A year ago my beloved brother Tony suffered serious injuries in Dover following a suspected hit and run . He had gone to the Care Home to collect Covid Samples for testing and was walking to his car when the incident occurred.
Tony has joked and smiled with the staff and wished them a Merry Christmas. It was the Care Staff who found him. He leaves behind four children, the youngest who was eight years old at the time. Always a man of duty, loyalty and kindness, Tony served his country to the very end.
He set up informal walking clubs, he was active in Slimmers world, he supported poor people, served as a special constable and simply loved people. His legacy of love and service will never be forgotten.
I am celebrating the life of this really special man, my super hero brother who kept laughing and smiling to the very end. Over the last year I have experienced ups and downs. I love entertainment which I find offer me a creative time to think, to dream and to be creative. Times of pain are when the corporate consciousness can be assessed. I missed a Mo Gilligan show due to the impact of Tony’s death. I contacted Ticketmaster UK to explain what had happened. Not only did they disregard the news I shared and the appeals I made against the backdrop of my spending thousands of pounds with them, they dehumanised me by throwing excerpts of policies my way, they completed the humiliation by sending me a feedback from to rate their performance! I was struck by the lack of empathy and compassion I experienced at such a time of vulnerability. Even the Guardian who I contacted did not acknowledge my distress or pain by responding to my correspondence. Anxiety UK left me feeling even more anxious!
With the poor responses came those that were compassionate, caring , connected and competent and compliant. My hat goes off to Victim Support, Brent Bereavement Services, Harrow Bereavement Care, Road Peace and Brent Talking Therapies, my wonderful GP who supported me through this harrowing time.
Friends and colleagues showed love, care and compassion and dried my tears when the hurt got so much. I would not wish this experience on anyone. It is in dark times that you find out who your friends are and which businesses deserve your custom. The words of Dr Maya Angelou ring in my ears “I’ve learnt that people will forge what you said,, people what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Even after his fatal and shocking passing, my brother still continues to teach me lessons in life , grief, loss and love. Thank you Brother Tony, your legacy will last forever.
00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with Tesse Akpeki and myself, Paula Okonneh. This is a special edition because there are times in our lives when we want to mark certain milestone and this is one of them. This special edition is celebrating Tony Akpeki, Tesse’s older brother who passed away tragically last year in December. And Tessie says that Tony is not was, is a hero. He’s a mentor, he’s her coach and chief entertainment officer. And so that’s what we’re doing today, celebrating him with all those titles. Tessie? I can’t so welcome to “TesseTalks” because
00:01:12 Tesse: you can.
00:01:12 Paula: You can?
00:01:13 Tesse: You can. That’s my alter ego.
00:01:16 Paula: So, welcome to “TesseTalks”
00:01:18 Tesse: Thank you Paula, thank you.
00:01:22 Paula: So it’s been a year since Tony was killed. Can you tell us what has happened since then?
00:01:30 Tesse: Yeah, I can Paula, thank you so much for your question. Unfortunately, Tony had gone to work on the 17th of December, 2020 and his work involved collecting COVID samples. And he had gone to a care home in Dover and was collecting COVID samples from there, you know, testing the kind of weekly testing. And as he was walking to his car, someone ran into him, left him, took off and left him to die at the side of the road that day. That had been traffic on the road so what would have been a one hour 15 minutes journey took about five hours and Tony’s wife had said to him, turn round and come back. And he said, no, he didn’t want to let people down because would be waiting for someone to collect that. So it was really duty that led Tony to continue that journey. And unfortunately we know that his last stand was outside that care home in Dover. And all I can say by way of summaries is that the last one year I have been living a life that I didn’t plan. I’ve been planning for a future that I thought would be different and I never ever thought that I would have my life about my brother, Tony, at this time. I know that all of us will die one day, but Tony was just my heart. He was absolutely everything to me. And he leaves behind four children and a very lovely wife and just a family that is just trying to make sense of things following his tragic killing. So it’s been, it’s been grim, very grim and, you know, coming up to the anniversary, I know that what I read in the test books is true. The anniversaries are hard. Anniversaries are hard. And this anniversary is, is no, is no different. It just is awful. In fact, I just work, use one word sucks because it just sucks to feel the way that I’m feeling right now. It’s sad. Yeah. It’s sad.
