Elliot John Kerslake arrived in the world bang on his due date, 27 May 2010 at 1.16am.
His big brother Oliver and big sister Emily met him later that day; Oliver had a tear in his eye when he first saw him. That memory will stay with us forever.
Elliot, or EJ as we often called him, brought us so much love, chaos and joy. He could get almost anything with a sparkle of his beautiful blue eyes and his cheeky smile. He fitted into family life as though he had been there forever, the big age gap between him and his siblings made no difference. Elliot loved doing what they did and they in turn loved taking him to the park, ball pool or swimming. Elliot was on the touchline watching his brother and sister playing football and cricket from the age of 2 weeks, he just loved being involved.
He had such a caring spirit and he gave the most amazing strong bear hugs. He would give you a hug then pull away and look you in the eye with a smile, as if he knew he had made you feel good. Whenever he was sat in between us he would put an arm around both of us, pull us towards him and say "I'm hugging both" – this always made us smile.
If you ever hurt yourself or were sad he would just come and hug you, what we wouldn't do for one of his hugs now. It wasn't just us he would hug, if a child was crying when we were out, even if he didn't know them he would offer them a hug and a smile.
Inquisitive is word that we often used to describe Elliot. He loved to know how things worked and always wanted to do whatever he saw others doing, "I do it" he would say as he came over to get involved. It wasn't until the last six months or so that he really got into playing with toys, he would much rather see how the washing machine worked, usually by putting his toys in for a wash without you realising, once he tried putting a battery charger in the microwave and turning it on!
He also had a passion for Hoovers! He would pull out the Hoover, plug it in and turn it on. He also loved sitting in the car and pretending to drive but he always wanted the keys left in the car to make it real. What's the harm Mum thought one day and left the keys in, only to find that Elliot could actually turn the keys and turned the engine on. Quick learner!
He loved his music and to dance "music on" he would say, and then we would hold him and dance around the kitchen with him in our arms. When the song finished he would say "again". He loved the Gangnam Style song, insisting his brother keep playing it over and over again. Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam were big favourites of Elliot’s; he could even get his brother to switch off wrestling so he could watch Peppa Pig. He was also a good negotiator, aided by his encouraging sister. Whether it was a promise to eat his tea for an ice lolly, persuading you to let him watch another Peppa Pig before bed time or "two more minutes" snuggling in bed with you before it was time to get up, he was hard to say no to as he knew how to use his big blue eyes and smile to good effect.
It is fair to say that Elliot was also a challenge though, "oh Elliot" was a common phrase we used when he had got up to mischief, whether that was sneaking into his sister’s bedroom and scoffing her Christmas chocolates, turning the shower on when he was fully clothed or pulling the covers off his brother in the morning to get him out of bed. We had our heart in our mouths so many times, his love of climbing, whether it was scaling the bunk beds then jumping off or dangling off the banister shouting "daddy look at me, look what am I doing". Needing to have eyes in the back of your head was only part of the challenge with Elliot.
Elliot managed to get on with all ages, whether it was chatting to the parents who came to pick up his friends at his childminders, telling them what he was doing, or engaging with his brother and sister’s friends (and stealing their sweets); he just loved social contact, loved being with people. But most of all he loved being with his family and especially Emily and Oliver who from the moment he was born he had wrapped around his little finger.
Waking up every morning to the realisation that the chaos and joy that Elliot brought has gone really hurts and we know in some form it always will.
There is a line from Terry’s Song by Bruce Springsteen that captures where our hearts are since we lost Elliot.
"They say you can't take it with you, but I think that they're wrong'
Because all I know is I woke up this morning and something big was gone"
Although our hearts are heavy, they are also filled with hope. Setting up Elliot's Footprint Charity is our way of keeping Elliot's loving and caring spirit alive and taking him with us in our hearts as we begin our journey to rebuild our lives and look to help to rebuild the lives of other families who have suffered the tragic loss of a child.