Every day thousands of elderly people in nursing homes eagerly await visitors or hope for at least a phone call from their family. But at the end stages of their lives, hearts that won’t beat much longer are often bitterly disappointed. When an old man regarded as a grouch by the nurses died, they tidied his room and found something that both moved them and filled them with remorse.
Amongst the patients belongings, memories of an entire life, they found this poem:
“What do you see nurses? What do you see?
What are you thinking, when you look at me?
A cranky old man, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his 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 sock or a 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 you eyes, nurse. You’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I do 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 boy of sixteen, with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now, a lover he’ll meet.
A groom 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 man 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 woman is beside me, to see that 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 wife is now 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 man, and nature is cruel,
It’s jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone, where once I had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young man 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, people, open and see:
Not a cranky old man,
Look closer, see ME!”
Never assume that the elderly gent next to you doesn’t see things any more. He lives and feels just like you do. In every aging body lives a spirit that wants to remain young, even when that body doesn’t cooperate the way it once did. Remember the words of this old man and whenever you see an elderly person, treat him or her the way they deserve to be treated.