It's very difficult to explain what it's like to lose a brother, even harder when that brother is your best friend. I was lucky enough to watch him grow, see him become a man, stand proudly next to him as he became a husband and prouder still as he became a father. He was the best of men and certainly the best I've ever known.
16th June 2011
“Corporal Lloyd Newell was fatally wounded in Afghanistan by small arms fire while on operations”.
Thursday 16th June 2011 began just like any normal day, me on the train into London to work, a small black Americano, extra shot and caramel syrup in hand. My sister was due to find out the sex of her baby on that day. At 10 am I receive that call from her, but it's frantic and pretty much indecipherable, at first I think there's something wrong with her or the baby and when I eventually get her to calm down enough so that I can understand her, she delivers the worst and cruellest news I've been hoping that I'll never get to hear.
7 years on it's still just as difficult to fathom, that he's no longer here. I miss the laughs we had, I miss his weetabix sideburns, his big grin, his piercing blue eyes, I miss the times we shared. Everyday, the first thing I do is listen to my 'Lloydy' playlist, which some may suggest is unhealthy, but for me it's routine and helps me manage the idea, that I won't be seeing him again, until at least we are both but shadows and dust. I also know his loss is felt massively, not just for us as his family and friends, but through those he'd served with or indeed come in to contact with during his career, I got a sense of that when he was repatriated and again when he was laid to rest, it was overwhelming.
Since I've tried to do as much as I can in tribute to him to keep his light shining bright, that obviously culminated with The 100 Peaks last year, starting on the anniversary of the day he left for Afghan and finishing on the day we found out he wouldn't be coming home. I along with my teammates made the final ascent of The 100 Peaks Challenge on to the summit of Pen Y Fan (in the Brecon Beacons) via Jacobs Ladder, in that moment, 25 days of emotion hit me like a train. Nearly two and half years of planning and 25 days of gruelling endurance had been realised in that moment, not to mention the significance of the occasion and the reason why we were making that climb in the first place, to celebrate Lloydy and the life he led.
Truth be told I didn't want to be making that final climb for the reasons I was, indeed given the chance to have 5 minutes more with Lloydy I would give back those 25 days gladly. But somehow I know he was with us on that summit, I've carried him with me for the last seven years and I know he's walked with me in that time too. He may be gone physically, but he's always around and now because of what we achieved with the Challenge I know he'll never be forgotten, and that's the best I could have ever of hoped for.
However, the year since has flown by and with no 100 Peaks to pay tribute to Lloydy, I found myself at a bit of a low ebb and was worried that the day would pass with nothing more than our collective thoughts of him, which I know is ok, but I felt that the day still needed something so that we could pay our respective tributes to him and celebrate him, maybe not in the same way as we did last year, but in a way that might mean the occasion could be a little bit more inclusive.
I tentatively threw an idea out there to suggest that we try and do something to ensure The 100 Peaks legacy lives on, and the idea then came that we would Run/TAB/Cycle/Walk or Crawl 7miles or 7km, it could be done anywhere and it would be open to all.
What I didn't plan for was the overwhelming support that the idea received (see gallery below, apologies if I haven't managed to capture everyone), the baton was picked up by family, friends, friends of Lloydy, guys he'd served with and people that had never met him, that have heard about him and wanted to celebrate and pay tribute to him.
I can't believe how much love the boy received from you all, well I can (based on my own feelings and those of who I know that spent time in his company), but even so, I never expected the constant flurry of activity that meant Saturday really was a celebration of a truly special man, a giant among men.
I really don't have the words to express my gratitude for embracing this little idea fully and for you all paying tribute to him in this way. For all of us that feel his loss, I'm sure we all got massive comfort from that and I hope I can speak for everyone and say from the bottom of our hearts, thank you and big love to you all xxx