A Tribute To My Sister – Finding Positives In Loss

Today’s blog post is one that has been niggling away at the back of my brain, and, as I write this I’m still unsure whether I’m going to upload it or not.  But, I figured writing it down would be a good way of gathering my thoughts, whether or not I decide to share it with the rest of the world.

 

Today, my sister would have been 32 years old. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t cross my mind and I’m forever wondering what she would have been like.

 

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At the age of 32, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think she might have been settled down, maybe married, possibly with children.  I wonder what kind of job she would have had – perhaps one that helps people (like my brother and sister) or would she be stuck behind a desk in an office like me?

 

I wonder what she would have looked like now. Would her hair still have been beautiful blonde, or would it have gone dark like all of us?  There are so many questions, none of which we will ever get an answer to, but that I know we will forever mull over in our minds.

 

Every year I write something for Katy; a letter to her, a tribute, my feelings… but this year I thought I’d do something a little different. To celebrate what would have been her 32nd birthday I want to share 32 things that Katy’s death has taught me.

 

 

I have been talked in to sharing this blog post by others who have said that it could be of some help to those who are mourning a loved one and struggling to find the light in the darkness that follows loss.

 

This post has been written totally from the heart and so, as a result, may not be the best piece of writing you’ve ever read, but I’ve just let the contents of my brain and heart fall out onto the page.  Please be kind and don’t leave any negative feedback – I’m sharing this with only good intentions.

 

We all deal with grief differently, mine just happens to be a very ‘proactive’ way of doing so – by looking for positive aspects and using those in order to build moving forward. This same process is used in all aspects of my life when times are tough or my emotions have taken a beating.

 

 

Shit Happens

This is the first one that springs to mind and the one, I think, that really says it how it is. Shit happens. You just have to suck it up and get on with life. I can’t imagine how it must have been for my parents to lose their 2.5 year old daughter, but not once did they let it impact upon our childhoods. Not once did we suffer as a result. Their hearts were broken but they got out of bed each morning and carried on carrying on.

 

Love is really all that matters

Don’t get me wrong, I’m only human and I have days where I’m annoyed at something that has happened, but when all is said and done, nothing really matters except to love and be loved in return. Material things are meaningless without people you love being there to share it with you.

 

Never go to sleep on an argument

It’s part of human nature to bicker and argue but I never like to go to sleep on an argument. I want to resolve it before we fall asleep, to put ill feeling aside and to end the day without any malice or grumpiness. It is so easy for somebody to be snatched away and I would never want my last memory of them to be a negative one.

 

Live your life to the full

I am forever living life too fast and trying to squeeze too much into my days. I want to live every single second I have because we never know when life might be taken away, plus there are those, like Katy, who had their opportunity taken away from them.

 

Don’t waste a single day

Although I love to snuggle up in front of the TV and have a lazy day sometimes, these are fairly rare as I hate wasting days. If I ever sit around, doing nothing and wasting time, it puts me on edge and I feel guilty. I don’t ever want to waste a day as that is 24-hours on this earth that could have been spent in a better way; whether that is by doing something productive or spending quality time with loved ones.

 

Achieve something every day

I guess this is an extension of what I said above– I like to do ‘something’ every day. Whether that be going somewhere, spending time with friends/family, or getting some jobs done around the house. I like to be able to go to bed knowing I achieved something and no day is ever wasted.

 

Be a good person

Be good. Just be good. It’s a simple as that. Don’t go out of your way to hurt people, be nasty, lie, cheat or backstab. Be supportive, be truthful, be kind, be giving and be loyal. To have life is a privilege and we should live it to the very best standard that we can.

 

Aim high and never give up dreaming

I often wonder what Katy would have done with her life and who she would have been, and so, as a result, I feel like it is almost my duty to live life to the full and aim for the skies. I guess, maybe, to live for both of us? Have a dream and strive to succeed at it!

 

Take photos, lots of photos

Mum and Dad have always taken lots of photos. We have shelves of photo albums at home that I never get bored of looking through – there are so many memories in those pages. Photographs are so important for remembering times, places and people. You can be transported back to a moment in your past, recall feelings you had in that particular moment, or see faces of those who have gone before us. Photos are such a powerful way of preserving time and I believe in taking as many as possible to keep a document of your life.

 

Tell people you love them

Showing emotion doesn’t come easily to me, so this is something I struggle with; it makes me very uncomfortable. But, that said, I always try to make sure people know I care about them by the way I treat them, whether that be calling/texting/spending time with them, or buying them little gifts. I may not be able to say “I love you” easily, but if I care about you, you will be sure to know by the way I treat you.

