This is the hardest blog entry I’ve had to write to date. I barely know how to begin. But the reality is that my sister, Alison, died last week. As some of you will know, it wasn’t unexpected, but as many will say no matter how expected it just doesn’t prepare you for the shock of being told your sister has died. She was just too young.
But my memories are nothing but happy when it comes to Alison. She and her husband, Russell, were devoted to each other, and to their family.
When Alison learned that she had terminal breast cancer she simply got on with living. She opted for every medical trial that her oncologist could get her onto. Her thinking was that even if it didn’t benefit her it would benefit somebody. She lived her unfairly shortened life to the full. At one point she and Russell went off to distant parts of Australia with their caravan, with Alison clocking up the air miles to fly back to Brisbane every couple of weeks to have chemo. Once chemo was over she’d get back to the airport and fly back to join Russell to pick up their travelling where they left off. She was just determined to fit in everything she could, while she could.
She was so thrilled to live long enough to see both her children married, and two of her grandchildren born. She would light up when her grandchildren arrived to visit.
No matter what cancer threw at her, she always made sure she looked her best.
And no matter what pain or discomfort she was in, she loved a reason to celebrate.
When we lived in Zimbabwe my parents had no choice but to send us to boarding school, and it is my short time at boarding school which gives me one of my fondest memories of Alison, and which also says so much about her and her outlook on life. We went to boarding school aged 7, and it really didn’t suit me! The relative freedom we had at home to roam and have fun was seriously curtailed, and most nights found me crying in my bed, seriously homesick. After lights out it was forbidden for us to leave our dorms. But somehow the word would go from dorm to dorm until it reached Alison that I was crying (again!), and she’d soon be at my bedside trying to comfort me. Against all the rules, but absolutely the right thing to do. And that was Alison. She would see something that needed doing and she would go all out to do it. And if rules got in the way, well, they just had to get out of the way.
Like me, Alison loved having a camera in her hands. Much of the time I spent with her in Australia was spent looking for photographing opportunities. Back in 2010 we went looking for whales as they passed up the east coast of Australia, and although it was cold and windy nothing would persuade her to give up.
It was also in 2010 that we climbed up as high as we could on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and visited the Bridge museum to see if we could find our grandfather’s name in the lists of those who worked on the bridge, as he had done.
There is now a large gap in our family. One that can never be filled. But rest in peace Alison – you deserve it! You lived the life you wanted, and you fought hard to tick everything off that organised list you had. It is not so much that your life has ended, but rather that it has been completed.