Thursday, 13 July 2017

Big Hero Six

In one day it will be two years since I held your hand whilst we both listened to acoustic piano versions of famous Disney tunes, and I watched you take your final breath.

A couple of weeks earlier this time in 2015, one of your friends came over to watch a film with you.
You were so excited to see her, you'd been so poorly that you hadn't seen any of your friends for ages. It always meant so much to you when they would come and see you. I felt the pain of your alienation from them during the worst times. There was nothing I could do to ease it. I knew you felt everyone was already moving on without you. Gran had been and done a big shop for you- crisps, chocolates, popcorn and sweets.

Unbeknown to your friend though, and known but not spoken by you, Mum asked me to sit in with you both to make sure I was there if you started to fit. You were fitting very regularly then. We had to have medazalam dotted around the house.

In the middle of the film, there is a scene where the eldest brother of the main character dies. You started crying very loudly (as always when something slightly emotional happened in a fictional film- particularly Disney ones!) It was a defining feature of your personality- and even you had learnt to chuckle at it over the years.

When I looked back over to you a few minutes later, you were crying even more, but looking right at me. I didn't know how long you'd be watching me.

At the time I didn't understand.

A few months after we said goodbye though, it clicked.

You knew you'd have to leave me.
Like the brothers in the film, we'd be separated...
We'd be apart.

I didn't realise what you were thinking at the time. I knew it just as much as you, but I didn't see the connection, I didn't fully understand what you were thinking and feeling in that exact moment, watching that film, sat next to me, because I never allowed myself to truly believe it was going to happen.

It was too painful to begin to force myself to consider it.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


When you were a toddler,
And it was the weekend, 
You'd sit and endure football whilst sat on Dad's knee. 

He'd be watching intently, 
Praying for goals, 
You'd be looking for mischief, 
Moving your head, mirroring his movements, 
 so he couldn't see. 

He'd get so stressed that the vein on his forehead would buldge out (a sign that we loved to pick up on as we got older).

He couldn't shout at you though, 
You were just too cute and cheeky! 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


In our teenage years, it had become quite routine for Emily and I to accompany my Dad to his Mum's house every Sunday afternoon. More often than not, I'd be hungover, lay on a sofa with scrapes and bruises on my legs from the night before, wanting to eat a cream cake but knowing that there was a 70% chance that I'd instantly vomit it back up. Em would be sat up in an armchair, calling me pathetic before triumphantly shovelling a bakewell slice down her throat.

On this particular occasion though, Em had draped herself sideways over the chair my late Granddad used to sit in. Now, the layout of my Grandparents' house meant that Em's feet were hanging right over the arm of the furniture, into the path everyone had to take to get into the kitchen (to the glorious, shiny, oozing cakes).

I shut my eyes for a while, focusing on the sound of the TV, (which was switched over to Madame Emily's choice as soon as we entered the house- of course).

I tried to forget about the gurgling noise my insides were making.

Churning last night's rum and this morning's forced-down toast.


I found myself waking.
Must have drifted off.

''You were making that stupid clicking noise in your sleep again- so annoying''...

''You can't just snore like a normal person''.

A sisters warm wake-up, as always.

I rolled off the sofa and started walking to the kitchen- it was cake o'clock.
Emily hadn't moved at all.

As I came level with her, I slapped her feet; they were still hanging over the edge.
I couldn't resist.

You'll get what I mean if you're a sibling, that rush to wind them up!

It had the desired effect.

Emily SHOT UP, whipping her head forward to shout at me...

I hadn't realised however, that she was chewing gum.

As she propelled her body forward, the gum was slung down the back of her throat.

Her voice got stuck just as it began to form, and she started to cough and splutter.

Her eyes bulged out, and with a final cough she spat the chewing gum right across the room.

She caught her breath.

My Dad looked at me, and we both burst out laughing.

I was rolling around on the floor - (I did warn you earlier in the blog that I have a horrendous sense of humour).

When I got back up and looked over at Emily, her face had turned bright purple.

She was shaking.

I decided it was probably best to run, pain was most definitely coming my way, and fast.

I won't tell you the things she called me, I'm sure you don't need me to!

I sat down and ate my cake,
I didn't feel sick at all anymore,
My belly hurt even more than before,
Only now it was from laughter.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Charmed (Silver hearts - deux)

I'm sure that by now, everyone reading this blog has begun to piece together the many different sides of Emily's personality. (The goofball, the angry madam, the sarcastic and sassy lady). This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why I am writing these stories. I want to you to get to know all of her little quirks- I think it's the best way I can keep her alive and keep her memory clear.

I feel however that there is one side that I haven't yet dedicated enough time to, and it just so happens that it's one of the strongest and most beautiful personality traits that Em had.

