The gift of life
Written by Kate Gyngell.
Every other Friday for the last 4 years with just a few exceptions, I have spent a few hours with a very dear friend of mine, Jennifer Symonds. Jennifer is an artist, a writer and a teacher of meditation. She inspired me to write my ebook, gently introduced me to the power and importance of daily meditation and just recently encouraged me to start drawing and painting, something I haven’t done since I was 12 years old.
Jennifer has had cystic fibrosis all her life and our regular Fridays began when she was attached to an oxygen supply for almost 24 hours a day and in a wheelchair much of the time outside home. Time was running out as her health and lung capacity deteriorated, and Jennifer and her lovely husband waited anxiously and, at times, with fading hope for some healthy lungs to become available for a double lung transplant.
Despite Jennifer’s increasingly critical condition and extreme discomfort, she was extraordinarily uncomplaining and we’d pick up books from the library, go for a coffee or a gentle walk with Jennifer’s devoted Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Phoebe trotting along beside us and keeping an anxious eye on Jennifer’s every move. Phoebe was born completely deaf but was always amazingly intuitive and Jennifer’s constant companion.
Just over 2 years ago, and really, just in the nick of time, Jennifer received her new lungs and a wonderful new lease of life. At 53, with all the side effects that having CF can have on the body, it’s not been completely plain sailing since then, but Jennifer is always just profoundly grateful for her lungs and to be able to breathe.
We continued our Fridays because we both enjoy them so much and Jennifer has recently started to write and paint again. She is on a mission to raise awareness about the huge need for more organ donors in Australia and has written and illustrated a beautiful children’s book about Phoebe called Puppy’s Day Out from which all proceeds raised will go to The Australian Heart Lung Transplant Association.
Jennifer’s book is also a lovely tribute to Phoebe who sadly passed away in April this year at the grand age of 14. She is much missed.
I have learned a tremendous amount from Jennifer. She has encouraged and inspired me to try new things and not waste too much time. She is certainly not resting on her laurels but is determined to make the most of her gift of life, to raise awareness and give back.
P.S. I painted my first picture in 40 years this week at an ‘Art and Alcohol’ class run by a friend of mine. No masterpiece, as you can see, but a huge amount of fun.
If you’d like to know more about organ donation in Australia, go to www.donatelife.gov.au