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Joan Collins writes moving tribute to her late sister: “She always put other people, particularly family, ahead of herself”

Joan Collins wrote this column for The Guardian about her late sister, best selling novelist Jackie Collins.

Here it is in its entirety:

The telephone call I never dreamed I would receive came in at 5pm. It was a gloomy, thundery afternoon in the south of France, and my husband Percy and I were bunkering down in our bedroom to decide which movie we would watch after dinner.

‘Hi sis, it’s me!’ she said. I was delighted to hear Jackie’s familiar voice. She had told me weeks earlier that she was coming to the UK and we were already planning a host of activities, so I assumed this was one more opportunity to share the excitement of her arrival.

‘Isn’t it a bit early for you?’ I asked her. ‘It’s 8 o’clock – I’ve been up for a while,’ she said. ‘Are you with Percy? I need to talk to you both about something. It’s rather bad news I’m afraid.’

‘What is it?’ I asked fearfully. ‘I’ve got stage four breast cancer,’ she said, her voice breaking. Then I burst into tears. ‘I’ve known for seven years,’ she added bravely.

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I cried as Percy held me tight.

‘I couldn’t – I didn’t want to upset you. I know all the problems you’ve been having in the past few years – I didn’t want to burden you with mine.”

My voice was so choked with tears I could hardly speak. She explained that since we spent so much time in Europe, while she was in LA, she knew I would be worried but there would be nothing I could do.

That was typical of my sister. She always put other people, particularly family, ahead of herself. After we hung up, we called two of her daughters, Tiffany and Rory, and they verified that they had been taking their mother for treatments for more than five years.

‘But we all expect her to continue for several years since she is so vital and energetic,’ said Tiffany. ‘And she’s just done a publicity tour of the US for her new book.’

Jackie was coming to the UK ostensibly to publicise the launch of her latest novel. However, now, in retrospect, I realise it was to say goodbye to her third daughter Tracy, her two granddaughters, her brother Bill and his wife Hazel, and some other close friends, all of whom lived in London.

When Jackie told us about her cancer I understood why she had lost weight. I had noticed her gradual weight loss two years ago when we went to LA for the winter months and last year asked her about it. She laughed, saying she was no longer eating desserts and was on a diet. I thought the weight loss suited Jackie so I gave it no further thought. Certainly in her ten-page spread in Hello! magazine recently she looked fit and fabulous, and, as Wallis Simpson always said: ‘You can never be too rich or too thin.’

The day she arrived in London, we had tea at her hotel. Even after an overnight transatlantic trip that would fell the stoutest tree, she was bustling about taking pictures and chatting away with me as she always did.

Two nights before she returned to America, Jackie threw a fabulous birthday dinner party for Tracy upstairs in the private room of a popular West End restaurant. She was her usual sparkling, funny, energetic self, taking masses of pictures of all of us on her iPhone and her camera, and looking impeccably groomed and glamorous.

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One Remark

  1. Two very classy sisters from an era long gone. No reality series, but a splendid essay filled with love and admiration and grace and gratitude for a life well lived.

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