An uplifting Christmas tale of life after death

Australian Women's Weekly |  Bryce Corbett

It was just a week before Christmas 1992 when tragedy struck for one Brisbane family. Yet, as Bryce Corbett discovers, this heartwrenching event left an astonishing legacy.

Scroll up to the top and take a look at the photograph. It’s a picture of an Aussie family at Christmas time. Mums, dads, grandmothers, sons, daughters – more cousins than you can poke a Christmas cracker at.

It may look for all the world like a typical family photograph. Except it’s not.

Instead, it’s a family portrait made possible by its one absent member. His name is Nathan. And while you won’t see him in this photograph, in the lives of every single person pictured here, he is ever present.

The story of this most modern of blended families starts back in 1992. December 19 to be exact – barely a week before Christmas. Nathan Westwood, a bright 20-year-old student had just completed his first year of medicine at Brisbane’s University of Queensland. Together with two mates, he had hatched a plan to drive to St George, in the west of the state, to go grape-picking and earn a bit of extra holiday pocket money.

His mother, Dianne, waved him off early on the morning of December 16, urging the three of them to look after each other and drive safely.

Later that morning and somewhere outside Goondiwindi, the trio found themselves following in the path of a lumbering petrol tanker. The driver of the truck would later tell an inquest the boys sat patiently behind him for some 15 minutes before the driver of their vehicle made the fateful decision to overtake. It was safe to pass – the day was clear, there was no oncoming traffic – but when a wheel caught the edge of the deep-rutted country road, the driver lost control of the car. Sitting in the passenger seat, Nathan bore the brunt of the subsequent crash.

While his two friends walked away unscathed, Nathan was airlifted to Brisbane, where doctors worked frantically to rescue him from severe head injuries. Continue reading

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