Tuesday, 21 September 2021

‘She will remain my darling girl’

HELPING other people was one of Jennifer Kilgallon’s passions, according to her mother.

HELPING other people was one of Jennifer Kilgallon’s passions, according to her mother.

Helen Holbrook says her daughter had wanted to become a nurse and hoped to specialise in cancer bereavement counselling.

She had also dreamt about marrying Olivier Cavadini, her boyfriend of four years, and living in Belgium with two children and a dog.

Miss Holbrook said: “Jeni had plans for the future and she expected to lead a full and exciting life. She was enthusiastic about life and her future.”

Her daughter had been sociable and confident from a young age and spoke with “intelligence, humour and compassion”.

Jennifer was a keen singer and auditioned for X Factor in 2007. She enjoyed live TV shows and attended live screenings of the singing contest as well as Big Brother.

She wanted to pursue her interest in singing and also hoped to watch a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

“Jeni had a sensitive nature,” said Miss Holbrook. “She showed much empathy towards children, animals and colleagues. She had an infectious laugh, an irreverent and mischievous sense of humour and a sunny smile that we all miss terribly.

“A hug from Jeni was sometimes all it took to make things better.

“Jeni was the best daughter I could have hoped for — she was my best friend and closest confidante.

“Her sudden loss has created an unfillable void in our lives which defies explanation.

“She is, and will remain, my darling girl — unforgettable, forever beautiful, safe in our hearts.”

More than 200 people attended Jennifer’s funeral at Reading Crematorium in Caversham on December 21 last year.

The graduation ceremony she should have attended was held at the Royal Festival Hall in May.

Her brother Jonny, carrying Jeni’s portrait, accepted the honour on her behalf and was reduced to tears when he was given a standing ovation.

Miss Holbrook said: “It was one of the most emotional moments of his life with 5,000 people rising to applaud him. Considering he was only 19 at the time it was a big deal and very emotional for me too.

“There were 500 people graduating that day and out of all those people Jeni was the only one who wasn’t there.There was an asterix next to one name on the programme and it happened to be my daughter.”

Jonny, now 20, said the ceremony was one of the “most poignant and powerful” days of his life.

“People have a tendency to overlook the relationship between a brother and sister and put more focus on the parents’ relationship with their children,” he said.

“I was told a lot of times to ‘be strong for your mum’ but very rarely was I asked how I was coping with the loss.

“The realities of a bereavement, however, can be more hard-hitting for a younger sibling.

“Jeni was my older sister, which meant she had been part of my life from day one. Jeni was part of my childhood.”

Jonny said he had to re-evaluate his life after his sister’s death and rebuilt it physically, mentally and financially.

He went to Loughborough University to study English Literature last year but dropped out and is currently on a gap year. He is due to return next year to study sports management.

Jonny, who plays for Henley Rugby Club, admits he partied and drank a lot at university after Jeni’s death but is now using rugby to get back into shape.

A former pupil of the Oratory School in Woodcote, he has been offered a chance to play for a semi-professinal club in New Zealand from March.

Jonny said: “Suicide is an issue not often mentioned with regards to young people.

“The penny dropped for me after Jeni’s funeral when a close friend of mine confessed to me that he had strongly considered ending his life.

“But after witnessing first hand the pain my family had endured, he chose not to.”

Jennifer’s grandparents, Colin and Thelma Cruddas, who live in Dorset, said they wished they had been able to provide consoling words in her hour of need.

Mr Cruddas said: “Our particular problem lay in our living too far away to see her often enough, hence our complete lack of understanding that she had such deep-rooted physical and psychological difficulties.

“At no time during our occasional meetings or phone conversations did she seem anything but happy in her private life and her employment.”

Mr Cruddas said young people today led their lives very differently to previous generations, which made it harder for them to understand each other.

He said: “Although we always say ‘if you have any problems don’t hesitate to give us a call’, grandchildren can’t believe that we have a sufficient understanding of today’s world to offer anything useful.

“Though we are always treated with respect and consideration by our own, young people’s general perception is that we haven’t much of a clue regarding the present day pressures of life.

“It will continue to be unlikely that grandparents can greatly influence what young people think or do. Experience cannot be bought and is rarely transferable. Only peer group opinion will be regarded as worthwhile.”

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