Today would've been my sister's fortieth birthday.
Quite often, when I find myself in a difficult situation or in a situation where I’m not sure what to do for the best, I think of what my sister would say. I can hear her now, telling me to stop being such a bloody wuss and to man up.
(I also hear her voice fairly frequently telling me to cut my nails because “you look like a bloody girl”. Every time. A memory I will take to my own next life. And yes, she did like to swear a bit.)
In our adult lives, Sarah and I had remarkably frank communication, with the kind of complete honesty which is very rare, always meant with love, and although occasionally brutal, was truly appreciated on both sides. The last time we had a conversation, I held back on the frankness and she saw it, telling me that she wished I wouldn’t hide my tears from her. She never was one for bullshit.
We fought tooth and nail sometimes when we were kids, but the close bond led to her being a great defender later on, when she took on the role of big sister despite being two and a half years younger than me. She scorched a few people with her anger down the years who had upset me, and although she could be critical within the family, anyone criticising from outside would be pretty forcefully put in their place.
She battled cancer hard after she was diagnosed in 2009, and her frank nature comes across in the personal blog she ran for the last nine months of her life. Although sometimes fractious, she won a huge number of friends down the years with her open character, positive outlook and ebullient moods, and so the blog was intended to be a way of letting everyone know how she was doing; the good, and the bad. Even though the illness was on her, she didn’t want to feel that anyone who cared about her would have to miss out on any news.
(“Bloody hell, Stinker, stop using such poncey words. Who the hell uses words like ebullient and fractious?“)
When she got the news that the breast cancer had progressed to a brain tumour, Jo and I spent a couple of days driving from Scotland to the south coast of England and back to see her and my parents. A awful situation with an overbearing tone of not knowing quite what to say, but one during which her positive mood was still, incredibly, a light in the darkness.
It was typical of her than once she knew the terminal diagnosis, she quipped that at least we probably wouldn’t have to buy her a present for her fortieth birthday. Today would have been her fortieth birthday.
Happy birthday, sis. Everyone misses you.