As difficult as it might be for a parent to lose a child, some may say it is far more painful to have the constant reminder of their death in the form of an urn containing the child's ashes. But for Alison, it is more than that.
It has been seven years since a young teen was brutally stabbed to death at a nightclub. Joshua Ribera was only 18 years old, far too young to die in such an abrupt and cruel way, and his family is yet to come to terms with his passing. His mother, Alison Cope, 46, has held on to his ashes ever since. She has found her own way of keeping her son's memory alive.
Alison takes her son's ashes with her to dinner and keeps the urn inside her handbag when she has to be out of the house for long periods of time, so that he can always remain close to her.
"I go out for dinner with Josh," said the mother from Birmingham, UK, as reported by Mirror. "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 "forever heartbroken" mother went on to say, "The pain of losing a child doesn't get easier, you just learn methods to cope, you will forever live with a broken heart. I miss Joshua every moment of every day. I miss his warmth, his smile, his embraces... everything. The pain of knowing I will never hug him, feel his skin or hear his voice ever again is very difficult."
As difficult as it might be for a parent to lose a child, some may say it is far more painful to have the constant reminder of their death in the form of an urn containing the child's ashes. But for Alison, it is more than that. Since the time her son was killed in the knife attack in 2013, Alison has relentlessly campaigned against knife crimes and often speaks to thousands of children about how dangerous it can be to carry weapons with them.
When she addresses schoolchildren, their parents, and families, she is often accompanied by the urn with her son's ashes to drive home the message of what knife crimes can do.
"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," Alison explained. "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."
She added, "I then ask the young people if they want me to open the urn - some say yes, some say no."
Along with her anti-knife crime advocacy, Alison also keeps her son's memory alive through The Joshua Ribera Foundation. She also organizes and conducts The Joshua Ribera Achievement Awards, keeping in mind the many children who suffer "child abuse, neglect, trauma, being a young carer, and experiencing mental health issues," according to her GoFundMe page.
After speaking to thousands of children, Alison has met a number of young people who come from difficult backgrounds and have their education hampered. These might also be the children who don't get to do ordinary things like go to the school prom, take end of the year trips, or gain any work experience.
So, the Joshua Ribera Achievement Awards is Alison's way of celebrating these children and appreciating their achievements to push them to go on and achieve more.
Very important session today with a young man who needs some inspiration to change. Taking Josh with me in the hope this young man can hear and feel my words.— Alison Cope (@ali_cope) November 11, 2020
I will do my best 💪🏼❤ pic.twitter.com/DvIvUANCmq
"These young people have been through so much, their negative experiences have had a detrimental effect on their ability to cope with main stream education, it is our job to show these young people that past mistakes do not need to determine their future," Alison said. "The awards evening is a community event, the young people, their families, their teachers all come together proud and ready for the next phase of their life."
The bereaved mother set up the GoFundMe page hoping that people would come forward and donate towards making the 2021 edition of the awards ceremony a grand success.