Among the family, there's a running joke in regards to the buying of presents and cards for occasions. More specifically, there's a very accurate running joke, formed from truth - Emily would buy presents and cards months in advance and hide them away until the right time. This is in complete juxtaposition to me, who would be totally unaware an important date was coming up until I got a text or phone call off Emily. She'd roll her eyes and mock me, calling me an unorganised berk. (She was right of course, not that I ever admitted it to her).

Emily was the most generous & thoughtful person I have ever met  - it makes me so proud to share these stories with you.


There was no day and night, no quiet in our house. It had been two days since Em had passed, and nothing mattered. I paid attention to nothing and no-one. I lay in her room, on her bed, and would stare for hours at the card my Grandma had recently bought for her. 


So many people came to visit. The door never stayed shut. There were so many cards- they coated all the walls. I hated that they were up. I understand it's the done thing to send them, and that they are just an example of the love people felt for the deceased- I still hated them. We had to borrow vases from all our Aunties in order to be able to keep the masses of bouquets that were being delivered every hour.

I lay on Em's bed, her bedroom door shut. I needed to be alone, I'd used up all my words.

There was no-one I wanted to see, and nothing I wanted to say.

Apart from Em of course, but I would never get to hear her voice again. 

There was yet another knock on the door.

I shut my eyes and pulled my knees up as high under my chin as I could get them. 

My Mum came in five minutes later. She closed the door behind her- shutting out the noise. 
She lay down next to me, handing me a small amazon package.

'I haven't ordered anythi...'.
The blood rushed to my head, pounding in my ears. My brain desperately searched for sense, some sort of explanation. 

The package was addressed to my Emily.

'You open it Beth'.

We both expected it to be some sort of small pokemon keyring - Em absolutely loved buying these, and accumulated a massive collection in her last years (amongst pokemon canvases and teddies- which have now all been shared out amongst her family).

We used to joke about the packages that regularly dropped through our letterbox, covered in distinctive Japanese writing.

As I've said though, this was clearly from Amazon. It was different. 

I ripped off the familiar easy opening strip on the packet, and turned it upside down on the bed. 

Out fell two identical PANDORA charms. They were held in two separate see-through plastic bags. They were the shape of a heart.

(Both Emily and I had bracelets- they had been the cause of a massive argument a few years ago as I had to wait until I was sixteen to get mine, and Emily got hers at about 14- something I'm not proud of- but it's an example of the way in which we treated each other as teenage sisters are expected to)!

We couldn't speak. 
We couldn't cry. 
Confusion, just, pure confusion.
How had she ordered these? 
And when?

Suddenly the muggy cloud cleared from my brain.
I pulled the receipt out of the cardboard.

Emily's bank details were there. 
She'd definitely bought these then.
The date was there.
She'd bought them the day before she died.
She slept almost all that day though, and fitted for the other half?!
She'd bought them in the morning, before my Mum had gone in to wake her.
There was a note on the receipt:

Enjoy your gift! Love from Emily Rose Cavanagh xx

The tears came. 
Her generosity was astounding. 
I looked at my Mum, and saw my own feelings and thoughts reflected right back at me in that moment.

We we're so lucky to be able to call her our daughter and sister. 

That was the best gift. (We still cherish the hearts though).

A few days later the significance of this gift truly became obvious to me...

When she woke up that morning, my beautiful Emily knew that she was close to having to leave us forever. She didn't say anything to us.

She bought us a final present. 

The heart comes with me wherever I go, as does Em.

Monday, 11 July 2016

I love you, Stinker.

This week marks the anniversary of the day my life was turned inside out and torn apart.

It marks the week last year that I watched green gloop run out of Emily's nose as her head shook and her eyes rolled up, down,  up, down. Repetitive motions, rigours. 

The shaking failed to alarm me anymore, it had for a long time been the norm for us. 
The viscous fluid was new though, so, I panicked.

I shouted for my Mum. 
Screamed actually. 

She sprinted into the room, pushed the multiple nurses around Em's bed aside, and gently wiped Emily's face. 

She looked at me, and I knew then. 
She was calm, she was gentle, and she knew there was nothing she could do. 

For anyone that knows my Mum, and knows how she's fought and battled over the years both for Emily and I, you will know how poignant a moment this was for us. 

I sat next to my Mum, and I held Emily's hand. The hand the same exact size of mine, with identically long and thin fingers. Matching right down to the narrow nail beds. She didn't squeeze my hand, she didn't pull away from me, she didn't grip my hand excruciatingly tight like she used to when she was having her treatment. 

Her hand just stayed in mine.

I held on. 

I told her that I loved her, so much more than she could ever know. 
She couldn't respond. 

My Mum assured me that Em could hear me.

The next time I looked up from her face, all the nurses had gone. 

My Mum began to sing a song we loved when we were tiny tots.

