I must have been about two, maybe three when this photo was taken. The young girl standing next to me is my cousin Shirley. I can remember thinking how pretty she was, and as she had a Canadian accent, she must have seemed impossibly glamorous to me.
Over the years we heard different family news about her and it was when I was travelling round the US after uni that we decided to stop off at her house in Texas.
She was a recovering alcoholic by then, she’d changed her name, and although we got on the visit didn’t go completely smoothly.
Back home, my own life took over and we didn’t really keep in touch. I heard stories from time to time and then the last thing I heard was that she was getting her life back together, and she was back to being Shirley.
But then in September, the really bad news came. She had been badly injured in a housefire. She had gone back in trying to rescue her pets.
She was in a coma for four weeks, and then she died.
So this is how I’ll remember her. As my beautiful cousin.
I hope she’s finally at peace.