00:04:14 Paula: I can only just imagine the pain. Then the thing about the first anniversary is that it has been a series of first, you know, first Christmas without him, first birth, new year without him, first, you know, birthday, without him there, lots of firsts that you’ve never had to deal with. And so as it runs the gamut, you know, every month, there’s something first that has happened without him. That’s what makes that first anniversary particularly hard. Going forward and this is based on my own experience, it’s not that you forget them, but it’s, there’s no longer a first because you can see that you’ve lived through those,” oh my gosh, how am I going to do my birthday without my, whoever the last one is”. But then having gone through that the second year and subsequent years gets a little easier. It’s not great, but it’s a little easier. And so talk, in the same light of talking about not so great. I know it’s been a tough year because you and I do this show together, this podcast together, but are there any not so great experiences that you’ve had along the way before we got to this time?
00:05:40 Tesse: Wow Paula, that’s an excellent question. And I wish I could say no, there’s nothing, but that’s not true. One of the things that I’ve found in this past one year is actually the lack of compassion, in some systems and some institutions and some businesses, and the lack of compassion that had existed around my story and some of the experiences that I’ve had, which have been very painful. In fact, some of them I’ve cried and I know to people listening that might not be, there might not be big things, but for me, they were very daunting things. So as you know, I’m the sort of person that I love entertainment. I love going to theater, I love going to the cinema, live concerts, et cetera. I binge on these things and the interesting thing is that even as I get, when I’m getting sadder, I’d binge more because it helps me to be distracted from what’s happening. And I had a really, really sad, situation where I was going to watch, a comedy show. And I bought my ticket from Ticketmaster and, because it was postponed from the pandemic at the early days til this year, you know, I I’ve just because of Tony’s death, I wasn’t able to attend and I got in touch with them and they said there was nothing they can do. And I explained to them, Tony had been killed. This what’s happened. That’s why I couldn’t come. And they did nothing. And if anything, they kept on throwing paragraphs. You know, they kept on throwing paragraphs or policies over the line.
00:07:23 Paula: Paragraphs or policies?
00:07:25 Tesse: Policies. Yeah. They just extracted policy like statement and were throwing them at me. Like this is what our policy and throwing at me. And this is a policy and I just kept on coming back, like a broken record and saying ” I’m telling you, my brother was killed”. And another policy come in another policy, so a time came when I said, actually I’m a lawyer and some of these things I have drafted, I know that policies are for people, not people for policies. And actually if you show some compassion, some care, and never one time did they actually allude to, or you’ve lost your brother, nothing like that. It was all this politics, attendance of policy said that, and actually given that I spent thousands of pounds with ticket master and actually hoped or had hoped to spend thousands of pounds more. I was heartbroken because this department is supposed to be called the experience, the client experience departments. And I’ve gotten all this stuff from the, you know, from the, them. Ticket master, I think they can play an important rule in people’s lives. In my life it could have been so much different cause I wasn’t even asking for my money back. I was just asking to be able to see the show. And I just got nothing but policies and extorts back. So that was ticket master. And the second thing that was really upsetting was actually when I wanted to get to some awareness around Tony’s death and what he meant, et cetera and you can do these things. And I’d write to journalists and I’d write to different places and I’d write to some individuals who are very influential and not only did they not respond, they didn’t even acknowledge anything. So I just felt that my pain, as an individual who had lost a sister in community, et cetera, was lost. But the worst situation for me was when I wrote to the guardian and the guardian is for me, I’ve been reading the guardian for years and years and years. And I, not only did I write to them, I phoned up, I was given the name of a journalist and they didn’t even acknowledge it, the journalist didn’t even acknowledge my email. And I wrote again and they did it. And you might think,” Oh Tesse, why are you doing this thing? Why are you saying these things?” Because these are people who could have lightened my load somewhat by at least acknowledging, they probably wouldn’t have been able to publish the story. They probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything, but by actually saying, look, you know, you’ve lost someone dear to you, we are sorry, can’t do that. That would have made me feel better but as it was, it was so poor. And then there was, the third thing I mentioned some services, like counseling services. Some of them were so poorly done, so poorly. In fact, one of them, you know, anxiety UK, I contacted and by the way that, by the time I finished with them, I thought, yeah, I’m even more anxious than what I started. Now the reason why I’m naming these is because I have all the paperwork to prove that I did these things. I think they risk something, when people are looking at the experience that given to people at the end of things, or during their lifetime, there are things that they can make different. They can be better at those moments because those are the moments that people will remember. You know, Maya Angelo, Dr. Maya Angelou says, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. Compassion and care are important in these, in these matters and at this point in time with Tony’s the last year, some of these services, some of these places have been found wanting not good enough for me. Not good enough for anyone. Paula, did you agree?
