It has been almost one month since you chose to end your life. Knowing that this is the way you wanted your story to end has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to accept in my life.

The news shattered us, your family. None of us saw it coming. If anything, we thought you were in a good space. We were enjoying the quieter, gentler, kinder side of you. It was easier to handle than the argumentative, volatile side that made me nervous of being around you for a long time. And yet the fire inside you was dying. We should have seen that as a warning sign, but we didn’t.

I have found this so hard. There are a thousand unanswered questions in my mind. The “What if’s…” that plagued me when I first heard the news, I’m now starting to ignore. It won’t change the fact that you’re gone. And I’m kidding myself if I think that if I – or anyone else – had done anything different, it would have changed your mind. It wouldn’t have. You had already made your decision.

Livi – I will always remember the delicious cuddles I had with your chubby, two-year-old self when I welcomed you into my bed early in the mornings. I will remember your cute underbite, your feisty determination not to listen to Granny and Grandpa when they came to look after you while Mom and Dad were away. You wanted to wear your own choice of clothes and decided it would be far better to go with Ali to university and play Barbie dolls while she attended lectures than listen to your domineering grandpa.

I remember your love for horses and your best friend Sarah who accompanied you on many excursions to Stoneyhurst. Your speech was so similar it was difficult to tell you apart. You were a good friend.

At your memorial service it was lovely to see how many friendships you’d cultivated over the years how many lives you’d touched. I enjoyed chatting to Adam, Leone and Kim and filling in the missing pieces of your story. The sunflowers (your favourite flower) and sunlight cheered a day that was otherwise clouded by your absence. It was the most surreal experience – I kept seeing you out of the corner of my eye and wondered when you would walk outside and join us.

Looking back, there were many things you struggled with that I was blind to. Your over-confidence masked your insecurity and fear of failure. We marvelled at your bravado when you boasted about what car you would drive (a Toyota Yaris) or what kind of clothes your kids would wear (Gap). As you grew older, we became more aware of your mental disorder and how it limited you, but you refused to give up. Despite many setbacks, you always picked yourself up and looked for work, trying your best to live a productive life. I often think how much I inadvertently judged you for not measuring up to my own standards, when really I should have admired you for your determination and courage.

I’m sorry, dear sis. I’m sorry for so much. How you must have suffered before you made this decision, this point of no return. I would love to have one last conversation with you to tell you how much I love you and how much your life has meant to me, the good and the bad.

But I do have this comfort. I know I will see you again. God has given me the reassurance that you are with Him and that you are finally unfettered and free. I’m glad I prayed with you as you surrendered your heart to Him.

I have your journal now in my bedside drawer which begins with the verse, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith.” And I know it’s grace that will get me through this journey as I learn to accept that you’re gone.

There will always be an empty seat now at family gatherings, the seat that should have been occupied by you. Your laughter and presence will be gone. The boys will miss the Kinder Joy eggs you bought them. Hope will miss her hugs from you, the aunty she never got to know. And I will miss you, Livi, the younger sister I loved and was wary of. Fly free, little bird – at last released.