call you back in five.’
Time ticked by, and I still hadn’t heard from him.
What was going on?
I called Michael’s phone – ‘I’m a police officer,’ a man answered. ‘I’m bringing your husband home now.’
He wouldn’t tell me any more, but I knew something was wrong.
Shooting next door, I asked our neighbour to look after Alice.
As a police car pulled up, and Michael and Kaitlin stepped out, panic washed over me.
Why were they crying? Why had Michael brought Kaitlin home?
‘Who died?’ I whispered, instinctively knowing.
‘All three!’ Michael sobbed.
My knees went, I had no strength and I collapsed in his arms, howling in pain.
‘How?!’ I wept.
The police officer took us inside and sat me down before telling me what had happened.
‘Your mum was turning right into a road when another car drove straight into her,’ he explained.
‘The other driver died, and his passenger was seriously injured.
‘I’m afraid your mum and daughters died on impact.’
How do you take in something like that? How can you comprehend that you’ve lost not one, but three people you love?
Mum was only 60, the girls were just five. I couldn’t get my head around it, but I was about to make it sink in.
‘We need someone to identify their bodies,’ police said.
‘I’ll do it,’ I nodded. I had to see them to believe it.
To shield Michael from more pain, my mum’s best friend Kathy came with me.
As soon as I saw my little girls’ faces, swollen and pale, I broke down. ‘That’s Grace,’ I sobbed, pointing to my beautiful, red-haired girl. ‘And that’s Jessica.’ Her blonde hair was limp against her face.
My little miracles had been cruelly snatched away.
We held a joint funeral for Mum and the twins a week later.
More than 450 people came along, and we played High School Musical songs.
I pictured the girls in their fairy costumes, and it broke my heart knowing I’d never see them again.
The worst wasn’t over, though.
Just a few days later, police contacted us with more news about the crash. ‘The other driver was doing 25mph over the 50mph speed limit.
‘There were prescription and illegal drugs in his system… and we don’t think he had his lights on.’
‘He murdered them!’ Michael cried, breaking down.
Weeks passed and we barely made it through each day. We knew we had to carry on for Kaitlin and Alice, but it was hard.
When the twins’ sixth birthday rolled around four months later, I wanted to do something to remember them by.
‘Why don’t we hold a road safety awareness day?’ Michael suggested to me.
So we got in touch with a local radio station and asked everyone who supported our campaign to hang pink and purple ribbons outside – the twin’s favourite colours.
On the day, as we drove around, pink and purple ribbons fluttered in the breeze everywhere we looked.
‘If just one person sees them and slows down, I’ll know they didn’t die for nothing,’ I said, wiping away tears.
But I didn’t want it to end there. I wanted everyone to know what we’d lost – and learn from it. So when the police told me about a road safety awareness programme for driving offenders, I wanted to get involved and help out.
In November last year, I spoke in front of 150 people. My hands shook and my voice trembled. Then, when I thought I couldn’t continue, I closed my eyes.
For the briefest moment I saw my girls dancing, and Mum smiling encouragingly…
Taking a deep breath, I carried on. ‘Passengers should be aware, too,’ I said. ‘If you see the driver doing something stupid, tell them to stop. Don’t let my mum and daughters die for no reason…’
Since then, I’ve attended many talks and discusssions. This year, we held another awareness day to mark the girls’ birthday.
Their precious lives were cut short but, until I’m with them again, I know they’re forever safe with their Mimi…
Kelly Hornby, 36, Palmwoods, Queensland, Australia