 

Help those less fortunate than you

I feel very lucky and very fortunate in life and I’m all too aware that there are people out there who are not so. I try to help those that need it where I can and, although what I can do is limited, I know that every little helps.

 

There is always a silver lining

This may sound bizarre, but I honestly believe that no matter how bad a situation is, there is always a silver lining – sometimes you may just have to look a little harder in order to find it. The loss of Katy was, obviously, horrendous and the worst possible thing that could happen to a family. But, that said, it is my true belief that without the loss of Katy, our personalities and paths through life would have been forged differently. Changed life experiences may have created different people of us and our lives may well have gone in a completely different directions. I believe the loss of Katy was a key part of shaping our family and that with it came lessons we have all learnt from. Obviously, given the chance I would choose to have Katy back in a second, but as that’s not possible all we can do is look for the good that has come from the situation, and I believe my family, our morals, our outlooks to life and our personalities as a whole, are a direct result of what happened.

 

Expand your mind, never stop learning

Katy was extremely intelligent and was progressing beyond her years in terms of her capacity for knowledge and learning. I have an active, healthy mind, and I want to fill it with as much as possible to make the very most of it.

 

Life is a gift, treat it as such

Life is such a precious thing, the very action of the various atoms, cells and all those other slightly disgusting, squishy things working together to create life amazes me. To see what those with life within them are capable of doing is just incredible and I don’t ever forget that just doing what I’m doing – sitting here, upright, breathing, thinking, typing, sharing the thoughts from inside my mind – is a miracle and should be treated as such.

 

Never take people for granted

This is obviously a major one. Never, ever take anybody for granted. Tomorrow is promised to no man and we can’t just assume the people we love will always be there when the sun rises again.

 

Forgive. Never hold a grudge

I’m not one for holding a grudge – first of all, it’s too much effort to remain angry, I’d rather draw a line under it and move on, but secondly, quite often upset and arguments – although they may seem all consuming at the time – are over quite silly things and, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter a huge amount. I prefer to say sorry where it’s due, accept apologies where given, and move on.

 

Don’t retain toxic friendships

I am sure we have all, at some point, had a friendship within our lives that has been ‘toxic’. Those relationships that bring you more negative than positive and do nothing more than bring upset in to your world. A few years ago, I cut all ties with my ‘toxic friends’ and I can honestly safe that life is so much improved now. There is no need for an explosive ‘break up’, just quietly step away,

 

Don’t live in fear; step out of your comfort zone

I’m a great believer that if something scares you, that’s more of a reason to face it head on. Step outside of your comfort zone. Push yourself, expand your horizons, challenge yourself and achieve more than you thought you could!

 

Get your priorities right

People are more important than material things. As tempting as it might be to spend a day indoors catching up on your favourite TV series, take the opportunity to see your friends or family if the opportunity is there – those TV programmes will be there another time, that isn’t guaranteed for the ones you love.

 

Never underestimate someone’s hurt or upset

Physical and emotional pain is relative to the person suffering it – just because something wouldn’t upset you, it doesn’t mean it isn’t really hurting them.  Everyone reacts differently to the sad or bad in their lives. Just support them when they need it, even if you don’t completely understand it.

 

Everything in life is a lesson

I try to look at everything that happens in life from one step back. I detach emotionally and look at it practically, working out what lessons can be taken from it. They say ‘positivity breeds positivity’ but I believe negativity can too, as long as you look at it from the right perspective.

 

Never say goodbye

I never, ever say goodbye, only “see you later”.

 

What will be, will be

I’m not sure if I believe in God, or fate or what exactly, but I do believe that life has a funny way of working out and what will be, will be.

 

Everything will be ok

There’s a saying – attributed to John Lennon but I’m not sure if it was really him – which says, “Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end” and this speaks volumes to me. Whenever anything bad happens, it feels like it’s the end of the world, but just as sure as the sun goes down every night, so does it come up again every morning and a new day starts. Time is a great healer and as I said just now; life has a funny way of working itself out. Give it time and I believe things will improve.

 

Hug properly

Just as it has been proven that stroking a pet can lower blood pressure, so too is it considered a fact that hugging can do a lot of good for a person. Whether it’s a hug to say you’re pleased to see somebody, to wish them luck on a journey, or just to say you care about them, sometimes a hug says and means more than any words ever could.

 

Be proactive and grab life by the balls!

