18 In Depression

You can’t ever be prepared for death


You can't ever be prepared for death. I certainly wasn't prepared for the death of my cousin, Vanessa Ripper.


I recently wrote a post titled The most important thing is to enjoy your life.

This post turned out to be – quite unexpectedly – my most popular post ever, even when considering the subject matter (the death of a colleague and my musings over what truly matters in life).

I wrote The most important thing is to enjoy your life as a way to process my own thoughts about what happened, about death, and as a way to try and help others going through something similar. Looking back on the post now, the following section jumps out at me:

What matters most is to get out there and live your life. Those chores, the house work, the unpainted door, the emails and text messages, the social media accounts, the fear of taking a day off because you have so much work to do…they can all wait because what truly matters is this:

  1. Fulfilling the reason you were put on this earth – to live your life
  2. To look after yourself – mind, body and soul. You only have one of each (depending on how religious you are, that is)
  3. To look after others. To ask if they are ok. To ask how they are feeling, and to not disregard what may seem a meaningless complaint or whinge.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Time is short. Life is precious. So live life, look after others and look after yourself.

You can’t ever be prepared for death, even when you know it’s coming.

But when it happens suddenly with no warning it can knock the wind out of your sails. I certainly didn’t expect the death of my 37-year-old cousin, Vanessa Ripper, on 10 June 2015.

Vanessa and Janine

When Vanessa and I were little we were connected at the hip. The same age, living in the same town, Mum says we fought like cats and dogs, but all I remember is her cheeky little smile and company. She was my best friend and I loved her like a sister. My little Nessie. We even smoked our first cigarette together. And then we moved and they moved and we lost touch due to family dynamics and some very shitty business. I never stopped thinking of her though, but never knew how to get in touch with her and as life passed by she became a distant memory until the day I heard about the lot she had been dealt with in life, which made me incredibly sad.

And then her brother, Billy Ripper, passed away two years ago from suicide, and there she was at the funeral. My little Nessie, now all grown up but still dolling out the best hugs. God bless Facebook as we reconnected easily and started messaging and discussing meeting up to discuss our lost years and rekindle our sisterhood. To be honest, it was like the missing pieces of a puzzle coming together again, and as you can see below, we were both incredibly happy to have been reunited, even if it was because of a sad occasion.

Vanessa Ripper & Janine Ripper as adults

Ness recently asked me if I was okay and I admitted I was going through some things. This was after bailing on a catch up with her as we were both busy and had gotten our wires crossed and dates wrong. Her response to me was; ‘Oh honey I just knew to ask cause the last time we saw each other I felt very reconnected to you and now I just know when something is up lol.’ Soul sisters. Complete again. I admitted that I just needed some downtime to take care of myself. I knew she was going through a hard time too, but we knew we would see each other again soon because we were both planning our weddings (hers in October, mine in January) and had so much to talk about!

But it never happened and I feel shitty. I feel shitty because I let things get in the way and I know that she was going through a hard time and needed someone. But I also know that my own self-care is important. It still saddens me. I write this blog for a reason – to hopefully help someone. Someone in need, and I’m not naive to believe that I can ‘save’ everyone. I so know I can’t. It’s just, the one person in the world I wish I could have helped, have saved, is her.

As I sit here writing this post, tears stream down my face. I’d been putting off writing this as I knew I would cry, and I didn’t want to cry, but grief is natural and it is perfectly okay to cry, so I will allow the tears to flow until I finish this post and say goodbye in my own way – through the written word. To be honest with you I feel like I’m missing a piece of my heart and I just wish that we could bring her back because we had 25 years to catch up on, our respective weddings to finish planning, hens nights, actual weddings and the rest of our lives to live, but I know that’s impossible.

My final thoughts of Ness are of AWESOME bear hugs, smiles, belly laughter and happiness. Things were finally turning around for her. She was healing, she was growing, she had met a man whom she loved with her whole heart and who loved her back, and her life was turning around. I’m glad she had the chance to experience that after everything she had been through. She will always be my Nessie and I will always her Neanie.

Oh, and then there are the jumpers. She sent me a link to these jumpers a little over a month ago and we were both so excited, swearing we would get them and wear them with pride (our last name is Ripper in case you didn’t know). Mine arrived yesterday, and here it is Ness. My tribute to you – as well as all of the other awesome things I’m going to do because you’ve reignited that good old fire in my belly girl!

