The people you meet, the people you pass…

One glance and you knew she looked like everybody’s favourite auntie, her round freckled face wearing a smile which seemed like a permanent expression. Yet she’d had no cause for such equanimity.

I’d walked up the plane’s aisle a couple of times to relieve the boredom of just sitting as we flew across the Ditch towards Auckland. When I sat she looked across the aisle and told me how it was good to keep moving. As we talked, we found we had yoga, tai chi and meditation in common – all of them helping mind and body.

Then she told me that at 21 she was in a wheelchair. Severe rheumatoid arthritis. Couldn’t move anything much, so she went to the local hospital where doctors gave her medicines and pills until she rebelled. At one stage she said, she took 40 aspirin a day.

Rotted her stomach she added, and just for a moment her face clouded over as she recalled the long battle back to mobility. She decided to take a new path, and went regularly to the hospital pool in her wheelchair. It was the beginning of a drawn out process of doing the everyday – moving every joint, reminding them that motion was what they were designed for. Gradually it worked and tai chi helped.

As we were about to land, she turned to me, her face beaming.

“I’m 71 now. Not bad eh?”

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.