Monthly Archives: July 2021

A letter to my sister in law, who died last April

When I saw you I ran out of words. Not like me I know; I don’t usually find myself casting about for things to say. Most of the time it’s a case of asking me (politely) to stop talking, or at least let someone else get a word in. I’m sorry that it happened, it wasn’t what I intended.

I meant to remind you of when we first met. Do you remember? Lying in the spare bed in your room, chatting in the dark, an easy conversation and an even easier lie in. Giggling in terror in the back of the car as we hurtled from pub to grocer to butcher to somewhere where they sold spoons (but not the right ones). You had a job in a pub; you told us all about the steaks, sizzling on stones, and balanced the plates all up your arm.

And the day I took you trying on wedding dresses. I’d got married the year (or was it two?) before, so I knew the ropes (sort of). I bossed you into different dresses until you found a style you liked and then, in typical style, your mum made the dress and the ones for the bridesmaids too, while you sewed your invitations. I’ve still got it somewhere, I think, where I keep precious things, together with my memories of your interest in things and how they work and what they do.

I’m not sure if I’m in your wedding photos. The top of your head is only just in mine, visible if you know where to look, hiding in the background with your dad and your new boyfriend, the man who cares for you so tenderly now. You are wrapped up in a shawl your mum made you wear, because that’s what people wore to autumnal weddings – or something like that. I played the piano at yours, hiding under my big hat, do you remember that?

And after weddings (not so long after yours as mine) there were babies, first yours, then mine. Do you remember sitting on my sofa and telling me all about the maternity clothes you weren’t buying because you were getting yours from Dawn French and then you’d be wearing them after? And do you remember christenings and birthday parties and tea at your mum and dad’s and in-car DVDs that only needed a Light Tap to make them work the right way round but while they entertained your kids they caused mine to overflow. There were family weddings we did and family weddings we didn’t attend and Ruby Dos in the garden. A holiday. Competitive cakes. Do you remember?

You were my alliterative sister for more than half my life, my birthday twin. I don’t want to think of you with sadness, and I know you didn’t want that, but I am.  We are.