Samuel's inquest is one week away. One week until I stand in a courtroom, swear on oath and give my testimony to a random group of strangers, making up a jury.
My witness statement is ready. I've tried to practice it so that I won't stumble on the day. I've not managed it. The part when I describe writing his 18th birthday card and this going in his coffin just leaves me sobbing.
I know people not close to this awful process will ask why this is happening and why now. He died two and a half years ago. Why has it taken so long? Why would we put ourselves through this?
Firstly, it's not our choice. It's a legal requirement. Secondly, it's taken so ridiculously long because the Coroner's system is a disorganised archaic shambles. But that’s another story.
Thirdly, and most importantly this inquest is for our boy. To search for the truth, to explore the missed opportunities and to get accountability. If it were your loved one, you’d be determined to do the same.
The whole process has come at a price. The past three months especially have pushed me to my limits. Possible postponement, legal game-playing, and lack of traction have left me floundering.
All the horrendous grief symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, brain fog and overwhelm have returned in abundance. I've had to read statements describing the last months and even moments of my son's life. It has taken me back to that place of trauma, again and again.
We have created a beautiful ‘pen portrait’ video to play to the jury. It captures the essence of Samuel. The cutest baby, engaging toddler and sports-mad young boy. His sister Daisy spent all weekend piecing together his life into motion. Seeing the video evolve was tough. The moving images of Samuel brought him back to life. Leading the Crystal Palace chanting in a packed pub, collecting a football trophy and blowing kisses to the camera. He was firmly back with us, teasing our sanity.
As I prepare for 3 weeks of hearing evidence I'm filled with dread. I know I will find out new information which will be impossible to process in the moment. I fear how Samuel will be portrayed. Will he be demonised rather than seen as the vulnerable young person he was? Will the duty of candour by the agencies actually happen?
As a bereaved mother, I have this final task to complete. I must advocate for my son. To be his voice. To bring him into the courtroom.
I hope and pray we get some honest answers and the respect that Samuel and we deserve.