On the day I was burned my sister was the only one in the house with me. She heard my screams and when she saw the flames screamed even louder than me. Those screams brought help immediately and probably saved my life.
She doted on her little brother – she is a year and four days older – so seeing me on fire, then whisked away by ambulance, was a scary and scarring experience. Little did she realise then that she wouldn’t see me for another two and a half years. You see, back then children weren’t allowed to visit others. She found it distressing and inexplicable.
And in the fallout from my accident no one noticed that here was a young girl who was also affected, psycholigically rather than physically. No one understood back then that accidents have unintended consequences and victims. I know from talking to Lorraine that she was very hurt by my disappearance, the lack of 8nformation on what was happening me, and her inability to see me.
When I eventually returned home she helped protect me. She still loved her little brother, though he no longer looked the way she remembered. She included me in her life as much as she could. She would travel with me in the car to Dublin when I went there for operations in Dr Steevens Hospital, and return saddened because yet again she was leaving me behind.
As I grew into my teenage years Lorraine was still keeping an eye on me, making sure I was included, making me laugh, but also trying to force me to stretch myself. She taught me a few steps for my first dance (I still recall those faltering moves in the kitchen) and encouraged me to go out a bit more.
Lorraine always loved art, especially drawing. She could sketch out clothes and would sometimes make her own. At one point she joined Cash’s, working in their trendy boutique with its fashion for young women. It was there Dana arrived for a fleeting visit just after winning the Eurovision Song Contest.
As she began to move on with her own life she always watched out for me and was always there with a kind word. I know she worried about what would become of me – she wasn’t alone in that. Before I knew it she left and got married. My big sister and protector soon had her own family.
She still looked out for me, though, wondered how I was getting on, and offered me encouragement. She was not just a friendly face. I could talk to Lorraine about how I was coping with facial disfigurement, my poor record trying to find a girlfriend, and my disenchantment with life. She listened and offered advice, telling me I needed to push myself harder, to get on with living rather than existing. I heard her but felt powerless to act. There would be many such conversations in the years ahead.
Eventually, of course, I did rouse myself to action and met Trish. There was no one happier than Lorraine then, apart from Trish and myself! During the many ups and downs that followed in her life down the years she demonstrated her resilience and good humour. Of course there were rough patches, I thought she handled them very well.
Lorraine was the glue that kept our extended family together. She was the one who was always in contact with others in the family. She would tell you if she thought you weren’t pulling your weight, or dropped hints about calling on Mum and Dad, sometimes very heavy hints. She arranged many Christmas Eve dinners for the clan, etc. She’s an amazing money manager, and no one can spot a bargain faster than Lorraine. I could tell you many stories about the times she called to us telling us about her latest purchases.
She’s a great mimic. She worked in Debenhams for years in the lingerie department, and the tales she told would have you in stitches. When she was on form there was no one funnier.
She adores her daughters, Gillian and Jackie, and her many grandchildren, so I know these days are limiting for her, not having the smaller ones staying overnight, or not being able to help Gillian or Jackie with child minding. Still, she stays in touch with them using social media and the phone.
Lorraine lives a short walk from me these days, still full of laughs, dishing out advice – whether you ask for it or not – but staying positive. We had a 30 minute chat on Messenger this morning and we spent the time cracking jokes and laughing. That’s my big sis.