Portsmouth’s Aeron Rimmer was just four years old when his dad was suddenly taken from him.
After suffering an unexpected brain haemorrhage, Navy Petty Officer, Mark, aka Jimmy, Rimmer was rushed to hospital and died on 4th September 2005.
Since that day, his son, Aeron, now 18 years-old, has had to come to terms with life without his dad thanks in part to support from Armed Forces children’s charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers.
Aeron’s mum, Sonya, explains how Mark’s death has impacted their lives and how Scotty’s Little Soldiers has been a beacon of strength for her son over the last few years.
Sonya said: “Mark and I met in 1997, we got engaged on New Year’s Eve and married the following year. Aeron was born in September 2000, Mark was away for much of the pregnancy but had been flown back for the birth. Mark being away for long periods of time wasn’t unusual, he spent half of his time away and half of his time at home.
It was on 4th September 2005 that Sonya and Aeron’s lives were turned upside down. Sonya explains: “I remember it vividly, Aeron was just about to start school and we were looking to move house when Mark fell ill, it all happened so quickly. He’d had an internal bleed in the brain, there was absolutely no warning, we never saw it coming.
“He was rushed to hospital where we were told he had a weakness in the brain that we didn’t know anything about. We were all in shock, but at the same time felt grateful that we got the chance to say goodbye. It could have been so different as Mark wasn’t meant to be with us the weekend he died; he was supposed to be in Plymouth, so I felt grateful that Aeron got the chance to give his dad a hug goodbye.
“Telling Aeron that his dad wasn’t coming back was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do, he’d recently lost his grandpa and just turned to me and said, “daddy has gone to be with grandpa hasn’t he mummy?”
Sonya and Aeron received a lot of support following Mark’s death from the Navy, Sonya said: “HMS Gloucester wanted Mark to have a proper Navy send off and helped us bury him at sea. For Aeron it was really important for him to know where his dad was buried so he keeps a map of the exact location in his memory box along with cards and other things that help him remember his dad.”
Aeron joined Scotty’s Little Soldiers in 2014. The charity was set-up in 2010 by Army widow, Nikki Scott in memory of her husband Corporal Lee Scott to support bereaved British Forces children. Nikki and Lee had two children and she saw first-hand the effect the loss of a loved one in these circumstances can have on a child.
“Scotty’s has been amazing for Aeron” said Sonya, “being part of the Scotty’s family has meant so much to us. For Aeron, it’s helped with his confidence and empowered him to open up and talk to more people about his dad. When he was younger, he found it really difficult when people would say to him how much he was like his dad, but recently he likes that he has that connection and Scotty’s has helped with that.
“Aeron also had a tough time at school as none of his friends really understood when he told them that his dad was dead. But, with Scotty’s, he knows that everyone gets it, he knows everyone is in the same boat and that if he wants to talk he can and if he doesn’t he doesn’t have to, no one judges you.
“He says the best thing about Scotty’s is that they’re there when when times get tough, receiving the birthday cards and vouchers around Remembrance Day and the anniversary of Mark’s death is so important. He loves Scotty’s and always wants to help raise money. In 2016 we organised our first fundraising event and he enjoys being there for the younger children.”
Scotty’s Little Soldiers supports over 300 bereaved Armed Forces children across the country, the charity’s assistance is divided into three distinct programmes including Smiles, offering children that opportunity to smile again through a wide range of fun activities and gifts, Support which assists with the more emotional side of bereavement, includes access to professional counselling and a family support network, and Strides to help with personal development and educational grants.
Aeron, who is looking to start University later this year, has benefitted from the Scotty’s programmes including a grant for his driving lessons and a holiday at a Scotty’s lodge every year for the last five years.
“We have so much to thank Scotty’s for” said Sonya, “we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”
Scotty’s is currently running a Tesco Bags for Life campaign in Portsmouth and the charity is asking Portsmouth residents to vote for its Bags of Help grant appeal which would see the charity receive a vital £4,000 of funding.