Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rest in Peace, Moira

A few years ago, I found having these illnesses a very isolating experience. I'd gone to a support group once or twice before, but hadn't really connected with anyone. Then I went to one, and spoke to a woman, Moira, who felt the same way. She and her husband gave me a lift home, and on the way we talked about how it would be good to be able to meet up with more people in the same position, and we exchanged contact details, but left it at that.

A few months later, a couple of other women, Sarah and Alice got in contact about meeting up, and I passed the details on to Moira. The four of us met for dinner. Meeting up was a bit awkward, and we described the experience as being a little like going on a group blind date with strangers, but out of it, Sarah and Alice set up the Super Young Arthritics of New Zealand facebook which has become a support to many people, not only in New Zealand but around the world.

Not long after that meeting, I was admitted to the rheumatology ward overnight, as I was starting on a new medication and had a high potential risk of a bad reaction to it. I was pretty scared but knowing other people who'd been through the same sorts of things made the experience easier.

This week, Moira passed away. After those two meetings, I only met up with Moira in person a handful of times. I didn't know her well, and I hadn't seen her for far too long. She came into my life at a time when I really needed to meet someone who understood, and meeting her led to many people gaining support and understanding, so I will always remember her for that.

The night I spent on the ward, I wrote this poem about the experience, and about that meet up.

Go well, Moira.

90 at 25

My body becomes a picture
of a skeleton
with hands
bigger than its head
and an ellipse
for a pelvis

The doctor records
my pain
with scratches
of a blue pen
and draws bubbles
of swelling
on my fingers and wrists

I’m asked
to consider
whether I would
prefer quality
or quantity
of life

I make friends
with a superhero
who describes his body
as Gotham City
and his rebelling joints
as mistaken Bat Signals
calling an overzealous
immune system

I go on a group blind date,
no red carnations
to recognise each other.
We watch for those
with limps
or extra metal

We shy away
from our elders.
We read our future
on their palms
when their clam-shell fingers
are pried back
revealing distorted knuckles
and shortened lifelines

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