1965 – 2023
Dear Sue – you were a ragamuffin little child, with a tangled mop of hair. You were generous, impulsive, quick to give hugs, and quick with your fists. One time a woman on a playground bench turned to our mother, not realising you were her child, and said ‘She’s a little horror, that one!’ You would launch yourself at any bigger child, especially to defend me, showing a sensitivity to injustice that stayed with you your whole life.
We played outside for hours, on scooters and bikes and rollerskates. We played tag, and kicked footballs, and climbed trees.
We kept caterpillars, and found the right food plants for each, and released them as butterflies or moths. We kept tadpoles and sticklebacks, pond snails and dragonfly larvae.
We played with clay, poster paint and watercolours. I remember you, about 5 years old in your plastic apron, plunging your hands into pots of bright paint. We dug a huge hole in the garden, trying to get to Australia. We loved comics, the Beano and the Dandy.
And – it wasn’t always happy. There were our father’s rages, and our mother taking to her bed for days. There was your eczema, and the physical torment of that, and the way other children sometimes avoided you because of it.
We made a pact one day. We cut ourselves, and mixed our blood, and swore a solemn oath to be best of friends for ever.
In the weeks since you died, I’ve asked myself ‘Why? What happened? How did it come to this?’
The decades of living with M.E. took their toll. You were acutely conscious that it isn’t always believed in as a real illness. You couldn’t contribute to society in the way you would have liked, and it became hard to hang onto any sense of self-worth.
You tried so hard to be okay. You tried for so long, and in so many ways.
You seemed lost, these last months, but I realise now that, almost until the end, you did find your way – over and over again. That it was your love of life that kept you with us so long. That you knew so well how it is, in any moment, to suddenly feel completely okay.
Through your love of mindfulness and meditation you experienced stillness, and a quiet mind, and knowing that you were already enough, just as you were.
Sitting in your bay window, or out in your wheelchair, watching the sky, the birds, the trees, you felt in touch with something bigger and more spacious than your worries.
Playing family games at Christmas, playing the clown at the dinner table – the time you squeezed lemon juice on your head – you knew what it was to be daft, and laugh, and make us laugh.
You loved watching William and Katy growing up. You loved your cat Poppy, and the flowers and shrubs you chose for your garden, and chocolate, and brightly-coloured socks, and smiles from baby Lara.
Thank you, Sue, for being my sister; and for staying with us as long as you did. Thank you for the good times, the funny times, the difficult times, too. I’ll take all of it, since none of us gets to pick and choose.
This last week some words from Leonard Cohen have been running through my head:
‘So come my friends, be not afraid, we are so lightly here
It is in love that we are made, in love we disappear.’
Love you, Sue.