“Asbestos and My Family” a poem by Deidre van Gerven
My dad was a very hard worker,
Never known to be a shirker.
Seven daughters and nine sons he had,
His death left us so terribly sad.
At seventy-eight he was taken from us,
Just like him to cause no fuss.
Twenty-nine years at our hospital he painted,
Never knowing how bad it was tainted.
Sanding and scraping all over the place,
Never once given a mask for his face.
Ischaemic heart disease it was,
And we are sorry for your loss.
Asbestosis – we’re sure they knew,
And over the years our suspicions grew.
Now looking back at all the clues,
We really wander as we muse.
Signs and symptoms over the years,
Have truly shown up all our fears.
The only thing it could have been,
Was asbestosis so it would seem.
And this is what we now know,
Just how low one can go.
My poor Thom was next to die,
How sad it was to say goodbye.
Mesothelioma was the cause,
And there was only one small pause.
Because not so long after my Thom died,
I lost my sister, how I cried.
Ovarian cancer they said it was,
Asbestos in talc that caused this loss.
In those days there were no showers,
Use of talc had us smelling like flowers.
Of course with our big family,
It was really easy to see.
Why bath night was set at once a week,
And to make sure we did not reek.
The other days we’d wash all over,
That’s how we came to use their powder.
Never knowing the talc we used,
Was how we were really abused.
Because talcum powder often contained,
Fibres of asbestos that had not been strained.
Talc and asbestos can be found,
close together in the ground.
So manufacturers please be sure,
Your talc is pure we implore.
But there is more to my very sad tale,
Which left us all very shaken and pale.
One of my brothers Neville a builder by trade,
Work he did for many a decade.
Building houses, shops and stores,
Asbestos creeping through his pores.
So now because of all this,
His diagnosis, “asbestosis”.
So who do we blame,
And who do we shame.
In your heart you all know this,
And we must surely persist.
To get them all to admit,
Of this trade they must quit.
No more cheating, do not lie,
Stop this trade so no more die.
By Deidre van Gerven
Personal tragedy changes lives and sometimes leads to the revealing of unexpected talents. Deidre vanGerven had never shown any interest in poetry and yet, 19 years after her beloved husband Thom died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, she found herself compelled to write poems. Mesothelioma is a cruel rapidly progressive cancer that develops 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure. After diagnosis most people succumb within 18 months. 19 years later she has written 48 poems.
Deidre’s poems have meaning for people whose lives have been affected by asbestos. Bereaved relatives have asked her to write poems in memory of their loved ones who have succumbed to asbestos-related diseases. They send her their personal stories and Deidre shapes them into poetry.
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