A Nursing Home Poem

The following is a poem which I have seen dozens of places, and during its travels, it has become famous. However, it still tugs at the heartstrings and calls us all into accountability how we view others about us, especially in the home.

It is attributed to a elderly lady who died in a nursing home. She had tucked it away for the nurses to find after her death.

What do you see, nurses, [put yourself in here] what do you see?

What do you think when you are looking at me?

A crabby old woman, not very wise,

Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply,

When you say in a loud voice,” I do wish you’d try.”

Who seems not to notice the things that you do

And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.

Who resisting or not, must do as you will.

Is that what you are thinking, is that what you see?

Then 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 do your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,

Brothers and sisters who love one another;

A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,

Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet;

A bride soon at twenty–my heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows that I promised to keep;

At twenty-five, now I have young of my own

Who need me to build a secure, happy home;

A woman of thirty, my young growing fast,

Bound to each other with ties that should last;

At forty, my sons have grown and are gone,

But my man is beside me to see I don’t mourn;

At fifty, once more babies playing round my knee,

Again we know children, my Loved One and me.

Dark day are upon me, my husband is dead.

I look to the future, I 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 and nature is cruel.

“Tis her just to make old age look like a fool.”

The body it crumbles; grace and vigor depart.

There is now just 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, I remember the pain,

And I’m loving and living life over again.

I think of the years, all too few gone too fast,

And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So, open your eyes nurse, open and see,

Not a crabby old woman; look closer –see Me!