Thank you for that xx

Ripper blood runs through my veins

 Note: It’s now almost certain that Vanessa passed away from an accidental drug overdose after a lengthy battle with mental illness and drug addiction cause mostly by a very traumatic upbringing. In a moment of weakness, she succumbed after fighting her addiction hard. I take solace in the thought that she is now finally at peace.

* Jumper courtesy of SunFrog.

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  • Lisa Kniebe
    July 9, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Beautiful and moving post, your writing touchs on something so critical – the fragility of life. I love this quote: ‘The trouble is you think you have time’. We all do & it’s posts like yours that remind us it is not always so.

    • Janine Ripper
      July 15, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting Lisa 🙂 Sending you hugs.

  • Mackenzie Glanville
    July 9, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    So sorry for the pain honey, just sucks. Great tribute xx

  • sheran
    July 9, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Janine… Absolutely beautiful article! How you describe your relationship with you cousin fills my head with two characters I’ll be sure to write into a story in the future… Nessie and Neanie!

    • Janine Ripper
      July 15, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Thanks so much Sheran. I love that thought of 2 little characters 🙂 I should really try and write some fiction one of these days, I so wish I could capture my dreams. They would make for some excellent adventure stories!

  • sue
    July 10, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Such a moving story Janine and it certainly makes us stop and think about how we live our lives. We never know what the future holds but everyone is so busy with life they forget that they are wasting precious time – sometimes on trivial matters in the scheme of things. I’m glad you have the jumper as a reminder of a beautiful friendship. #FridayReflections

    • Janine Ripper
      July 15, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks Sue. I love the jumper. It’s actually good quality and thick too, perfect for winter (since it’s freezing in Perth … for us Perth people anyway!). It’s hard because it’s natural to get caught up in life, and then by living each day as it comes, trying to be present, again it’s easy to miss things, to forget, to not get to catching up with everyone. I think all we can do is our best and to tell people we love them when we can.

  • Tara Schiller
    July 11, 2015 at 2:51 am

    This was an emotional post and I’m so glad you shared it. There was something so real and authentic in your words, and that is always beautiful to read.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Janine Ripper
      July 15, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks so much Tara. I’m glad it came across that way. xx

  • Wendy
    July 11, 2015 at 6:14 am

    This made me tear up, too, Janine. I am so sorry for your loss, but so glad you had the blessing of such a close relationship. Cousins can make wonderful friends. You’ve talked about something in this post that I am thinking about a lot lately: relationships and the importance of treating them with urgency, because we really don’t what tomorrow holds. Keep spreading that word! Blessings! (And thank you for hosting this #FridayReflections; this is my first visit!)

  • Cath
    July 13, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Beautiful post Janine. I could see the love for Vanessa in every word. Seeing your regret for missed opportunities with her hit me hard…I have experienced that a couple times in my life and although the pain is gone, I still occasionally think about the what ifs… Life seems so finite to me at this point in my life, and I am contemplating the missed opportunities that can still happen in my life, if I allow myself to take the leap. I am determined not to miss anymore. Life is too short and must be lived completely!

    Be glad for your reconnection and be assured that Nessie knows what you are thinking and feeling, at some level. And I bet she is smiling about the Ripper jumper.

  • Debbie
    July 13, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    The first lost in my family I really experienced was of my uncle, and less than a year afterwards, my grandfather.
    However, one death that changed my life a lot was of a childhood friend. We were not that close, and even though we were still in touch, our life took a very different path. She died 2 days before her 35th birthday, leaving a teenage daughter behind. We were of the same age.
    Such losses take something away from us at the same time they build something as well.
    I am terribly sorry for your loss and may the jumpers bring you the best memories of your cousin.

  • Eloquent Mind
    July 15, 2015 at 5:35 am

    I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose special people of life so soon. Your cousin and you surely are soul sisters. I admire how strong you have been to battle those tears and let them flow into words on this blog. Thank you for sharing this, Janine.

    Time is short and life even shorter. Only if people knew what truly matters is to keep away from their egos and let the love and happiness in them flow without any inhibitions and most importantly, show the family that they care. I miss not being in touch with my cousins and miss how things were different during our childhood. This was a beautiful post. 🙂

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