For those who don’t know who I am, my name is Manisha and I’m Raj’s cousin. My guest blog entry came about after a particularly tough counselling session and crying to my aunty (Raj’s mum) straight after it.

I’ve spent the last year concentrating on everything else in my life and avoiding dealing with Raj’s death which I can confidently say was absolutely not the smartest idea I’ve had in a long while. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know what to write. When my aunty suggested I write a post on this blog, I jumped at the chance because all I want to do is talk about Raj but here I am, and I don’t know what to say.

I suppose I’ll start with my earliest memory of Raj and the moment I fell in love with him. Raj was only a couple of weeks old when I, aged 17, first met him. We were at our grandparents’ house and he was bundled up in a white knitted blanket with the cutest matching hat, I remember his little face and button nose clear as day. The first time I held him, I walked over to a row of photographs and told Raj who was who in each photo and stopped to look down at him. In that moment, I thought my heart was going to explode into a million pieces with the love I felt for this baby who I’d only just met. I didn’t think it was possible to love someone unconditionally the way I did with Raj.

Whether it was watching Disney Channel (read: Special Agent Oso) or Oscar’s Oasis or simply playing with his huge collection of toys, I cherished the time I spent with Raj.

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We found out about Raj’s cancer a day before my 20th birthday and in that moment, at around 10:30am on a beautiful summer’s day, our lives were turned upside down. I cried like a baby. The next 6 years feel so surreal. The highs of when his results came back with news we wanted to hear versus pulling the plug on immunotherapy as he had not responded to it as well as we had hoped. To say it was a rollercoaster seems like an understatement of the century.

I remember the day Raj passed away like it was yesterday. It was a Friday and the hottest day that week. Driving into work it was around 20c and I was due to attend a customer meeting in London that afternoon. I was on the phone prepping for my meeting, when my boss came over, grabbed the phone off me and told me I needed to get home right away. I knew Raj hadn’t been well and driving home, I didn’t once think that he would have left me already. Raj lived opposite me. I pulled up and ran to his house and despite seeing him in his bed with my aunty hugging him the tightest I have ever seen; the penny still didn’t drop. Or maybe it did, and I was in denial. Those next 2 weeks were awful. I hated it. It was like everyone was on auto pilot; making sure the funeral plans were sorted, ensuring people who were paying their respects knew whose house to go to, checking in on one another and simply trying to get through each day.

My aunty asked me to speak at Raj’s funeral on her behalf and I felt so honoured. She trusted me to do him, and her, justice. I did it. I practiced so much to make sure I got it right and I didn’t cry. I wanted everyone to hear what my aunty had to say about Raj. He was awesome.

I miss Raj every day. I think of him all the time. In the times where I’m laughing and joking with people there is a little voice at the back of mind reminding me of what I have lost. I miss his giggly laugh, it was so infectious. I miss hearing him call me Meeshi. I miss his smell. His touch. His hugs. His warmth. His smile. His anger. His impatience. His correcting me when I got the names of dinosaurs wrong. My heart physically hurts. It’s a pain I cannot and do not know how to describe.

I’ve named this entry with Raj’s full name. He was so proud of it and loved it when people asked him what his name was.

I will love you forever and always.

Meeshi x