I am so full of ambition, dreams and ideas, but no dream will ever come true without us making the effort to go for it. Work out a plan of action to get where you want to be – whether it’s a dream job or simply saving up enough money for a particular item you want to buy – and go for it. Life will continue happening all around us if we just let it slip by, so grab it by the balls and make the most of every second!

 

Just because they’re gone, it doesn’t mean they’re not still around

I don’t mean this in the religious sense as I’m not entirely sure what I feel about religion and faith, I’m still very much in the undecided camp, but by this I simply mean that just because somebody is no longer around, it doesn’t mean they can’t impact on your world. Katy is gone but has never been treated as a part of our family that is no longer here – we have talked about her in conversation as you would about any person, we have laughed about things that happened while she was still alive, and she has – as you can see by the this blog post – had a very positive affect on my life. As long as you remember a person and carry them in your heart, they are never very far away.

 

Never apologise for who you are

I was always painfully shy growing up and was bullied terribly at school, meaning I dropped out when I was 13, but at around the age of 19 (I guess?) I decided I’d had enough. Trying to be what other people wanted me to be was too hard to keep up and it was making me miserable. So, I started being myself. I let people see my quirks and my faults, I voiced opinions where I wouldn’t have done so before, and I just… well… stopped caring about not fitting in. With that, life became a breeze. Be yourself 100%, never apologise for who you are (as long as you’re not hurting anyone, of course) and be proud. If you’re worried you won’t fit in, don’t – we’re all a little strange and, in all honesty, it’s quite often the strangeness that people love the most.

 

Don’t take life for granted

When Katy died, it was sudden and there were no prior signs of it happening. In a split second your whole world can change. Never, ever take yours or anybody else’s life for granted.

 

Life is temporary but we can all leave a footprint on the world

Although I am one tiny person on this giant planet and, when viewed overall, essentially ‘nothing’, it doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. I may not be able to cure diseases, end world famine or call an end to wars, but I can help in some little way, whether that be by supporting charities and raising money for them or simply by being a good friend. I don’t want, when my time to visit the ol’ Pearly Gates comes along, to be forgotten; I want to leave at least a little footprint, even if it is just in the hearts of those I knew.

 

Say “Yes!”

In day to day life, there are so many opportunities provided to us that quite often we don’t even notice them. Whether it’s something as simple as, “Do you want to go to dinner tonight?” or “Do you want to join this club?” or even “Do you fancy climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity?” – your answer will take you down one of two paths – Yes or No. By saying no to those things may well mean you instead stay at home and watch your favourite soaps on TV, but by saying “Yes!” you could be opening yourself up to more opportunities and the chance to enrich your life. I’ve started saying yes to more things in the past year and I’ve had so much fun as a result!

 

Be happy

The simplest lesson of them all, but perhaps the most important. Be happy. Wake up in the morning, stretch and look out the window, happy you’re here for another day. Go to work or to school and be happy you have the opportunity to do so. Socialise with your friends or family and be happy you are in a position where this is possible. Look around you, realise how lucky you are for all the positives in your life and just be happy.

 

 

I still feel really weird about publishing this, but it might help somebody somewhere.

 

It’s a really personal subject but feels like the best way I can pay tribute to my beautiful, chubby, blonde haired sister. If she’s made so much of an impact on my life and mindset without walking this earth, I can only imagine what she would have been capable of had she lived.

 

I love you Katy. Thank you for everything.

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26 Comments

  1. August 26, 2014 / 4:06 pm

    Penny this is one of the best posts I’ve ever read. Its so easy to forget to appreciate all the things and people around us. What you say is truly inspiring and really makes me want to get up and do more with my life. I shall be referring back and quoting from this blog post every single day! Sorry for the loss of your dear sister, I am sure she would have grown up to be a truly brilliant and beautiful person just like you.

    Lots of love

    Chloe xxx

    • Fiona
      August 26, 2014 / 4:33 pm

      Hello! What a lovely post. I actually wrote something similar a few weeks back on the 4th anniversary of my Mum’s death – it wasn’t nearly as eloquent or as well put-together as this. Sometimes it feel like you have to mark an occasion in some way, right? I felt the exact same way about whether I should post it or not! Your sister is beautiful, sending love to you and your family xxx

      • lilliesandlove
        August 29, 2014 / 10:10 am

        Thank you Fiona, I sometimes think it’s the easiest and the hardest thing to write from the heart. There’s things to say but it’s so hard to say it in a way that makes sense to other people because there are so many thoughts and feelings overlapping each other. I’m 100% certain your mum would have loved your post and is super proud of you xx

