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She wasn’t a blood relative, nor even a relative-by-marriage; she was the younger sister of the best friend I made when we were 8 years old. She cannot have been more than 31 or 32, and her little girl is surely younger than both of my children. Her 4 siblings are heartbroken; her mother, in a grief that defies words like “devastated” and “destroyed.” I don’t know what to say to them, and I know there’s no way I can help.

I haven’t taken it in properly–I haven’t seen her in years, I live thousands of miles away from our hometown, and she still lived there, within touching distance of our families and old friends–how do I lose someone, really, when I’ve already lost most of the love and friendship and intimacy of all my childhood and adolescent relationships, by moving to this foreign land?

It’s disloyal to say it, but I thought she was the most beautiful of them all, of the 4 siblings who were mostly teenagers when their youngest sister arrived. My best friend was undeniably beautiful, clever, athletic and artistic and a damn nice person besides, terrifying popular and utterly without meanness or spite, always ready to shield me from the horror of socialising, and equally insistent that I had to be invited if she was… my childhood best friend was and is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, inside and out.

But–her little sister, the one closest to her in age (and as they grew up, the one closest to her in the ways that count, I think)–was a different flavour of beautiful, one that I, attractive in a common way, found fascinating. Pale and fine-featured, with huge clear eyes and a shy, faintly scared expression, she made me wonder what there was to her that I couldn’t quite see. Even when we were children she seemed to have something of the saying that still waters run deep, about her.

I don’t know how it happened. It was an unexpected, unplanned death, and her family is left reeling, and–as always happens, when someone back home is hurt or in need–I am far too far away to do anything of use. I sent messages to her mother and older sister. I’ll send sympathy cards, which will arrive days or weeks after her funeral.

Her funeral. God. How do you plan a funeral for a woman who died suddenly, in her early 30s, leaving behind her parents, her partner, 4 siblings, and a child who’s probably still in primary school… I can’t, I just can’t. I’ll try to write more tomorrow, or in a few days. But God, this is so sad.