When my cousin was dying of a brain tumour in her 20s I promised I’d look out for her son

Over the past decade I’ve watched a young boy grow up and become a daily reminder to me of just how proud his mother would have been

I remember there was an aquarium in the hospice where my cousin Billie spent the last few weeks of her life. Luis, her son, liked going to visit her there more than to the hospital, not realising what her move to a palliative care centre really meant. He liked watching the big guppy in the fish tank kiss the glass when he pressed his face up against it. He’d kick a football down the corridors; seven years old and often straight from school in his too-big uniform, polished black shoes loudly slapping the lino as he ran to her room.

I call Luis my nephew because Billie was always more of a sister to me. Throughout her six-year illness – she was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 26 and died at 31 – I helped look after Luis. He was just two when Billie had the first operation and although she did her best to carry on as a young working mother (she was a really in-demand makeup artist), I know she appreciated that family and friends babysat when we could.

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