Thursday, November 19, 2009

Maggie and the Blue Butterfly by Kathryn Pigg

It was a major hurricane. As it swept inland it broke trees, eroded the land under homes, caused long power outages, and major episodes of cabin fever. I checked in with my friend Maggie to see if she wanted to go for a meal at a restaurant some 30 miles inland, one with power restored. She was eager to go. We had a good visit, catching up on her latest artist projects and on mine.

It wasn’t until her fifties that Maggie had followed her dreams and gifts. Her children grown and out on their own, she’d gotten her art degree and begun finding her way in that competitive world. Her work had sold well. She’d been able to find jobs that were part time and so still allowed her time to paint. These were not jobs with benefits.

Over lunch, that day after the storm we laughed at life and the wind and valued our survival, and we returned to her house with renewed energy. As we drove up behind her car in the driveway, we both abruptly stopped talking. On the back bumper of her aging car, on the bare metal, was a beautiful blue butterfly, very still, although it did not appear to be injured. We wondered out loud why and how it held on to the metal. Then we understood that somehow it had been stunned by the storm like so many of us. Carefully we got out of the car, and one of us gently moved the butterfly to one of Maggie's thriving plants. Slowly rhythmically that blue butterfly began to move its wings and drink from the moisture on the plant. In five minutes or so it flew away.

Maggie flew away too. Looking back now over the years that have passed, I realize that when she was in her early 60s, I began to worry each time I saw her that she seemed to have less energy. I did not say, "have you seen a doctor." I knew she had no access to a doctor. She did not qualify for Medicaid.  

What neither of us knew was that Maggie had developed heart disease. Her daughters became concerned and they were able to find some help they could afford. There was eventually a diagnosis, but what good is a diagnosis if there is no access to adequate medication or hospital intervention One of her daughters still regrets that she did not try harder to find help. Yet, how many of us have the needed resources to care for a desperately ill loved one who is living without medical insurance.

Maggie died at home shortly after seeing a doctor, early one morning, her beloved cat curled up beside her. A cousin who had come for a visit and to check on how she was feeling, discovered her already gone. The autopsy confirmed the doctor's diagnosis.

Some are not blessed by the care Maggie and I gave that day to a blue butterfly stunned by a storm. The destructive storm of our health insurance system took Maggie's life. Too quickly. We miss her.

                                   --Kathryn Pigg is a retired Methodist minister. She lives in Bridgewater.

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I write for lots of different venues, so this blog provides links to those places. Plus, occasionally, stuff that appears no where else . . .