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Clarissa was my miracle baby: a dot on a scan behind her twin brother Ollie, which was initially dismissed as a minor bleed. She came along for free, a surprise gift. It’s a thought I hold on to now I’ve lost her.
Nothing prepares you for the shock of a policeman knocking on your front door to tell you your daughter has died. I thought I’d done something wrong, not paid a parking ticket. Then the officers told me and my husband Simon that Clarissa had collapsed and died on a mountainside in the Gorges du Verdon, France.
Simon cried immediately, but I froze. I could hardly believe it and I still struggle to believe it now: my beautiful girl, in her prime, plucked like a flower. There was so much to look forward to. She was on her year abroad while studying modern languages at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, set for a first and a brilliant career, as well as having fun, dating boys. Everyone loved her. So many people have told me since she died that Clarissa was their best friend. She gathered everyone up around her like a lint ball and gave people joy.
With her brothers Ollie, 21, and Hugo, 20, she was the top dog, bouncy, bossy and always in charge. She loved sunbathing, always asking for bikinis for Christmas, and at her memorial, her friends wore yellow ribbons in their hair. I felt she got her energy from the sun.
As a child, Clarissa excelled at sport. She was a keen runner and hockey player, and competed for Cambridge. But her love of sport was slowly killing her. Clarissa had an undiagnosed heart condition – like many athletes, including footballers Christian Eriksen, Tom Lockyer and Fabrice Muamba. While any young person like her is at risk from a cardiac arrest, exercise exacerbates that risk. It’s like training when you’ve pulled a muscle – the more you train, the weaker the muscle gets.
On the day of her death, Clarissa had taken time off work from her publishing job at a company called Flammarion in Paris. It was Coronation weekend in the UK and a long weekend in France also, and she and her flatmate were hiking around Castellane, near Nice.