Last night I heard the telephone ring and rushed downstairs to find it was my parents’ number. I called back, hoping my dad was OK or that my mum hadn’t had another fall. MY mum answered and told me that her sister, my aunt, had died earlier that day.

The day before I had been chatting to my cousin, who told me of her visits to her mum in a Sussex hospice. She didn’t expect a recovery and the unspoken message was that Betty had only a few days left. So while I knew it was coming I wasn’t prepared for just how quickly it came.

Betty was one of my mum’s younger sisters. She was, a curly haired, fun loving, outgoing type who, along with my uncle, dedicated her working life to looking after vulnerable children. Where my mum would get passionate about classical music, rugby and tennis, Betty would prefer pop music and a cigarette. Where my mum slowly gave up on holidays in favour of staying home, Betty would go to Majorca several times a year and soak up the sunshine.

After I left home I had less and less to do with my mum’s side of the family but something that always tied me to Betty and her family (aside from them being warm and lovely people) was that she gave me my first camera. It was a slightly broken Instamatic. I could take passable pictures on it and after getting my first envelope of prints back I was hooked. It took me a few years to save up and buy one of my own but ever since I’ve been mad about taking pictures and grateful to her for starting me off. Ironically, the only took one picture of my aunt, and that’s not here.

J suggested I have a drink after getting the news but my standard reaction to death seems to be, cry and then do the washing up. So I did.


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