A 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, 46, from Birmingham, said she will be “forever heartbroken” after her Joshua Ribera, 18, was stabbed to death at a nightclub in 2013.
She has now spoken out about the grief of losing her son and has outlined how she keeps his memory alive.
“I go out for dinner with Josh,” Alison said.
“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.”
She went on: “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.”
She said Joshua’s bedroom has changed over the years.
While she still has his clothes and belongings, the bedroom now also contains hundreds of letters that have come in for Joshua, a rapper, from his fans.
They have also sent pictures, candles and items “given out of love” for Joshua and “respect” for Alison’s work in raising awareness of knife crime.
Alison 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 mom”.
The mum said: “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.
“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.”
Alison has also revealed a beautiful handwritten poem written to her by Joshua.
It reads: “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.
“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.
Alison, who has been carrying on raising awareness during lockdown, 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.”
Upon special requests from concerned parents, Alison 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.
Alison wants to debunk the common myth that many young people believe they “need” to carry weapons to “protect themselves” and stay safe from trouble.
“Many children aged nine to 11 believe as many as 80% 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.
“I then turn this on to the young people by asking them who they would say goodbye to if they carried a knife and went to prison or involved themselves in a fight, argument, drug deal, or gang-related violence.
“And then I ask them who would their death affect – they always answer their mum, dad and family.
“It is only then I introduce myself as Joshua’s mum, it is at this point the young people really listen.”
Alison called on the government to step up its response as she said stricter regulations on funding as well as impact monitoring were urgently needed to reduce knife crime.
She urged authorities to ensure money goes to organisations that can make “long-term change” and that there is a coordinated response involving anti-youth violence awareness sessions for children aged 10 and above.
On top of her advocacy, Alison also 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 12 June in 2021.
In a final message to youths who carry weapons, Alison said: “You are carrying a knife because you are scared of something or you feel you need it because you have got involved with someone who is a threat.
“We can help you. You must get help to address these issues because that knife can take you from your family, that knife can break your heart, that knife will break the hearts of those you love.
“That knife can kill, think of how you would feel if someone killed your friend, your brother, someone you loved?
“Would there ever be a justified reason for them to be stabbed? The answer is no.”