Benedict with his sister Etta. Picture: Helen BlytheBenedict with his sister Etta. Picture: Helen Blythe
Benedict with his sister Etta. Picture: Helen Blythe

Peterborough mum speaks about reaction following tragic sudden death of son, 5

A Peterborough mother whose five-year-old son died suddenly after being taken ill at school last week has spoken about the huge reaction to the tragedy on social media.

Helen Blythe took to social media last week to inform people that her son Benedict has passed away suddenly after being taken ill at school on Wednesday (December 1).

She described Benedict, who attended Barnack Primary School, as “wonderful” and having a “beautiful smile.”

She posted a picture and said: “This is my son, Benedict. He died yesterday, suddenly, aged 5.”

After sharing the news and writing movingly on her social media channels, Helen was inundated with comments from people showing their support.

A fundraising page set up in Benedict’s memory to raise money for two places he loved, his school and The Fenland Light Railway received over £5000 in donations in a few hours and has now passed the £20,000 mark.

Helen said the reaction to her social media posts had been overwhelming. She said: “I posted the tweet just because I woke up the morning after, and the world was still turning.

“It felt like the world should know about him, and see him, and understand that the worst of all things had happened.

“I thought maybe ten or twenty people would like the picture, I don’t have a big twitter following and don’t use it all that often, but I just felt like I needed people to know and to see him.

“I never, ever expected there to be 700,000 people like the photo and over 30,000 peoples comments.

“There are messages of comfort and support, but there are also the stories and photos and faces of all those other children who should be seen and whose names should be spoken and whose stories should be heard.

“Nothing helps, but this has helped us a little. You look for the tiniest sparks of good in this, and that he gave voice to all of those others is a beautiful thing, and something he would have liked.”

Benedict started in reception at Barnack Schoolin September and Helen said he had loved being at the school.

She added: “On his first day of school, I was nervous for him. You never know how these things will go.

“There was a boy there who he knew a little, and he noticed he was nervous and didn’t want to go in. So Ben took his hand, and he said ‘it’s ok, I’ll walk you in’, and he did. He took him by the hand and was his strength, and he walked him into school.

“His kind heart was among the most beautiful I’ve ever known.

“He loved to learn, he loved numbers and he’d wake up at 5.30am on a Sunday morning and want to do maths. When he was falling asleep at night, he’d be whispering times tables under his breath and I’d have to remind him to go to sleep. He’d play with numberblocks for hours, and would write sums in a little book he kept in the back of the car.”

Helen said fundraising for the Fenland Light Railway would have please Benedict: “He loved trains, and we spent most of our weekends from the age of two at different railways, whether it was big trains like Nene Valley Railway, or little model trains, or his absolute favourite – Fenland Light Railway, where his little face would light up as he went through the tunnel,” she said.

“He was always so quick to smile, and laugh, and he was so funny. He was sharp, and saw through nonsense, but he’d point it out with a grin.

“He had allergies, and asthma, and he was poorly a lot. But he was always the happiest little boy and would get excited to press the lights in the ambulance, and the prospect of being able to buy skittles from the hospital vending machine.

“We did flexischooling, which meant I homeschooled him one day a week. He loved his flexi days, and we’d go and do some activities every week. Last week he went to Stamford Police station, and they let him press the lights and sirens in the van.

“He loved playing with his sister, Etta, and looked after her, letting her know what to do. He was once asked ‘what’s your superpower? What’s the one best thing that you’re able to do?’ and he thought about it and said, ‘it’s when I can help Etta to open the door’. His superpower was his kind heart, and seeing how others needed help and helping them.

“He spent so much time with his Nanny and his Papa, his Papa would spend hours on the floor with him building wooden railway and trackmaster train tracks that would run all the way through the house. Then as Ben got older, they’d play snakes and ladders, and draughts, and Ben would always win.”

Helen said her favourite memories included car journeys and board games and said that Benedict was shielding during lockdown but enjoyed family activities.

“Our best memories of him are not the big ones, the ones that you’d put on facebook or in photos on the walls,” she said. “ They’re all the car journeys where we’d sing songs, the chats he’d have with us about his day and his life.

“They’re the times he’d want to have a snuggly morning, and just lie on us and watch Thomas the Tank, or the days of playing board games.

“For us, lockdown was a gift. He came under shielding and we spent six months in the house with the two children. In that time we paddled in streams, we had picnics in the garden, we got the paddling pool out and spent days outside.

“My husband stayed off work and we were with them all day, every day. It would have been a gift whether he was here or not, but now that he isn’t I’m so grateful for those long summer days and all of that time we wouldn’t have normally had together every day.”

Helen added: “Benedict loved us, his family, so much. You could see it in his eyes. I’d say ‘I love you my Ben’ and he’d say ‘I love you my mummy’. His face would light up when he saw you, and he’d often choose snuggling at home with us rather than doing other much more fun things, he’d say ‘I’d just rather be at home with you’.

“He loved his friends, Felix, Dylan, Joshua, Florence, Sam and Maisie, Tallulah, Henry, Benjamin, Neel and his sister Etta. He loved his grownup friends and godparents, Stacie, Ben, Rob and Jennie, and had just got a new tablet so he could call them – which he did.

“He was so intelligent, his IQ was on the 99th percentile, he was a member of Mensa and he could do numbers and problems lightning fast.

“But that was never the most noteworthy thing about him, it was always about who he was, not about what he could do.

“And who he was was a little boy so happy and contented in himself, with such simple wants and asks, who would do anything for anyone and was so loving, and snuggly, and warm and happy that it was impossible to not be impacted by that.”

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