By Derek Clark

My sister lost her fight with cancer at 4:47 am on Tuesday 17th July 2018. She was 55 years old. Joyce was diagnosed with a brain tumour back in November 2016 and despite 6 months of radiotherapy, 14 months of chemotherapy, cannabis oil and honey imported from Israel, one tumour became two and it was clear treatment was not going to work.

Joyce kept her sense of humour right to the end, she never complained or showed any sign of self-pity, but a stroke changed her permanently and made communication more difficult and then finally almost impossible. At the end it was although everything but her lungs shut down, each breath a fight for survival. In the last few minutes of her life, she managed to open her eyes. She was surrounded by family, each of us holding on to her, making sure she knew we were there. Finally, her breath slowed, a few more breaths with longer gaps in between and then silence. She was gone forever.

July 24th, 2018. The funeral was today, exactly one week after she died. We couldn’t believe how many people showed up to pay their respects. It was a sea of faces, some I knew some I didn’t and some I should have known, but didn’t recognise. As requested by my brother in law, Joyce’s coffin was carried by her three brothers and three sons as her favourite singer Andrea Bocelli played in the background.

I've been asked so many times in the past week how I and the rest of my family were. I say that we’re ok, we're getting there. But the real truth is that we are all hanging by a thread right now. My brother in law, their three sons, my two brothers and our other halves, we’re all hanging by a thread. But my parents just buried their only daughter and that's just not right. It's not the way it's supposed to happen. I don't know how they're supposed to move on from this.

So we are all hanging by a thread. But we’re a close family, and if you twist and intertwine thread it becomes rope, and rope anchors the ship, it holds down the tents in a storm. As I write these words I look down at my wrist at the piece of climbing rope that’s been there for almost a year. I realise that it's the stuff that keeps us from falling.

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