An Older Woman’s Poem to Her Caregivers
Recently, I presented a keynote for the virtual “Compassion Fatigue Symposium” hosted by Educare of Dallas. In the segment in which I talked about “Giving Caregiver Guilt the Boot,” I shared a poem entitled, “Look at Me.” Many of the conference participants requested a copy. I have been told that the author is unknown and that the poem was found in the room of a nursing home patient after her funeral. I have shared this poem at caregiving conferences more times than I can remember. Even so, it never fails to bring a lump to my throat and a tear to my eyes. I believe it is a powerful reminder that every person who is now old was once a young person who had hopes, dreams, and passions. I hope you enjoy it! Watch the Video
Look at Me!
What do you see, nurses, what do you see,
what are you thinking when you’re 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, lets you do as you will
with bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re 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 use at 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 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 guide, and a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty my young sons have grown and are gone,
but my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At fifty once more babies play round 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, 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 now an old woman and nature is cruel; ‘tis 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,
I remember the pain,
and I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years, all to few – gone too fast,
and accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
not a crabby old woman; look closer – see ME!