Beau­ti­ful, bright and so cool, she was like a sis­ter to me. I can’t be­lieve we have lost her


LING LING was my aunt but she felt more like a sis­ter. We were born just eight months apart, were in the same school year, and both loved mu­sic beyond any­thing else. She was in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful, bright and al­ways seemed very so­phis­ti­cated to me (who was a bit of a coun­try girl).

I loved it when I went to Lon­don to stay with grandpa (Ling Ling’s fa­ther) and got to hang out with her. She’d whisk me off to Covent Gar­den or Cam­den, and we’d eat noo­dles and buy trin­kets from stalls. She was great com­pany and knew ev­ery­thing. I was like a sponge learn­ing about what bands were cool, what was fash­ion­able and what was not.

It feels in­con­ceiv­able that she is no longer here, show­ing me the way. I am over­whelmed by grief and the knowl­edge that I’m lead­ing the life that should be hers is al­most too painful to bear. How is it pos­si­ble that I am at univer­sity and she is not? I would give it all up to have her back here with us.

I know my grandpa was an ‘older fa­ther’ but he was the most won­der­ful one and my mum al­ways said it was lovely, as he had more time to be there for every swim­ming les­son, con­cert and par­ents’ evening. Ling Ling was ab­so­lutely loved, with two of the most de­voted par­ents imag­in­able.

She was my marker of what I should be achiev­ing. I re­mem­ber her read­ing the Harry Pot­ter books and show­ing me a let­ter she had re­ceived from J.K. Rowl­ing.

She ex­celled aca­dem­i­cally and went to Latymer, a se­lec­tive gram­mar school where she was top of the class. She also joined the Royal Academy of Mu­sic’s Ju­nior Depart­ment and gained grade eight dis­tinc­tions in vi­ola, vi­o­lin and piano.

When I was 11, I went to Chetham’s School of Mu­sic, which was hard for Ling Ling as she was des­per­ate to go to a spe­cial­ist mu­sic school. Her par­ents were un­sure be­cause she showed such aca­demic po­ten­tial. How­ever, she was extremely per­sua­sive and the fol­low­ing year she went to the Pur­cell School of Mu­sic.

Wor­ry­ingly she’d re­cently be­come anorexic but it was man­aged well, and al­though ev­ery­one was con­cerned, I never thought that this was any­thing other than a blip. I re­ally wish I’d reached out to her more as she was show­ing a vul­ner­a­bil­ity that even­tu­ally led her into the wrong group of friends.

I re­mem­ber that we were mes­sag­ing each other af­ter our maths GCSE. I was check­ing my an­swers and had clearly got one ques­tion com­pletely wrong. But she was re­ally gen­tle and sweet in re­as­sur­ing me that ev­ery­thing would be all right.

It was un­canny how our lives mir­rored each other as we’d both de­cided to leave mu­sic school and wanted to live at home again for the last few years be­fore head­ing off to univer­sity.

She said some­thing that re­ally sad­dened me – ‘Mu­sic doesn’t in­ter­est me any more’ – and told me she was giv­ing up. Mu­sic had been her whole life and I couldn’t un­der­stand why it no longer made her happy.

We had a fall­ing out in the last year which led to her block­ing me on so­cial me­dia. It was maybe in­evitable be­cause she was in a dark place but I wish more than any­thing that I’d been able to sup­port her, or at least be there as a friend, when she needed me most.

Her men­tal health is­sues spi­ralled and she be­came un­bear­ably un­happy and was sec­tioned for six months. How­ever, there is no con­sis­tency of care be­tween child and adult ser­vices, and just a few weeks be­fore she was 18 she was deemed OK and let out. Months later she was dead.

I am hor­ri­fied that a girl who had never in­jected heroin be­fore can die. No one try­ing heroin for the first time in­jects it them­self – some­one must have helped her. But the po­lice don’t seem to care about find­ing out who that was.

The in­quest recorded her cause of death as car­diac res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure – her heart just gave up.

I try to re­mem­ber her, not from this dark pe­riod, but as the won­der­fully aca­dem­i­cally and mu­si­cally bril­liant girl that she was. I will al­ways miss her.

She was in a dark place. I wish I could have saved her

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