Dear Mr Couto,

We are sitting by our son’s hospital bed. He is having ongoing seizures. We spend most days beside his bed. Hospital staff do not have the time to attend to all his needs so we do it ourselves.

We don’t know if you ever wonder what our life is like since the day your truck hit Pádraig? We think you probably do, and that was the reason we wanted to meet you (well it was mostly Pat). We know what happened the day of the accident as of course you do. And we don’t think you ever actually lied, that is why we sort of felt sorry for you and could not hate you with instinctive venom towards the one who has destroyed our beloved, and precious child. You took your eye off him as you were overtaking and noted the car turning on to the main road. The first thing you saw or heard, as you stated, was the bang. That bang you caused has utterly devastated not just our son’s life, but our life, our daughters’ lives. It turned upside down our family life and the plans we all had. It took away all Pádraig’s dreams, hopes and most of life’s pleasures that all young people long to enjoy.

The pain a parent feels from the moment their child’s brain is destroyed is impossible to put words on. You cry on the inside all the time, and often on the outside. We grieve for our son every moment of every day and yet we can still hug him and console him. We are bereft and yet we are not.

You can’t imagine what a wonderful young man he was/is. (We never know what tense to use when we are talking about him, and have to correct ourselves when we use the past tense.) Only someone as strong as Pádraig would have survived the accident. He continues to try, he never gives up. He mostly understands when we speak slowly and simply but he has minimal control over his body. He eats pureed food and receives liquid and medication through a PEG. But he can indicate ‘yes’ and ‘no’ with his foot and with his tongue. He needs round the clock care but we are determined to bring him home to live with us and to get him the therapy he needs. To try give his life some meaning.

Before we left to go to Boston last April we asked Pádraig if he forgave you for what you had done. He said yes (with his tongue). We asked again later and he gave the same response. This might give you some idea of the extraordinary person he is.

Meanwhile your life continues, your boys have their dreams and financially you have not even been affected. We believe emotionally you probably are; had either of us destroyed your child’s life, and caused you and your wife the pain we endure, we would find it hard to reconcile. You could have lied, as the police mounted what we see as a huge cover-up, determined to prevent you from going to prison, but you did not. Maybe that brings you some peace of mind. But you should have had the courage and decency to meet us. We did not want you to go to prison, although we hold you responsible; and we know Pádraig would not have wanted it either. There was no vengeance in him.

This is the third Christmas since the accident. Every year we wonder how you are spending your Christmas. We spend ours at our son’s bedside.

PS: This letter was written a few days ago, but never sent. Today, it’s exactly two and a half years since your van hit our son.