Erin finally at peace, says Brenda Shankey as little sister buried
Businesswoman Brenda Shankey says she has been overwhelmed with messages of support since she told the story of her younger sister's death after a battle with drink and drugs.
Almost 1,000 people turned out for the funeral of Erin Wilkinson, who was laid to rest in her home city of Londonderry on Saturday.
Erin died just a week after her 32nd birthday.
She is survived by 13-year-old daughter Eve.
In a powerful interview with the Belfast Telegraph on Saturday, Brenda told how her younger sister was finally at peace after battling her demons for years.
Last night she told this newspaper of the huge reaction to her story.
She said: "I've had 700 private messages thanking me for sharing Erin's story.
"Erin had asked me as one of her last wishes if I could share her story so she can save at least one person's life.
"She wanted me to help others in her memory."
A Requiem Mass was held at Steelstown Chapel in Derry as friends and family came to pay their final respects.
Belfast businesswoman Brenda was joined at the service by family members and former husband Jason.
Together they run a successful hairdressing business.
Erin had been battling alcohol addiction for five years, and although she managed to stop drinking over six months ago, she could not be saved.
The grip of the addiction was so fierce that she was admitted to hospital 25 times in a year.
Her family were told that her liver had stopped functioning and all her other organs would slowly follow, and that one more drink would kill her.
The doctors said she would die at home very soon.
Brenda, speaking before the funeral, said: "That's the thing - for the last six months Erin didn't take a drink.
"We were all so proud of her as a family, and we thought her body would heal itself now that she had stopped drinking.
"Unfortunately, the damage was done and she was in agony.
"I went to see her a couple of months ago.
"Her eyes lit up when I entered her room, and she said: 'My beautiful Brenda, I love you and I am so sorry for all I have put you through. I am sorry I can't get better.'"
In the end, Brenda said, the pain became too much for Erin to bear, so she took one drink and her father found her collapsed in the bathroom. She went back into hospital again, but this time there was no getting better or second chances. She had fluid on her lungs, she had brain damage and all her organs were shutting down. She was on life-support for several days until the family knew it was time to say goodbye.
"She only turned 32 and she always told me she would be like Amy Winehouse," she added.