'Oh I love my Emily yes I do, I love my Emily Ros-a, oh I love my Emily yes I do, I love my Emily Rosey.' 

I sat and inwardly swore my lifelong dedication to any God that would save my sister, I apologised for all my atheist sins.

 I implored, I pleaded with her to stay. 

The rest of the family came, and sat at the end of the room near the window. 

My Mum took me into the hall, 
She held my shoulders, and looked in my eyes,

'I think Emily will die tonight Beth, we only have a few hours now'.

She didn't wait for a response,
she just went back into Em's bedroom. 

I went to follow her, but as I did I felt hot burning liquid shoot up my throat. 
I ran through the kitchen and out the back door, my Uncle right on my heels. 
The burning had spread, it was surging through my lungs, down into my stomach. 

I leant on the doorframe, retching.
I tried to push the bile out, but nothing would come.


I took a breath in, searched my brain for thought...

I sat back down next to my little sister, I picked up her hand again, cradling it. 

I kissed her forehead, 
'I love you stinker'. 

It was then that the chain stoking started.
She was drifting away,
She was leaving to go somewhere I couldn't follow.

Her head leaned over to the left slightly,

She drew a deep breath in as my Mum whispered to her,

Go and be with your Grandad sweetheart, we're all here, and we all love you.

There was the purest of silences, 
There was nothing. 

And then, there was my Mum's voice...

'She's gone'.

I didn't let go of her hand. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Stairs Sprinter

Over the years, I have become adept at sprinting up and down stairs.

Stairs in our house,
hospital stairs,
the stairs at my Dad's house.

Nothing makes me shift my carcass quite as quick as my Mum shouting my name in that shrill panicked tone of hers, reserved only for me when she needs immediate  help with Emily.

Nothing, that is, apart from Emily's desperate cries.

It was a cold rainy day, my Mum was at work, and my Grandma was half way through her weekly seven hour tesco trip, (she knows far too many people and always gets caught in deep, 'meaningful and important' conversations- usually on the bread aisle).

I had been entrusted with Emily, which meant my last few hours had consisted of running around getting cold fizzy drinks and making Honey Buts (honey sandwiches- these were one of Emily's absolute favourites- partly because she loved the taste and partly because I detest honey and she knew I had to make them for her!)

She was upstairs in her room, and as instructed I had remained downstairs because she wanted some privacy. I sat down and changed the tv channel - NO MORE POKEMON TODAY I thought to myself, with a triumphant smile.



I shot off the sofa- roadrunner had nothing on me!

I was halfway up the stairs already, pushing off the sound of my Mother reprimanding me in my head- HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU NOT TO LEAVE HER! ARE YOU STUPID?

I burst through the bedroom door, bracing myself for rigours, for vomit...

I grabbed the medazalam tube off the side.

Her bed was empty, the floor was clear-



'Right, don't be mad'

I whipped around and looked through the open ensuite door

There was that cheeky smile again...

'I'm going to be stuck here a while, you know, all the strong painkillers and stuff'

I put my hand on the bedpost to steady myself, the blood rushing in my ears


'Could you just angle the TV this way for me? I can only see half of Jeremy's face and it's real annoying me.'

Laughter erupted from deep within me.

I turned the TV, told her she was a moron, asked her kindly to never give me a heart attack like that ever again, and went to go back downstairs.

As soon as I placed my foot on the top step...


I turned my head- what now?!

'Just before you go... I can't reach the diddler, (this is what we call the remote in our family). Like I can see it, but I can't reach it.'

The laughter came again, stronger than before.

I passed it over, and went slowly back downstairs.

When my Mum came home late from work that night, she came into Emily's room to see us, where we were both watching a film.

I told her what had happened and we all sat and cackled for a while.

We were still giggling a few hours later in our separate beds, able to hear each other through the thin walls.

I turned over, clutching my aching belly.

We all shouted good night, and Emily told us she loved us, even though we were idiots.

I drifted off, content, and happy.

No Shame

I was so nervous the first time my boyfriend came to meet my family.

Emily had absolutely no filter in her later years, she was proud of it, and considered it one of her defining features! 

A lifetime of lying in hospital beds with next to nothing on and having to be examined and scrutinised on a regular basis had resulted in Emily losing the ability to feel embarrassment- 

I still felt it though, acutely and often! 

As my boyfriend and I walked in the front door, we found Emily walking up the stairs in a big top and knickers. 

'I haven't got pants on, and I'm not sorry, and also Hi.'

I felt my cheeks burn

My boyfriend burst out laughing-

'Does that mean I don't have to wear pants when I'm here either?'

Emily reached the top of the stairs, and turned to face us. 
There was the cheeky half-smile she used when we were little. 

And something else, 


Or perhaps she was just pleased to have someone else as brutally blunt as her around, so that they could team up to terrorise me.