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Laughter, love and loss - Carys Eleri's story

In her new autobiographical book, writer, singer and comedian Carys Eleri shares a joyful insight into her upbringing in Carmarthenshire, her subsequent colourful career, before sensitively documenting the tragic diagnosis and loss of her father, David Evans to Motor Neurone Disease in 2018.

Carys was brought up in a happy family, full of love and laughter and had a close relationship with her father who she describes as her biggest champion and closest friend. Her award-winning comedy-science-music-show ‘Lovecraft (not the sex shop in Cardiff)’ was just taking off in Edinburgh Fringe festival, when she received the tragic news of her father’s sudden death, having only been diagnosed with the challenging condition a few months before.

She immediately returned to Wales to her family and is still amazed and thankful to the community for the love and care that they showed them. She said, “It was quite amazing how friends, family and the community can surround you at a difficult time like this and create a cocoon of love.

“I had been travelling the country with my show discussing the neuroscience of love and loneliness, and here in our darkest hours, true love was radiating – underlining the power of community and our duty of love to one another – the whole message of Lovecraft. I knew that dad would have wanted me to carry on with the show, so I returned to Edinburgh with a new-found urgency in getting the message across.”

A month later, Carys and her big sister, Nia embarked on a charity bike ride from London to Paris to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association – a challenge they had booked while David was still alive. The book charts their wonderful, if calamitous journey, and shows the raw emotions they both felt, their dynamic as sisters and the very comical moments during the journey. “It was pretty amazing how underprepared we were for that ride!  But we did it, with our heavy as hell bikes, old trainers, polka dot pac-a-macs and a couple of haribos.’

“We got lost, had so many comments on how we should do things differently and stood out like sore thumbs among the lycra and featherlight bikes!

“It was hilarious – but by the end, having won the entire team over with hard work and determination in the face of our very recent tragic loss, they asked us to lead everyone into Paris to the finish line -  the Eiffel Tower, in memory of our father. As you can imagine, it was a very emotional moment.”

The following year, in November 2019, Carys then faced another tragedy of losing one of her best friends, Trystan Wyn Rees, to pancreatic cancer. Trystan lived in Australia, and Carys feels that she still hasn’t had time to process this loss properly. She said, “I think its really important to share emotions and experiences around loss – the grieving process takes time too. The pain doesn’t end after the funeral – in fact, it’s the beginning.

“Trystan died only a few months before the pandemic, and so we haven’t really had time to process that loss as a gang of friends. It was very hard but incredibly therapeutic to then re-visit all those important moments while writing the book.

“My heart goes out to those who have lost someone during these times, without the opportunity to hold funerals and pay respects in the way the person you have lost deserves, and to celebrate them.”

While grieving her dad and Trystan, Carys truly has reconnected to nature and says that it has helped her make sense of life and death, anchoring her to the here and now when the stress and pain has been too much. 

She said, “Nature is everything. We forget that we are an integral part of nature’s cycle as humans, and sometimes think that we are superior…but we’re not, we’re part of it. 

“As a Welsh speaker, I often use the word ‘mother tongue’ to refer to Welsh as my first language, where in many ways, our mother tongue as humans may well be nature – a connection, a language we seem to often forget and let fade away.”