I don't think that a single day has gone by when I haven't thought about my sister. I have held tightly onto her memory, preserving forever in my mind the way she spoke, the sound of her laugh, how she felt, the heaviness of her thick hair, her sense of humour and the way she made me feel that I wanted to be exactly like her.
Today would have been her 54th birthday. Had she lived, I'm pretty sure she'd still be the same Carol that I idolised. She was the joker, the larger than life character, the life and soul of any event who had the incredible talent of making you feel like you were the important and special one. I miss her so much that even now 18 years on, if I think about all the years spent without her, times together that have been lost, the tears come all too easily.
With every joyous celebration and with every heartbreak we have shared as a family, there has been something missing, someone missing. That will never go away. The empty space is ever present.
Her passing opened my eyes to the frailty of life and our own mortality. A sobering realisation and something I found very difficult to deal with as I was pregnant at the time of her illness. Creating a new life as my sister's time on this earth ebbed away. It was too cruel an irony. But I went on to deliver the beautiful baby girl who took my sister's name as her own. In memory of the auntie she never had the honour of meeting or the pleasure in knowing.
I know that Carol's energy is still burning brightly. She's still here, a part of her own children and now a part of her first grandchild. I take such pleasure in that. Holding my beautiful great nephew in my arms, I felt the connection and knew that she was there. Part of his genetic make-up. Part of his very soul. It is a comfort to me.
Life continues and the world keeps on spinning, but I will never, ever forget.
I'll raise a glass of red wine in your memory tonight.
I recently found this photo of myself as a baby with my big sister, in a collection of old family snaps. I'd never seen it before and discovering it really made my day. I love how happy I look on my big sister's lap.