A 46-year-old mum has revealed how she carries her murdered son’s ashes with her to dinner and on holiday to stay close to him.
Alison Cope’s 18-year-old son Joshua Ribera was stabbed to death at a nightclub in 2013.
The Birmingham mum has now shared how she copes by taking his urn of ashes with her on outings, what it's like to grieve her son seven years after his death and his final texts to her.
“I go out for dinner with Josh,” Ms Cope told Jam Press.
“On the anniversary of his death, I want him by my side 24/7. He is lovingly going to be in my handbag.
“I take him with me when I am away from home for long periods.
“The pain of losing a child doesn't get easier, you just learn methods to cope, you will forever live with a broken heart.
“When you lose a child you live in pain forever.”
Ms Cope said she missed Joshua “every moment of every day”.
“I miss his warmth, his smile, his embraces... everything,” she said.
“The pain of knowing I will never hug him, feel his skin or hear his voice ever again is very difficult.”
The 46-year-old has received hundreds of letters with kind words from strangers since her son died.
“Joshua’s bedroom has changed over the years since he was killed,” she said.
“I still have his clothes and all his belongings but I now have hundreds of letters from his fans and people my work has touched, pictures that have been drawn and painted by his fans, candles and items given out of love for Josh and respect for me.”
Ms Cope also recently shared heartbreaking texts sent to her by Joshua before his death, where he tells her how much he loves her and his final message, that reads: “Till the end mum.”
“Since my son was murdered I have kept him alive in the only way I know and that is to share his inspirational life story and the devastation of his death,” she said.
“Joshua was my world and he still is, everyday he gives me the strength to wake up, inspire change and give hope to young people.
“I live with a broken heart and miss him every moment of every day but I will do everything I can to keep his memory alive and save as many people as I can from knife crime.”
Mum uses urn to ‘shock’ people into reality of knife violence
Ms Cope has also revealed a beautiful handwritten poem written by Joshua, who was a rapper, for his beloved mum.
“To mum, this is a poem for you, to say sorry for what I've put you through and if I had just one wish, it would be to complete your happiness,” it reads.
“I want you to no (sic), it’s not your fault for me to have done abuse and assault. If there is anyfink (sic) you want me to do, then it would be my pleasure and these are the words I want you to treasure.
“I love you.”
Since her son’s tragic death, the mum has given talks to thousands of schoolchildren, families and parents to raise awareness about the dangers of carrying weapons.
The mum takes her son’s urn with her to “shock” students and convey an urgent message to show the reality of what knife violence can lead to.
She even asks them if they want to see inside of the urn.
“I have still delivered every day during this lockdown, I took Josh's ashes yesterday (November 12) to meet a young man,” Ms Cope said.
“There have been occasions when a school, college, youth-offending team or parent has had grave concerns about a child, if they are in a gang, selling drugs or fighting and if they feel a shock approach might help.
“I do not use graphic images but I will take my son's ashes into these settings and if I feel they really need a shock I will put my son’s urn in front of them and ask: ‘Is this how you want to end up?’
“I then explain what happened to my son’s body, the medical procedures used to try and save his life, the autopsy, the process of cremation and how his bones were ground down.
“I then ask the young people if they want me to open the urn – some say yes, some say no."
Mum wants to debunk common myth
Upon special requests from concerned parents, Ms Cope has also invited young people to her son’s room and gives a presentation from her home, and travelled to people’s homes and spoken to young people at their kitchen tables.
“Parents have brought their children to my house as they have been so concerned and I deliver my whole presentation in my front room,” she said.
“I even take the young people to sit in my son’s room to see the reality.”
Ms Cope wants to debunk the common myth many young people believe they “need” to carry weapons to “protect themselves” and stay safe from trouble.
She also talks about the dangers of getting involved with gangs, drugs and arguments – and how these can lead to violent scenarios with devastating outcomes.
“The main outcome from my presentations is to break down the myths that young people have around knife crime,” Ms Cope said.
“Many children aged nine to 11 believe as many as 80 per cent of teenagers carry weapons and they walk around feeling scared and feeling their only option is to ‘protect themselves'.
“I show them that there are many other options to staying safe such as reporting concerns, walking away from arguments, speaking to their parents, school or the police.
“I show them how the media broke the news of my son's death and who his death has impacted.”
Alison set up The Joshua Ribera Foundation in 2019 in memory of her son and organises an annual event, The Joshua Ribera Achievement Awards, to celebrate the achievements of young people who have otherwise been “forgotten” in society.
The Joshua Ribera Achievement Awards are next held on June 12, 2021.
To donate, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-joshua-ribera-awards-2021.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.