The twin we couldn't keep

But our shining star had one final gift for us all...

Published by: Dawn Murden and Lucy Laing
Published on: 31 January 2013

The sound of their giggles filled my heart. My twins Alexis and Christina were totally besotted as their big brother Billy, seven, sang their favourite nursery rhyme to them.
‘Twinkle twinkle little star,' he sang. For the millionth time, I thought how lucky we were.
When I'd fallen pregnant with the twins, I was thrilled.
‘Let's name them Alexis and Christina,' I said to my hubby Alan. ‘Then we'll have Alexis, Billy and Christina. Our perfect ABC family.'
When the girls had been born at 28 weeks, Alexis was 2lb 12oz, while Christina was 2lb 2oz. They were identical with their blonde locks and blue eyes, but, most importantly, they were both strong and healthy.
‘I've got something,' Billy smiled, when he came to the hospital. He had a cuddly koala for Christina and a hedgehog for Alexis.
It was wonderful to watch their bond growing each day. They were so close, they even slept in the same cot.
‘I hope they're always this close,' I smiled to Alan now. Over the next few months, it was a joy to watch them share their journey. Alexis learnt how to sit up and crawl first, but Christina was never far behind. ‘You really are two peas in a pod,' I laughed.
One day, we were at the park and they had a bag of jelly sweets each. Suddenly, Christina dropped hers on the floor. ‘Oh, love,' I soothed, as she burst into tears. Before I knew it, though, Alexis was holding her bag out to her sister, ready to share.
‘You two are lucky to have each other,' I smiled. By now, they were 19 months old. And while they loved doing everything together, it was time to put them in separate cots.
As they fidgeted around, one would wake the other up and they'd both start bawling!
‘You'll still be near each other,' I whispered, as I tucked them in that night. I felt teary as Alexis stared at her sister through the bars of her cot.
But, a few days later, both the girls were sick. Worried, I took them to the doctors.
‘There's a bug going around,' the doctor said.
And within days, they both seemed fine.
‘You are feeling better,' I giggled, as they played with their rubber duck in the bath. I tucked them in bed, and within minutes, they were both asleep. I checked on them twice before going to bed. The next day, I woke up at 7am and went to see the girls.
Christina was standing in her cot, a big smile on her face when she saw me.
‘Hello, darling,' I cooed, stroking her head. ‘Isn't your sister awake yet?' As I turned to see Alexis, a chill ran down my spine. It was only now I could smell the sick... and as my eyes made their way down to Alexis, I saw it was all over her babygro and in her soft curls.
‘Alexis?' I croaked. With a trembling hand, I reached down to feel her forehead. She looked like she was fast asleep, but was freezing cold to the touch. ‘No!' I groaned. ‘Please god, no.'
I reached for her hand, but her fingers were stiff. There was no mistake. She was dead. Apart from the tears streaming down my face, I was paralysed. It felt like hours until Christina's gurgle jolted me back to reality. Christina, oh god, my poor darling! She had no idea her sister was dead. 

‘Alan!' I screamed. ‘Alan!'
‘What is it?' he worried, running through the door. Christina started wailing and as his gaze fell onto Alexis, he went grey. He scooped her into his arms. ‘Phone an ambulance,' he panicked. Somehow, I managed to get to the phone and dial 999.

‘My baby's dead!' I cried into the phone. Then, somehow, I called my mum, Wanda. I don't know how long had passed as I stood there sobbing, while Alan cradled Alexis close to him. ‘Wake up for Daddy,' he kept whispering.
Finally, Mum arrived, followed by a dozen police officers and paramedics. All the commotion finally woke Billy.
‘Mummy, why are police here?' Billy asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
‘Let's get Christina and play in your room,' Mum said quickly.
When I led the police and doctors upstairs, Alan was still holding Alexis.
‘I know this is a difficult time,' a police officer said. ‘But it's important we ask you some questions at the station.'
‘Mummy will be back soon,' I croaked, kissing Billy and Christina goodbye, leaving them with Mum.
At the station, Alan and I were taken into a quiet room.
‘They'd both been ill, but I thought they were getting better,' I sobbed. The officers were just doing their job, but I wanted answers just as much as they did.
Finally, after five hours, we were allowed to go. ‘I'm sorry,' the officer said. ‘It's procedure.'
I nodded.
All I wanted was to see Billy and Christina. They were at Mum's now, as the police were still checking our house, and the funeral director had to collect Alexis. ‘Oh, love,' Mum said, pulling me into her arms when we arrived. I could've wept in her arms for hours, but I wanted to see my two children.
They'd fallen asleep on the sofa, cuddling. Alan and I sat up and watched them all night. I was terrified of falling asleep and waking up to another living nightmare... I kept replaying everything that had happened in my mind.
‘I wish I'd heard something,' I sobbed.
‘You can't blame yourself,' Alan begged me. ‘None of us could've known.'
I knew he was right, but I couldn't help torturing myself. ‘Poor Christina' I cried. ‘They were so close, she didn't know anything was wrong.'
The next day, the funeral director came to see us. ‘They found a tiny rash on her belly during the autopsy,' he said. ‘Alexis had meningitis.'
‘I gave her a bath,' I sobbed. ‘There was nothing there.'
‘The infection shut her body down within an hour,' he said. ‘There was nothing you could've done.' Afterwards, we sat Billy down and explained.
‘I won't see her again?' he asked, lip trembling.
‘She's in heaven now,' Alan said. Christina was too young to understand. But every time
I put her to bed, she stared at her sister's empty cot. ‘I can't believe she's gone either,' I wept.
A week later, before her funeral service, we brought Alexis home for one final goodbye. She was wearing a blue gown made from my wedding dress. ‘Mummy will always love you,' I whispered, kissing her cheek. Just then, Billy appeared beside me.
‘He can keep you company,' he said to Alexis, putting her koala in beside her. It broke my heart.
At the service, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played. Christina sat giggling in her pram and my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. She had no idea we were saying goodnight to her sister forever, that we'd never hear her beautiful laugh again.
Every time I looked at Christina, she reminded me of Alexis. Every time she hit a new milestone, I was proud but grief-stricken all over again.
‘It just reminds me of what Alexis will never do,' I wept to Alan.
We threw ourselves into fundraising for the Menigitis Trust, arranged bake sales and race nights - soon we'd raised £33,000.
Then, nine months after Alexis died, I fell pregnant again. I was thrilled but terrified.
‘It's a gift from Alexis,' Alan insisted. I felt the same way.
Soon, we welcomed little Amber into the world. We had our ABC family back.
Amber's five months old now, but I'm so paranoid that she still sleeps in a Moses basket in our room. None of us will ever forget Alexis, especially Christina.
We've got a whole memory box filled with her toys and babygros. Amber will never replace Alexis, but she was a gift from her.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was her favourite nursery rhyme and I know she's now that shining star in heaven, looking down on us all.

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Ruth Glynn, 36, Perth, Perth and Kinross