'He was always led by his heart': A grieving mother’s heartfelt tribute to man who helped her daughter

At the worst time in Amy Liebich's life, Robert Eyers reached out of the darkness and showed her it was possible to escape the grasp of addiction.

Rob Eyers
Rob Eyers

He provided support, compassion and understanding at the time she and her family needed it the most.

Tragically, Amy died just weeks later, on May 15, 2019 - but Rob's determination to help others left a lasting impact on Amy's mother, Jane Mackenzie.

Following Rob's own death last month, Ms Mackenzie - a former mayor of Shrewsbury - has spoken for the first time about the "charismatic, warm and generous man" who helped so many people.

Rob set up recovery charity TACT in 2012, having fought a 20-year battle with addiction, and it was at the charity's base, Strickland House in Wellington, Telford, that he and Jane first met.

Jane Mackenzie with a photograph of her daughter Amy Liebich

"Although I only knew Rob for ten months before his death, my personal circumstances meant that we quickly developed a deep friendship and mutual respect," said Ms Mackenzie.

"I first met Rob on March 7 last year at Strickland House. I remember it very well, because that very morning, on my way there, I had taken my eldest daughter, Amy, to Severn Hospice where she was admitted for respite care.

"She was suffering from alcohol addiction, and due to other health complications, had become physically frail. For this reason, her consultant believed that the hospice was a gentle and compassionate alternative to hospital.

"On my arrival, Rob gave me a whistle stop tour around Strickland House, giving me a snapshot of the many services he was able to offer there.

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"However, I was feeling upset, and although I’d never met Rob before, I shared my sadness and confusion about Amy, with him, over a coffee.

"His reaction was typical of him. He listened to me, and then immediately offered to come over and meet Amy at the hospice, and to invite her to access the services at Strickland House.

"He was always led by his heart, motivated by compassion and sometimes impulsive.

"True to his word, he arrived at Severn Hospice first thing on Monday morning, spending over an hour with Amy and giving her the support and understanding she desperately needed at that critical moment.

"Most importantly, he gave her hope that she could have a future without alcohol.

"His intervention was a turning point for Amy, who had given up hope of ever escaping the grip of the addiction which was destroying her, and she was discharged the following day."

'Guiding light'

Two days later, Amy visited Stickland House for the first time, and began to access groups, counselling, and mental health support.

"Rob was always there, like a guiding light, overseeing and supporting the staff," said Ms Mackenzie.

"Amy looked forward to her visits, and started to make progress.

"Amongst one of Rob’s achievements was the establishment of supported housing, where women in recovery live in a structured safe, abstinent environment, receiving wraparound support to give them the best chance of successful recovery.

"This wonderful service has received national recognition, and has a high success rate.

"Rob offered this to Amy, and she was on the verge of accepting this lifeline, when she died.

Grief

"Rob understood my grief, just as he understood the grief of so many others he had helped, whose loved ones don’t manage to survive this dreadful condition.

"In stark contrast to all the other local services who had been involved in Amy’s treatment, he offered support to my family and made the journey to Aberdyfi for her funeral."

Since Amy's death, Ms Mackenzie has channelled her grief into Share, the charity she launched with Amy, in the hope of plugging the gaps in addiction support services she says many people are slipping through.

Ms Mackenzie said: "It’s impossible to do justice to the inspirational impact Rob has made on so many lives in Shropshire, Telford and beyond.

Empathy

"His warmth and empathy, his kindness and humour, all combined to make him a force to be reckoned with.

"After Amy’s death, Rob and I worked together to develop joint projects between TACT and Share to the benefit of the people of Shrewsbury. He was our mentor and encouraged Share in every way, always generous with his time and expertise.

"Rob was someone who found a way to help others in need, even if that meant cutting through the red tape and ignoring those who tried to put barriers in his way.

"It’s rubbed off on me, and his sudden death has starkly highlighted the fact that there’s no time to lose in putting words into action.

"My promise to Rob is that Share will do all in its power to make sure that the plans we made together will become reality, in particular, Rob’s latest and most ambitious project to extend supported housing to Shrewsbury. What a wonderful legacy that would be.

"My promise to Amy is that Share will fight to change the way that services are delivered locally, so that no one else loses their life because they did not get the support they needed; in particular, the refusal to allow sufferers to have a mental health assessment until they have been abstinent for six months. For many people, this can become a death sentence.

"Impulsive, driven and passionate, it was an absolute privilege to have known you, Rob.

"You were a visionary and a powerful force for change. Thank you Rob from the bottom of my heart."

For information on Share, visit shareshrewsbury.org.uk

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