    • lilliesandlove
      August 29, 2014 / 10:13 am

      Thank you Chloe, that’s such a lovely thing to say. Katy would have been amazing, I know that for a fact. As for you, you’re so bright and bubbly – grab life by the balls and brilliant things will come your way, I know it! xx

  2. Anouska
    August 26, 2014 / 4:18 pm

    Very inspiring and moving. An amazing post to write, thank you for sharing it with us.
    Xxxx

    • lilliesandlove
      August 29, 2014 / 10:11 am

      Thank you for reading it Anouska xx

  3. August 26, 2014 / 4:23 pm

    Perfect. I’m sure Katy would be extremely proud of you. We all need to take on some of these points! xx

    • lilliesandlove
      August 29, 2014 / 10:11 am

      Thank you Beth, I hope so 🙂 xx

  4. August 26, 2014 / 4:41 pm

    What a beautiful post, I had to fight to not tear up. I definitely don’t live life to the full, although it’s something I’m working on. I’m sorry for your loss, I’m sure Katy would be really proud of you for writing this, it means she’s left a tiny footprint in the life of others as well as your family. Life does work in funny ways, and I do try to believe that everything happens for a reason, I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today without shit that’s gone on in my life.

    India xx

    • lilliesandlove
      August 29, 2014 / 10:09 am

      Thank you India. Find a balance that works for you and aim for that, take baby steps and think just a little bit more positive every day and – most importantly – just be happy. Be happy about being here and about being you, because you’re pretty awesome 😉 xx

    • lilliesandlove
      August 29, 2014 / 10:08 am

      Thank you Natalie xx

  5. Jason
    August 26, 2014 / 6:46 pm

    This is completely wonderful – thank you for putting words to website and sharing 🙂

    • lilliesandlove
      August 29, 2014 / 10:08 am

      Thank you Jason, that means a lot. I’m glad you enjoyed it xx

  6. Lisa
    August 26, 2014 / 10:25 pm

    Penny I really admire you for putting your heart and thoughts out there as it’s a really courageous thing you’ve done. Katy would have been so proud to have you as her sister as you truly are an amazing lady. The words you wrote really resonated with me and I think we have such a similar mindset on life, perhaps like you say, losing someone so special in your life gives you the realisation of just how special it is. Sending you so much love, and thinking of my beautiful cousin today, happy birthday Katy xx

    • lilliesandlove
      August 29, 2014 / 10:08 am

      Thank you Lisa; losing someone does change your perspective I think. You and I have always been really similar, definitely something in the blood 🙂 xx

  7. Maitha
    August 31, 2014 / 6:25 am

    What a beautiful post, from the heart but so well-written and thought out. I’m fortunate not to have lost any close members of my family but had to fight back tears reading as you’re so right – we take every day for granted if we aren’t making the most of it. As you know I made a big move to Dubai last year and ever since I try and remind myself how lucky I am every day. It also goes to show you never know what people are going through. You are always so positive and cheerful and that’s such a testament to your family and Katy. Thank you for sharing xx

    • lilliesandlove
      September 9, 2014 / 11:02 am

      Thank you, that’s such a lovely thing to say. I am an incredibly lucky person and I try to remember that every day. We all have days where we feel miserable and like life is rubbish, but it’s about taking a step back and realising how much good we have around us. So amazing that you made such a big move in your life, so brave! xx

  8. March 6, 2015 / 8:54 am

    I read this post through streaming tears. Beautifully written, you don’t have to justify why you’re writing the post at all. As a mother of a 15 month old I can’t begin to imagine the pain your parents went through at the time. I’m sure they’ll be so proud of what you’ve wrote xxx

    • Penny
      Author
      March 15, 2015 / 6:35 pm

      Thank you Siobhan, I often wonder how my parents managed to continue with their lives and give us such an amazing childhood despite the pain they must have been going through. They’re incredible people xx

  9. March 6, 2018 / 10:13 am

    Thank you for sharing such a lovely and heartfelt post. Sending you lots of love and a big cyber hug. xx

  10. August 26, 2018 / 6:13 pm

    I’m so sorry you and your family had to experience such a tragic loss. This post is truly inspiring though and I’m completely with you on these points. These are literally my mottos for life. Such a strong post. You most definitely made the right decision hitting publish.

    • Penny
      Author
      September 3, 2018 / 3:22 pm

      Thank you so much, that really means a lot. Losing Katy was the absolute worst thing that could have happened to our family, but from it so much has been learned and gained in a way. I feel like anything bad that happens, there has to be a silver lining, you sometimes just have to look harder to find out what it is xx

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