00:10:51 Paula: I agree. I’m so sorry that you had to go through all of that. That’s tough. It really compounds your grief when you’re treated with disrespect or disregard. That’s probably more of it because they don’t know you, you know, a client experience, especially when you talked about Ticketmaster
00:11:10 Tesse: Yes! I got back extracts of their policy. This is their policy and I’m like, my brother just died. My brother died mate, you know, it was, I remember crying. I cried and I thought, well, I’ll spend my tickets that I have unspent cause I still have about four more tickets, but ticketmasters lost one customer and this is one customer that actually spent a lot of money. When I say thousands, I’m not kidding you. Thousands of pounds on tickets. Well, they’re not getting my money no more.
00:11:43 Paula: I agree with you 100%. But I wanted to say, but I know you’ve also had some positive experiences. I mean, the fact that you’re able to talk about this and you’re laughing now, that’s positive. Are there any other positive experiences that you can, you know, share with us?
00:12:04 Tesse: You know, Paula, I’m so glad and you know, you’re my friend, but you’re also an amazing podcaster and you just see right into my heart and one of the highlights for me this year has been the way you, Paula have really encouraged me to keep going. You know, I mean, I think when, when BrosT, when he died, when he was killed in such a tragic way, I just lost that will to live really, you know, it’s such a significant part of my life had gone and I just felt this big hole and I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to get up in the morning, I wanted to roll under the blanket. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to live. And despite the time difference, Paula, my friend you’d call me from America. And you would say “Tesse, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do this.” and I said, “I can’t write”. You said, “look, tell me, and I’ll write for you”. And we had spent the early days when I talk and you would write, and I would talk with tears in my eyes and we would write, and I know you don’t like writing. So I knew it was kind of like a sacrifice, but you know what, Paula, I learned the importance of friendship and a good friend is somebody who is there when you really need them. A good friend is somebody who dry your tears. That their role, a good friend is someone who stretches out a hand. So what has got me through this crazy time of pain of anguish, of despair or frustration and agony and really, really deep, deep, deep sadness and loss and grief has been friendships. You know, the friends that care, the friends that are there, the friends that are where you really need them and I have the gift of friendship and linked it to that the gift of appreciation for those friends. And then, you know, kind of my faith. I mean, at the beginning, it was really hard because I was like, which good God takes someone you love and I’m not going to lie. My faith was totally shaking. I was just like, oh, totally shaking. I mean, some people say you have a strong faith, not at the beginning. I just thought, thought my brother was killed and he was doing something good. I don’t understand it. I really don’t understand how you took my brother. And, you know, it was really interesting because my church, which is St Cuthbert’s, pastor Steve, then and now pastor Trevor. Pastor Steve came alongside me and at least once a week, he would check in and he’d say, “Tessie, how are you doing? How are you, how are you doing?” And pastor Steve, that he attended my brother’s funeral. It was online. Pastor Steve came to, you know, pastor Steve was really, and to me, I just thought God to come flesh. Which is the Emmanuel, you know, got to come flesh through pastor Steve and my friend Avro who’s also in church and she would pray and she did a trauma doll. By the way, she just knitted me a victory doll because I have a trauma doll, I have a victory doll and
00:15:04 Paula: That’s, you know, that says a lot because if you have a trauma doll, and now you have a victory doll, Something happened in between the two that has gotten you to the victory?
