Wendy houses and music tastes

For Zib, aka Elizabeth Kirwan.


Things can change so quickly in this world, sometimes all you have to do is blink and something so irrevocable happens you don’t have time to think, you barely even react. I started this blog last year after going through one such moment but again I found myself, with my family, facing another.

Even now, two months later I can wake up thinking it’s all been a horrible nightmare and none of it has happened. Or I sit still and for a second, I think she’s still here. I suppose that is why it has taken so long to finish this.

Then I remember it is real, so hellishly real. I have lost my first ever friend, the cousin I may as well have called my sister. Liz: wife, daughter, mother, niece and dear friend. Torn from us far to early, we have all lost her. She’d berate me for doing this if she could, I can just see her; one eyebrow raised scowling but her eyes gleaming seconds later. Never one for soppy, grand statements or moments but she was always determined enough to have a smile or a joke somewhere.

Her sense of humour was incredible and sharp, as bad as mine and my dad’s – so you can imagine the raucous laughter and embarrassed eye-rolling that happened over the years. Even her temper-tantrums have me laughing – as mine made her no doubt! It had to be her sense of humour, as well as her love of training and sport that led her to insist on a bootcamp afternoon for her hen weekend – I don’t ever remember being in that much pain ever… As well as hungover!

She was affectionately known by so many variations of Elizabeth (and several unmentionables…!) But Zib was my version of her. Born five years her junior I first said her name as I could and it pretty much stuck. Being that much younger she bossed me around like nobody’s business but she always cared. I have silly memories of her insisting she build my Wendy house and getting furious when my dad tried to do it for us. Crazy memories of Christmas Day and all of us competing over some daft trivia game, getting louder and louder as the evening wore on. I don’t remember this (I couldn’t have been two years old) but there are photos of us sat there with her reading and showing me how to as she did her part setting me on a path of adventure I would never change and have loved every minute of.

I have so many shared experiences with her and of the ones that always stand out is our first ever music concert. Bad music taste? Pah! If she ever had bad music taste then so did I, so do I. At 13 and 18 years old my dad took us to see the Stereophonics at Morfa stadium in 1999. It was a gorgeous sunny day in Swansea, and the last ever concert to be played in the Stadium, before the site was demolished. Brilliant music, an awesome atmosphere and the best company to experience it with – I would never have forgotten the experience of that afternoon, ever, now I have even more reason never to let that memory go. Of all the things to keep I still have the VHS of the concert, and of course the t-shirt!

Stereophonics -1,000 Trees (original 1997 Stereophonics video)

Her wedding was another, I remember getting the call at home when she told me and asked me to be a bridesmaid, I swear I did a happy dance for her whilst on the phone. Again another gorgeous sunny day, with a stunning view of Cardiff and the bay at our feet for the reception. She looked so very happy, everyone was basking in it. It was a perfect day, though now, it is the little things that happened – funny stuff that normally pails into comparison – that hold resonance. She was so intent to get to Chris in the at the end of the aisle she forgot to leave her bouquet behind and I had to fetch it from her. Later on the DJ deviated from the set list more than once and Liz, down to an absolute T, was not impressed – her face was a picture for all of a moment before it got sorted. Little things that made her personality and made us love her more.

Liz was scatterbrained, intelligent, fiercely competitive and even more fiercely independent in what she did, with an incredible personality that drew you in, smiling. From spending three months in Canada after uni, living and making friends there to training and running marathons. Not least, I got to watch her run the 2013 London marathon. We are so proud of everything she did and will miss her so very much.

This is for Liz, as much as it is for us. Will miss you beautiful girl.


Family, friend,

even sister to me, sometimes.

So much bigger than my small self,

a steady shadow at my shoulder

clutching my hand so I couldn’t run off.

A ready laugh bubbling at the surface –

Wendy houses, stone statues,


and Ice-cream on the beach.

Me? Nonplussed.

You? Crying.

Everyone else? Laughing at us.

Silly things to cry over

then share,

like we always had.

Bossy, perfectionist,

kind, crazy, straightforward,

impossibly competitive. Honest.

All and more made you, you.

Made you ours.

There in our memories:

never gone, never lost.

There in the lives we shared,

we will always know you,

always remember you.


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