On 19 November, International Men’s Day celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. Aimed at highlighting positive role models and raising awareness of men’s wellbeing, International Men’s Day is an opportunity for people everywhere to appreciate and celebrate the men in their lives.
Here, Ted Nichols, SHEA Manager in Kier Highways, talks about his support network after a house fire destroyed his family home in 2019, and pays tribute to his father, Ken, who also worked for Kier.
“Imagine receiving a call from your wife to tell you that your house was on fire. That was my journey home after work on 7 May 2019, to be confronted upon arrival by six fire engines, a closed road and neighbours all gathering in the village to find out what was going on, and who had been affected. My wife was being seen to by paramedics due to smoke inhalation, and my children were playing on the neighbour’s trampoline next door. It was a really weird dichotomy; complete devastation on one side of the fence, and utter joy and excitement from my two young daughters next door.
“The first thing that nervously sprung to my mind was, where the hell are we going to be staying tonight? All we had left was the clothes we were wearing and our mobile phones. Thankfully, my father turned up as soon as he could after work and offered me not only some immediate comfort, but a few reality checks and grounded solutions for managing the incident that was directly in front of me. Luckily, great friends of ours in the village welcomed us into their home for the next few days while we made more concrete arrangements with my brother-in-law for and ultimately our insurers, who agreed to funding temporary accommodation for the duration of rebuild and restoration of our family home.
“The next chapter brought even more tragic news. Three weeks after the fire, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that had spread so far throughout his body that there was nothing that could be done to save his life. He was given three months to live, leaving none of us any time to prepare ourselves for such a devastating blow to the heart.
“Dad fought the illness without complaint, never displayed any frustration and was an absolute hero to the bitter end. I was the last person with him on the night before he went to sleep and I am so grateful to all those that I had around me; they not only supported me but allowed me so much valuable time with him before he left us.
“When Dad died, I not only lost my father and colleague, but also my best friend and confidante. Our support network, including in the workplace through Kier’s mental health first aiders and TRiM (trauma risk management) practitioners, was invaluable. I am also fortunate to have an incredible senior management team, who on the night of the fire sent me a text saying “I hope you’re ok mate, take as long as you need – work can wait. We’re all thinking of you. Give me a call when you’re ready and we’ll get you anything you need”.
“Nothing can prepare you for what happens next in life. All you can do is cherish every moment and be thankful for what you have, hopefully doing something you enjoy and surrounded by those you love. My father was my role model, and I hope I can emanate him through all that I am, because of what he showed me as a son, father and even work colleague. Dad positively impacted so many people during his life and this was conveyed so beautifully by all those that attended his funeral; family, friends and colleagues alike. He was unforgettable and lived life to the full by always being happy to help and support others.
Thank you for letting me share my story and celebrate a real man in my life, someone that I will always love and remember.”
Ken Nichols (1950-2019)