I am sharing this beautiful poem in honor of Muriel and all of the sweet old men and woman who live with my mom at her Care Center. Muriel eats each meal with my mom and tries so hard to carry on conversations. She is losing her memory and words no longer come easy. She often forgets words that were once easily recalled. Her face lights up when she sees me and my kids though, and she loves to express how wonderful it is to see young children.
The other day, we were decorating pumpkins with my mom, Muriel, and a few of the other residents. As I was helping some other residents, Muriel rolled herself back in her wheel chair to her room forgetting to take her new pumpkin. My daughter and I then rushed to bring her the pumpkin. We visited with her in her room for a bit, admiring all of her pictures of her kids and grandkids. When I brought over a picture of her daughters, she teared up, and said, “It’s nice to see this, I am losing my vision, so I can’t see these pictures very well”. She continued to express how she was told by her doctor that she is going blind and that she wishes it wasn’t true. She could not remember what it is that she has, but I told her I understood anyway.
I could sense that she was so relieved and happy to be able to share this, her story, with someone who would listen. She, and the other people who live out these quiet days and nights often shut up inside themselves, just long to be seen and heard. They long to be validated, understood, and loved. They each have a story, a history, hopes and dreams. Above anything else, they just want to be loved. They want to know people still care about them and remember them.
It is a very rewarding thing to know that perhaps I was one of the few people who gave Muriel any concentrated sincere care and attention for that day, or maybe even for the entire week. God’s grace is palpable in these moments of sharing His love and compassion with someone who desperately needs it.
This poem was written by an old woman living in a nursing home in Ireland. It was found among her thing when she died.
What do you see nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you look at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise, Uncertain of habit, with far away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try.”
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.
Who unresisting or not, let’s you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you think, Is that what you see?
Open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I rest at your bidding, and eat at your will,
I’m a small child of 10, with a father and mother, Brothers and sisters who loved one another,
A young girl of 16, with wings on her feet, Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at 20, my heart gave a leap. Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now, I have young of my own, Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
A woman at 30, my young now grow so fast, Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At 40, my young sons have grown and gone, But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At 50, once more babies play around my knee, Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead. I look at the future and shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known,
I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel,
Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart.
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again, my battered heart swells,
I remember the joys and I remember the pain,
And I’m living and loving life over again,
I think of the years all too few…gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
Open your eyes, nurse, open and see.
Not an empty old woman, Look closer….see ME.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you Ex 20:12