Love machine

Could the very thing that brought death into our lives also bring joy?

Published by: Laura Hinton
Published on: 10th March 2011

The wind rushed by as I clung to my hubby Jonathan. His motorbike purred beneath us, sunshine warming my back. The perfect way to spend a September afternoon.
We’d decided to go for a ride through the Cambridgeshire countryside. As far as we were concerned, only on a motorbike could you fully enjoy the open road.
Even now, 30 years since I’d first climbed on a bike with Jonathan, I loved every second. It’s how we’d met. As members of Pegasus Bike Club, Cambridge, I’d spotted his cheeky smile and slick moustache, and fallen in love.
‘I’ve always been a sucker for a guy in leathers,’ I chuckled, remembering.
Jonathan was no Hell’s Angel. He was the safest rider I knew and always looked out for his passengers.
Slowing to take a bend, I waited for his tap on my right knee – his signal to hold on because of danger ahead. But there was no need. Gliding out of the bend, we cruised along. Hedgerows whipped by….
Suddenly, the squeal of brakes was deafening. The side of a white coach, pulling out of a lay-by ahead, filled my vision.
We were heading straight for it.
The bike wobbled as Jonathan, 50, braked as hard as possible. My hands tightened on the grip rail. No good, I was lifted out of the seat.
As if weightless, I flew over the top of the bike, flipped through the air. A thump. Searing pain. I’d slammed into the side of the coach. Landing limp as a rag doll on the tarmac, pain exploded through me.
Shattered glass surrounded me, digging in me. I fought for breath, but my helmet’s chin strap was choking me. ‘J-J-Jona…’ I tried to call, but couldn’t. Tried moving, but my limbs felt disconnected.
Screams and panicking voices filled the air. My eyes… were starting to… close… Then I saw Jonathan.
He was laying on the ground nearby, his right arm bent awkwardly behind his back. A trail of blood was slowly snaking its way across the road from beneath his helmet. He wasn’t moving. I had to get to him!
Trying to stay awake, I fought the pain burning through my body and tried reaching him. Must touch his hand, tell him we were going to be okay. But I still couldn’t breathe. My eyes were getting heavy, I didn’t have the strength to…
My head lolled towards Jonathan. ‘I love you,’ I thought. The sun glinted off his helmet as my eyes closed. Memories of the two of us overwhelmed me. The sun had reflected off his visor on our first date, dazzling me as he’d whipped off his helmet and run a hand through his jet-black hair. ‘Shall we get a drink?’ he’d asked.
‘Of course,’ I’d blushed, aware I’d been so busy staring at him I hadn’t got off his bike.
Thankfully, that hadn’t put him off! Five months later, while riding to Cambridge, he’d pulled up on the side of a country road and proposed. It wasn’t wedding bells I was hearing now, though, but the steady bleep of machines.
Opening my eyes slowly, I took in the bright lights, listened to the low murmur of voices. I was in hospital.
But why? I’d been out for a ride… Then it came flooding back – the coach, the screams, Jonathan…
Where was my husband?!
‘Mum, you’re awake?’ I heard our son Jason, 25, say softly.
‘Jason,’ I said. ‘What happened?’
‘You suffered a serious brain injury,’ he explained. ‘You’ve been in a coma for three weeks.’
‘What about your dad?’ I asked.
‘You get some rest, we’ll talk later,’ he said softly.
It felt like yesterday we’d nicknamed him Rucksack because of the way he’d clung to his dad when they went out for a ride.
‘Be careful with that precious cargo,’ I’d joke. And he had been. But that was him all over, so gentle and caring. Where was he now? There was no sign of him.
‘Where’s my husband?’ I asked nurses. But they looked at me as if I was speaking gibberish. ‘You’ll see him soon,’ one assured me.
‘I’m just a trainee,’ another said.
I couldn’t understand it. When Jonathan had come off his bike and smashed his arm up a few years ago, I’d been there for him. ‘Everything aches,’ he’d moaned.
Doctors had diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis. It had soon spread to the rest of his body, leaving him unable to even grip the handlebars on his bike. But I’d encouraged him to work through the pain and continue biking.
I’d been there for him, so why wasn’t he here for me?
Whenever Jason came to visit and I asked about his dad, he changed the subject. Finally, six weeks after the accident, Jason sat by my bed. ‘Where’s your dad…?’ I said.
‘Mum, Dad’s gone,’ he whispered. ‘He died on the road that day. We wanted to wait to tell you.’
‘But… but he can’t….’ I said.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he sobbed.
‘H-he’s dead?’ The last time I’d seen him he’d been lying on the road. I’d tried reaching out to him. Surely he hadn’t been dead… had he?
‘I’m never going to see him again,’ I said, tears running down my cheeks.
Two weeks later, I was allowed home. I cut myself off from the world, and didn’t go near a motorbike. I wished I’d died in the accident with Jonathan. I hadn’t been able to say goodbye, or tell him how much I loved him.
Hitting rock bottom, I was flicking through a photo album a year later when I spotted a picture of my lovely fella on his bike, and thought of our first date.
Then I realised… After his diagnosis, he thought he’d never ride again, but I’d encouraged him to get back in the saddle. He’d have wanted me to do the same.
So, a week later, I went to the Tiger Motorbike Club, in Sawston, Cambridgeshire. Hopping on to a bike, it felt weird not wrapping my arms around Jonathan. But when I revved the engine, its roar made me the happiest I’d been since the crash.
Now when I ride a motorbike, I feel closer to him again. It’s like a time machine, taking me back to a happier place in my heart.
Susan Lunt, 46, Hardwick, Cambridgeshire