00:15:18 Tesse: Yeah, yeah. She, she, she actually gives me a victory doll and that kind of victory was that the grave is too small to hold Tony. Tony’s spirit too big, you know. Tony, you know, is in heaven, Tony’s with God, Tony’s spirit and whatever. And you know, but that journey cause she didn’t do the trauma and the victory all at once. You know, it was the first word is trauma. And then, and what Avro did for me, she prayed for me, she sat with me, we had coffee together and the victory doll came only a few weeks ago because she realized that I was all ready to do that journey and she had accompanied me on the journey and still can accommodate me. So there’s something that I have learned, which is about the value of allyship, the value of accompanying the value of walking with, through grief and loss and sadness and an Avro was that. So I’ve mentioned my friend and I’ve mentioned Avro. And the third thing I would say as much as I’ve talked about the charities, which were horrible, the one that was horrible, there were charities, which were absolutely brilliant. So at the moment, I’m being supported by, road peace. And I’ve been, I’m being supported by break and I’m linked into victim support. And the talking therapies have really, really helped me. And so I have come to believe in the importance of sharing some of these struggles and actually sharing is caring. Sharing’s inviting other people into your space, but also people who do things. A lot of these services I’ve mentioned break and rupees, are supported by volunteers and yeah. Volunteer, their volunteer services and what I’ve learned is the importance of being there in the gap when people are down, when people are vulnerable, where people don’t feel a sense of being worthy, they’re feeling desperate. They’re feeling lost. They’re feeling uncared for. What I have learned at this time is what it’s like to be in that space. But also, what I’ve learned also, is important of being the hand that reaches out and embraces the lost that reaches out and listens to those who are hurting that provides for those who don’t have. So this has elevated my presence in life to a totally different level because I see that compassion and care are not optional extras. They are essential. They are essential part of having a quality life and the quality purpose or being purposeful or fulfilled. So if you think about the ticket master that has no compassion and you put it with the brick that it’s full of compassion, that you can see that connection and compassion, when it connects with compliance, you get a very rich meal.
00:18:20 Paula: That’s awesome. And I said so twice primarily, because what you’re saying is what a lot of people need to hear.
00:18:28 Tesse: Yeah.
00:18:29 Paula: Compassion. Yeah, compliance. And there’s a third one.
00:18:34 Tesse: Connection.
00:18:35 Paula: Okay. Compassion, connection, and compliance.
00:18:38 Tesse: Yes.
00:18:39 Paula: I was going to ask you if you’d learned anything from this. Well, I can’t say it’s been a beautiful experience, but this tragic loss, but you know, having to keep living through it, I think you’ve summarized it though in what you just say.
00:18:54 Tesse: Well, I am going to summarize it a bit more and bring it together and before I summarize it, I want to tell you part of it is a very fantastic piece of news I want to share with you cause I, I haven’t shared this with you.
00:19:06 Paula: Oh okay.
00:19:08 Tesse: Yeah. I got, I went round the houses really, and I actually felt really lost and one morning I was unable to sleep and so I wrote a, an email to my MP. And I sent the email, I knew he wouldn’t be watching, but guess what? Within a few hours, my MP had got back to me that MP member of parliament, and he had got back to me and he said, look, Tessie, I’ll support you in any way I can and then I was braver and I wrote another thing to describe even more. And he came back and he said, even with these details, it’s more important I support you. So Paula I’m really happy to say that I’ve been encouraged by my MP and my MP will be supporting me and my family and my family and I through this really hard time. And I’m wondering why didn’t I write to him to start off with why they leave it so long. But anyway, I think the time was right and my MPA supported me through this and this is fantastic.
00:20:08 Paula: And I about to just say yes, the time is right. Timing is everything and maybe you would not have been able to articulate the words or, you know, compose that email in such a way as you were able to do now, as you know, a few years, if not a few years, a few months ago, you just went to that headspace.
