MY BOY BEN; Lance Cpl Hyde Was One of the Six 'Red Caps' Murdered by an Iraqi Mob. Here, on the Anniversary of the War, His Mother, in This Inspiring Tribute, Tells of Her Anguish and Pride as She Faces Mother's Day without Him
Byline: SANDRA HYDE
SATURDAY ESSAY By Sandra Hyde
TOMORROW is Mother's Day but this year, for the first time, there will be no card from my beloved son. Ben, my only child, died while serving in Iraq last year.
It was a brave soldier's death and I am so proud of him. But even now I cannot take in the finality of it all. I cannot believe my cheeky, charming Ben has gone for ever.
I still see his face bursting into a smile. I'm still waiting for his phone call: 'I'm home, Mum! Come and collect me from the station.' People say the pain gets easier to bear, but it doesn't. There is no solace nor comfort.
Time does not heal.
Ben was 23 when he died; murdered with five comrades by a mob that stormed an Iraqi police station.
There was a rain of shots but our lads did not fire back. They were not trained to fight; their role was to keep the peace. So they showed great courage. Even in the face of death, they did not retaliate.
Ben was a lance corporal with the Royal Military Police - a Red Cap - and he wore his crimson beret with pride. All he had ever wanted was a military career. So I do not have regrets that he chose this path. We raise our children to reach for their dreams. And Ben did just that.
I am not bitter. I am not angry. And I would urge the thousands of mothers who have cherished sons and daughters in Iraq to keep the faith. We must let our children prosper and thrive; we cannot be so consumed by our own fears that we fail to let them live the lives they choose.
But on this Mother's Day, too, my message to every mum is this: cherish each precious moment with your children.
No one who has not lost a child can understand the empty grief. No one knows the regret for those joyful shared times never to be regained. My heart goes out to every parent who lives daily with the pain of such loss.
I would not wish such suffering on anyone.
WE HAVE to make the most of the time we are given with our children.
Ben said as much himself. He wrote a letter to us when he went out to serve in Iraq, just before the start of the war, a year ago today.
It was a letter he hoped we would never receive, because it was to be sent to us only in the event of his death.
It still breaks my heart to read it, but what he wrote sustains me in my darkest moments. Ben wrote: 'Mum and Dad, If you are reading this then you will know that I won't be coming home. I am up in the stars now looking down on you and making sure you are safe.
'I am sorry for all the times I have been a pain but I know the good times have outweighed the bad tenfold.
'Thank you for being the best parents anyone could ever have wished for, and you gave me everything I could ever have wanted and more.
'You have both got long lives ahead of you yet, so make sure you make use of every second you have because sitting here writing this now I know just how precious time is.
'Tell the rest of the family I was thinking of them and make sure they all take care. Forgiveness is something everybody deserves because one day it may be too late. Remember that every time you are thinking of me I am thinking of you. Look after yourselves.
All my love, Ben XXX.' So now when I wish - as I do quite often - that I was up with Ben in the stars, I read his loving words and I know he would not want me to give up.
When I feel life is not worth the pain of living, I think of what he said.
And often I get up before dawn and look up in the sky for the brightest star.
As I see it twinkling away, I think 'That is my Ben,' and it gives me hope.
Doing things in remembrance of him gives me a reason for living. It is the only way his father gets through each day.
My husband, John, has only one purpose left: to keep the memory of our beloved Ben alive for ever. …