We came into this world on the same day. My forceps provided the slipstream for her, 5 minutes later. And twin-life began. It was a mixed bag. The fun of having a ready-made playmate was diluted by sibling surveillance, and sharing.

People said we were polar opposites. Maybe. Or maybe we were the same end of that magnetic metaphor. And just propelled each other’s lives in opposite directions.

At school her diligence encouraged my nonchalance.

In our twenties, while she was helping the kids of Kampala and the bed-less in Bedford. I helped the breweries of Brighton and the lap-dancers of Latvia.

In our thirties, the trend continued. She knocked out nippers in the home counties. I flexed my family free home life and flew to foreign fields.

Our mindsets differed too. She was consumed by the certainty of Christian mythology. I preferred the uncertainty of science and philosophy. The resulting banter enjoyable more for me [probably] than for her.

It all made for a brother and sister that were, amicably aloof.

Her illness brought us closer. We bonded over treatment options and diets. But she would still tell me about the eternal damnation my lack of faith deserved. An example perhaps, of the different ways we showed our love for each other. Her metaphysical concerns for me. My practical advice for her.

It was all academic. The big C snapped another branch off my family tree.

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My sadness is tainted with luck. When the genetic dice were rolled in ’74. It was Zoë who drew the short straw. When my uncle met a similar fate. My dad spent the next 9 years worrying about the timing of “his turn”. The geneticists have spared me that ordeal.

Reflecting on the funeral tributes. I realise, the self-righteous and occasionally annoying sister I knew, had a fun and fearlessly caring side – that I only saw glimpses of. Maybe she saved it for the faithful and less fortunate. That was the mystery of Zoë – amateur saint one minute, pain in the jacksie the next.

Zoë was a big believer in soul survival. Her friends even tell me about the afterlife she’s enjoying now. Whenever I ponder this notion, I always reach the same conclusion. You can say what you like about the unknowable.

Today’s my first twin-less birthday – every one’s a bonus.

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