In memory of Retha Viviers

Tom Kindlon

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Thérèse Bester, a close friend of Retha Viviers, sent me her tribute to her to post on my FB page:
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It was with great sadness that we received the news today that Retha Viviers, tireless advocate for ME/CFS awareness, research and education passed away this morning. Here is my tribute to this wonderful spirit.

"When that old moon grew weary, and the city of my bones could only sigh, you came to lift me".

It was just over a year ago that she bounced into my life with her incandescent, effervescent way that touched so many.

She asked if I would write an article about Long Covid and ME/CFS on behalf of the South African ME/CFS Foundation, which she founded and dedicated her life to. She was a tireless advocate for Chronic fatigue syndrome till the very end.

My Riet. My angel. There are no other words in the English language or any language for that matter that can do justice to the person that she continues to be for me.

I was too sick at the time to take on the writing assignment, and remained so throughout our time together. But I could not begin to guess how most unexpectedly serendipitous that first connection would turn out to be.

Very quickly we discovered that we were kindred spirits. We knew it on every level like the nutrients being carried through our veins. We could have known each other for a lifetime. I suspect this is her special magic with all the people she holds close.

Here is my Riet, checking up on me every morning, every evening and even in the middle of the night, when sleepless monsters can beseech you. I am sure I was by far not the only one.

Here is my Riet who is not only battling with the ravages of ME/CFS, but also terminal cancer. And still she has an endless compassion for others, a boundless capacity to care for and support other ME/CFS patients.

And of course that ocean of passion for educating the world about ME/CFS and Long Covid, creating opportunities for quality research to be done. Most recent is the ongoing study at the Dept of Physiology at the University of Stellenbosch which is dedicated to her.

Only a couple of weeks ago she still managed to arrange media coverage in the Daily Maverick. She continued to write her ME/CFS blog, and sat in on global Zoom meetings with other ME/CFS/Long Covid organisations.

She was an especially gifted networker, and always ready to let her voice be heard, even when she was exhausted and in pain. I saw her on Carte Blanche years before I met her, and again in the award-winning film Unrest about ME/CFS.

She said that to do this work made her feel vividly present in every part of her being. She said this when she was already very sick a month ago when we met in the Strand. She was so beautiful that day with her dancing eyes and wide smile.

Such is the spirit of a pure angel. My angel. Love you so so much, my beautiful, featherlight Riet. Fly free.