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.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Why is it that every time I pass the room where your body lay the for the week after you died I want to cross over to the stranger walking on the other side of the road, point to the window of the room where you were, and tell them that’s the last place I saw you?

I remember your pale white hand lay on top of the blanket. 
Where it had been placed before we came in. 
You couldn’t move it yourself of course. 
You never would again.

It made me feel so uncomfortable and sick to think that a total stranger, someone you had and would never meet, had only yesterday washed your body and hair. 
The hair I so often over the years had plaited, pulled, straightened, run my fingers gently through. The hair that in your later years I would tease you about, telling you that you looked like a rugrat. (It was very short and she’d always tie the bobble really high up on her skull so it stuck up).

She'd put makeup on you. 
Not the kind you loved to wear.
(BRIGHT RED lipstick,
PURPLE lipstick,
BRIGHT GREEN eyeshadow,
THICK BLACK eyeliner,

She warned us before we came in to see you,
your skin was 'starting to change'

It was beginning to fall away

She'd had to cover your arms up, so we didn't feel distressed...

She'd used the white pashmina I'd leant you for my graduation

I like the idea you were being laid to rest with something of mine wrapped around you

Like I was holding you,

like I always had,

and would be forever.

Third Time Lucky, Everyone NOSE That

When I was fourteen, I broke my nose whilst playing rounders in the Saddleworth Olympics.
 A fielder accidentally threw the hard ball directly into my face whilst I was running around the posts.

(I promise, she liked me and wished me no ill-will, it was an accident).

To be fair, I wasn’t looking at the ball. 
I’ve always been extremely determined.

Anyway, long story short, I broke my nose, then I had it reset at the local hospital. 

Years later, when I was in my second year at University, I realised that they had failed to set it correctly. It was both in the wrong place on my face, and the wrong shape.

 I looked a bit like a Picasso painting. (Or rather, a lot like a Picasso painting).

I had a second operation, and so a third nose job, a couple of months after.
It hurt.
I had to wear a massive splint on my face for a week.

I had to stay in the hospital overnight, (not that I remember much of it – I was passed out from the pain killers most of the time). The next morning, Emily and my Mum came to pick me up. 

Now the really fun bit of this was that I have horrendous eye sight. This means that I require glasses or contact lenses all of the time. Or I can’t see. 
(Even my toes are blurry if I don't have anything to help my eyes and I look down).

Emily walked into the room, I could tell it was her because I’d heard her talking as she walked down the corridor to my room. She was excited, I think because it was just such an insane role reversal after so many years of me coming to see her on hospital wards.

Anyway, she walked into the room, strolled over to the side of the bed and glared at my face.

‘I thought the point was to make you look better? It was so expensive, and you look like that. Mum, is she meant to look like that?’

My eye sockets were bruised.

She then greatly enjoyed getting to lead me around the hospital to the car. I couldn’t see a damn thing. 

Puffy post-op eyes.

She was enjoying the power so much, I could tell. I would have laughed, but it hurt to move my face.

When we were in the car she tried to convince my Mum to drive over the speed bumps really hard to see what would happen.

 I think she thought my nose might explode or something.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Grandma's for Tea

 It had been a really sunny day, I’d been in college for a few hours, and when I got home my Mum told me we were going over to our Grandma’s house for our tea. Gran had recently moved into her new flat which was just on the other side of the park from us. It was quite small, but very cosy.

It had been a typically grey day for Em. She hadn’t been able to go to school for a week or so because she’d been ill. I can’t remember what exactly, could have been a terrible cough and sore chest, could have been really bad ulcers in her mouth, or she could just have been exhausted.

She’d spent a few hours in the morning shouting at my Mum for insignificant and unimportant things. My Mum took this for a few hours fairly silently. She knew the real cause of her behaviour, and so it was all justified. The culmination of Emily’s mood and bad thoughts however came to be that she refused to come over to have tea with us. (This was massively out of character- Emily absolutely adored food, especially my Grandma’s!)

We pleaded, but she was having absolutely none of it.
All three Cavanagh girls are known for being extremely stubborn.
Finally me and Mum just walked out and drove over to my Grandma’s house.
We slammed the door on the way out. (I feel quite sorry for the front door of our old house now, it was slammed shut so very often during those years, and it had a large amount of glass in it. This made it extra noisy and extra dangerous- perfect for teenage girls with bad tempers!)


The second we sat down to eat, my Mum’s phone rang.
She snatched it up to her ear.

My Mum launched out of her chair, bolted down the stairs and sped away in the car.

Gran didn’t speak.
I walked to look out the window.
I stayed looking out.
At nothing.
At tarmac perhaps, trees?

We had a thick red fluffy carpet in our bathroom.

My Mum expected to walk in to a horrendous scene.

We’d read the leaflets.
People dealing with genetic diseases often did it.
Especially young people.

Emily wasn’t predictable though.
She wasn’t typical.

What my Mum found that day were what seemed to be little furry creatures all over our lovely red carpet.
It wasn’t an act that was in any way planned or rational.

It was simply that Emily had figured out one way in which she could have control over her body.

It wasn't about hurting herself, it was about being able to make a drastic change to her appearance, to her life, without consulting anyone.

My Mum cuddled Emily for an hour on the bathroom floor.
My Mum rang me, and I came home.
The three of us watched a film together in our pjamas, and Emily ate some readybrek.

The next day my Mum booked a hair appointment for Em.
Her pixie cut looked beautiful. Edgy. Cool. She pulled it off.

A few weeks later I asked if she had been inspired by Britney Spears…

She hit me over the head with a massive cushion, knocking my glasses into my eyeballs. As I righted myself, I heard her say:

''You're just jealous because Mum said you wanted a pixie cut last year but the hairdresser wouldn't do it because your face is too bone-y or something! What he meant was that it would make your nose stick out...''

even more than it already does.''

Paint By Numbers (3)

My maternal grandfather bought his first video camera in 1993, a few weeks before the birth of his first grandchild, me. From the moment I was born, to the moment he passed away in 2009, he documented mine and Emily’s lives. Watching the tapes now is simply magical, though we’ve had to convert them to DVDs.

There is a section on one of these tapes which is of particular interest to my Father and I, as we believe it shows my grandfather accidently capturing Emily’s inner cheekiness at the tender age of two and a half years old.

Emily and I would often sit in our grandparent’s dining room to paint. We loved it. As the elder sister, the video depicts me concentrating over my paint by numbers book, straining with the effort, attempting to keep all of my brush strokes within the designated lines.

Emily, on the other hand, appears to have adopted more of a splodge and smear technique to her paper.

My granddad is happily chatting away to us, making us giggle and asking us questions about what we are doing in order to elicit a response.

He then places the camera down on his tripod in order to go and do something in the kitchen. I think perhaps it was to get Emily a drink, or to ask my Grandma for some paper towels.

The camera continues to roll, and in doing so captures Emily in her devious act!

Spectators see her slowly dip her brush into a black paint pot, and reach over so stealthily that I fail to notice any movement at all over to the right hand side of me, (engrossed as I was in my painting).

With the movement of her arm, her huge blue eyes grow even wider with excitement. A curl of a smile appears on her lips. She paints a short, bold black line on my face. Right down my cheek.

She whips her head back down to her paper.
Naturally, I retaliate.
Just as my grandfather comes back into the room.