When an old lady died in the Geriatric Ward of Ashludie Hospital near Dundee, England, it appeared that she had left nothing of value. The nurses, in going through her possessions, found a poem. The quality of the poem so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. When one of the nurses moved to nursing geriatric patients in Briad Valley Hospital in Ireland, she took her copy with her and the poem appeared in a Christmas edition of the Beacon House News, the magazine for Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health. This then was the lady's bequest to posterity.
"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.'
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who, unresisting 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 move 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.
I'm twenty-five now, I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
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 an old woman now and nature is cruel
'Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body is crumbled, grace and vigor depart,
There is 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 - all 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!"