‘I want my dad but I can’t have him’: How Jade Brown coped with losing her dad Les in a devastating car crash when she was just nine years old
- Credit: Archant
Jade Brown lost her father when she was just nine years old after a road crash. Here, 20 years on from that terrible day, she tells ANDREW PAPWORTH how she coped with loss at such a young age – and how she is now trying to keep her dad's memory alive.
Many of us cannot imagine our parents not being there for the big moments of our lives, such as school sports days or taking us off to university.
But ever since her father was killed in a tragic road crash when she was aged just nine, Jade Brown has had to cope with the harsh reality of her beloved dad never being around.
On November 7 1997, 35-year-old Leslie Brown – commonly known as Les – died after being involved in a road crash two days earlier, when his car came off the road near Beccles.
It was an event that left Jade and her family understandably shell-shocked.
However, it is also one that forced a young daughter to find strength and resilience to help her and her family cope with such a devastating loss.
Now, 20 years on from that fateful day, Jade is appealing for those who knew the former mechanic and car-lover – who grew up in Stowmarket – to help her collect memories of the things he did and what he was like.
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Sadly, they are memories she had little chance to enjoy herself.
In the two days after the crash, Les' family – who lived in Pilgrims Way, Harleston at the time – gathered at his bedside in hospital. Doctors told them Les had punctures to his lungs and that they believed he would be left with severe brain damage.
Eventually, his family made the difficult decision to turn off his life support machine.
'If he was consciously aware, he would never have wanted to live like that,' Jade said.
'Therefore the difficult decision was made to let him go.'
Much of that highly emotional time, as is understandable, is a hazy memory for Jade, who now lives in Hamilton Close, Watton.
'All I really remember was me and my brother went to see him in hospital,' she said.
'I remember him being on the machine and he didn't look well.'
The children went to stay at a neighbour's house. It was there that their mother broke the terrible news to them that their dad had passed away.
Jade recalls being told of his passing as 'really disturbing'.
She said: 'You go into a bit of a trance. It doesn't seem real straight away.
'However I was more upset for us as a family. Seeing my mum upset was really difficult.
'My mum was upset and down. My brother was distraught. But we had to keep going.'
Despite what had happened, Jade – now aged 29 – chose to go back to school on the day she was told her dad had died.
'I couldn't hack being at home,' she said. 'I remember going to school and all the class had been on a swimming trip. I remember them coming back and me being upset at what had happened.
'However it taught me just to get on. Even as a nine-year-old, that's what I did. I just thought that if I can get on with stuff, everyone else can lean on me.
'It's incredible when you think about it – a nine-and-a-half year old with that coping mechanism. I put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.'
Jade received counselling after her father's death, which not only helped her come to terms and talk about what had happened but also learn more about herself as a person.
She also 'started to write music, as a way of getting out my thoughts and feelings'.
When she grew up, she became a music teacher – but also trained as a counsellor, because she was 'determined to try and help people through what I've been through'.
However, as time has gone on Jade has realised her memories of her father are limited.
'It's hard to think what life was like before,' she said. 'A lot of memories of him are quite hazy, because he was a taboo subject after the crash.
'As I was only nine years old at the time of his death, I didn't have the chance to get to know my dad as a person very well, and only have a limited amount of memories.
'Also due to losing contact with most of his family, over the years I have been unable to collect people's memories and stories of him and this makes me very sad.'
She is now 'trying to get different perspectives on my dad' by asking people in the area who may have known him to get in touch.
'Not only will this help me understand who he was but also I have recently given birth to my first child Kiera and I would really like her to know more about her grandfather,' Jade said.
'I have taken her to visit his grave at Redenhall and I want her to grow up knowing him as much as possible.'
Anyone with memories of Les Brown should email firstname.lastname@example.org
About Les Brown
Les Brown has been described by his daughter Jade as someone who was 'lovely and friendly' and 'seemed to get on with people really well'.
She added: 'I remember him being really fun and playing with us a lot.
'He always had warm hands and he always seemed really tall to me, although he wasn't that tall in reality.
'I remember him being funny and he was a proud mechanic – he built his own car from scratch. He could spark up a conversation with anyone about cars.'
However despite all the good memories, there is still sadness.
'I've always been quite used to talking about things,' Jade said.
'Although it's been 20 years, I still get quite upset. I find myself watching my husband playing with our baby girl and get tearful, because of the thought of my dad and the memories he must've shared with me that I can't remember.
'I want my dad but I can't have him.'