00:20:27 Tesse: Absolutely. After that, I think you’re quite right, but it was very, very concise. I was very concise and I was very clear about what I would like to see happen to me or support me, et cetera. And he obliged and he’s just a brilliant MP and I think that’s why he’s so supportive in our community. But in relation to key messages and key learning, I think that there is one thing and the one thing is this, is that everything happens in its own time at a particular time. For some people listening time is of the essence. Time is really important, timing is important. And I think that Linked into that, I would like to say that no matter what negative experiences that they are, I have learned that even when I felt alone, I have not been alone because there’ve been times when I felt so desperate and I’ve wanted to give up on life and living and it’s people like yourself and others that reached out. And I knew that I am not alone. And it’s like, you’re not alone. The more positive people and positive services out there that care. And it’s to say to anyone listening, reach out still, even though it looks bleak, reach out. But the third and final thing I’d like to say, and this comes back to our theme of compassionate accountability, which we’ve been touching on through the year and into next year is that it’s important to be connected. It’s important to be compassionate and empathetic, it’s important to make some capacity for other people other than yourself, but also to be competent in doing what you need to do and compliant, underpinning that. And I think that where it has gone wrong is when people have been compliant related but not compassionate and I think that that gap needs to be closed. So overall, I think, and I’m going to close with this and from my point of view, there is a saying about the other side of sadness, there’s joy. And I think that and hope that in this kind of really horrible experience of loss and grief, I think that this time with you Paula sharing Tony and what he meant to me and still means to me now it’s about saying frosty, you left behind a legacy, you served others in your lifetime, you cared for other people, you saw other people, you supported other people, you gave everything and you died caring. And I hope with all my heart and with everything in me that I keep that legacy in my heart, so that I remember your example, I remember your love, your humor, your laugh, everything about you and your life would not have been in vain.
00:23:28 Paula: I love that. And I love the fact that you are saying you will keep that legacy. You’ll keep his memory alive because he was impactful the 59 plus years,
00:23:44 Tesse: 59, he didn’t even reach 60. We already, we were already planning his sixtieth birthday and I had already started researching for his, and we have freedom PA bus pass and had all done, even though he didn’t use public transport, but that’s a different thing. He wanted to know what he could get and he did. He didn’t get to 60 now. He didn’t get to 60.
00:24:03 Paula: That’s what I wanted to say. The 59, almost 60 years that he was on life was impactful and you know, it’s tough. It’s really tough, but I like where you are right now in your celebration of him, this in itself is a big plus, um, we did something similar to this last, not last year in February, and it’d be interesting for us to go back and listen to that, to see where you’ve come from, but whatever the case, I do want anyone listening out, those listening to this to realize there is hope there is life after grief, there’s life during grief and a grieving process, it’s not one that we should be solitary in, as Tessie said, open up, be with people, talk about it, you know, because at some point or the other, we, because we are human, are going to experience grief. One way or the other and hearing how people have gotten through it and looking at their lives during it and after it can be helpful to so many to know that there is hope. So, thank you Tesse for being so vulnerable and open about your journey, but at the same time, celebrating the wonderful life of brother T
00:25:29 Tesse: brother T, brosT.
00:25:31 Paula: BrosT
00:25:32 Tesse: BrosT. Yeah. Yeah. BrosT was just, as I said, he was just amazing and you know, celebrating Tony and celebrating him with you. I know that he’s looking on at us and he’s just smiling because he loves you too Paula, you know that and yeah, you were one of his favorite people.
00:25:58 Paula: As he was mine and that goes way back to 1970 something. Oh my God.
00:26:05 Tesse: Way back to 1977, seventy-five. Yeah. Yeah. You would like a little sister to him.
00:26:12 Paula: Yes. Yes. So to our listeners, you’ve heard the story of brother T ,brosT, Tony Akpeki, older brother of Tessie and because of Tesse a friend of mine, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, gone, but never forgotten. Can’t be forgotten. And so typically this is a podcast and we are going to make a podcast out of this. So please, if you don’t have a chance to view this, please head over to apple podcasts or Google podcasts, or wherever else you listen to podcasts and just subscribe to “TesseTalks.” We would love to hear your story as well because your stories and our guests is what has kept us going throughout 2021. Thank you. Thank you Tesse, I don’t know how to say thank you to my own host.
00:27:14 Tesse: Oh, you can always thank us, as I said,”TesseTalks” is my alter ego and Paula as we go off and we finish this podcast. I just want again, to say how much your love has healed me and how much I love you as my friend, as my co-host, as my star and I want to help actually thank everybody who has listened to the podcast over the year, who has sent in comments on LinkedIn, who’s just been brilliant because without you, I wouldn’t be here. So thank you so much and I mean that, thank you.
00:27:48 Paula: And I echo everything she said about our listeners and our guests. And I also want to echo what you just said to me. I love you too my sis, my sis in Christ, my sis on the podcast.
00:28:03 Tesse: Amen, amen.
00:28:04 Paula: Its been a journey, but it’s been a good journey.
00:28:07 Tesse: Thank you, darling.
00:28:09 Paula: Thank you.