Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Helen (bless you) went right back to my first blog (Carer Blues One). She commented that she, like me, wrote to stay sane while caring for her dying mother. After almost two years of 24/7, my sister Jen and I eventually agreed to hand over day to day care to a nursing home where we could visit Mum every day.
A severe stroke should have killed her but didn't, leaving her physically helpless but mentally bright with memory and even her wicked sense of humour intact. Loss of speech was the worst, preventing her from communicating except by way of a printed alphabet, which she could race over (using her one good finger) so fast she needed an interpreter.

Her nightmare began because a report that detailed Mum's disabilities and abilities was not read by the staff. So through the first day and night, they spoke to her and treated her as as if she were an incontinent mentally retarded two-year old. When I arrived next day to challenge Mum, the Eden (home town) Scrabble champ to a war of wits, she was crying. She explained what was happening so I made an appointment to see the CEO for next morning and in the meantime wrote this poem which I e-mailed to her so she could read it before our meeting.

Sometimes poetry can express so much more. So to Helen and other carers, here is what I believe is my best poem ever. The picture, taken just now from the starboard bow of my 'floating flat', prompted me to share this poem with you at this time.

Old People’s Home.

She sits and she stares
at the door to her world
from which she came,
to this allotted space.

Beautiful mind, cruelly spared.
Taunted though empty days
and long, long, grieving nights,
by mem’ry of lost relevance.

Craving assurance;
a human embrace,
while latex plastic hands
touch only from necessity.

This little time, a miser’s gift.
Last chance to ease her passing,
with what will not be given;
The Final Validation of her existence.

Eden NSW 2007


  1. Such a beautiful and heartwrenching poem. It is so true that poetry can sometimes express more than we are cabable of using day to day language. That is one hell of a photo - the setting sun, says it all really. Thanks Stafford.

  2. Writing is very theraputic - your mum sounds wonderful, she would have been delighted with the things you write!

  3. GB, your support had been so important. Thanks so much.
    madamebutterfly, she was wonderful on many levels but my writing received less attention than my scrabble spelling. (I used to purposely misspell words to amuse her). She would stare at my word then reach for her 'message board'. Then I would time it so the 'error' was corrected before she could finishing spelling it out. Unfortunately for me, the board was heavy enough to hurt when it connected! :-)

  4. Stafford this is such a moving and heartbreaking post, but it is joyous and beautiful as well. Your relationship with your mother is so precious. I can see where you get your good sense of humor!
    The poem is powerful, true, and beautiful!

  5. both poignant and painful, your words ripped through my heart, grappling with how very sad that she had so little input as to how her precious life would close it's door. your poetry made her struggle so very real...but it made me awfully proud of you for truly 'seeing' her, stafford...

  6. Dear SR, my eyes were filled with tears as I read your poem. So beautiful and something I wish I could have read for my mom. She spent 4 years in a nursing home, having no idea who she was or where she was. She was lost to us for the 2 last years and when she died it was like losing her twice. So beautiful and full of loving inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings

  7. This is so moving. I've always wondered at the perverseness of things that causes the hale of body to fail mentally, and the mentally sharp to have their bodies disintegrate beneath them. As we live longer, we need to remember that no matter what the cover looks like, inside there is a person with a life story.

  8. Your poem touched my heart. Deeper than you'll ever know...

  9. Carrie, she was a 'push-you-out-the-door, go-make-a-life' sort of mother. The best for creating independent children.

    Sheri, I didn't 'see' her until she was helpless. That was an experience that opened the window to 'see' everyone else! Truly liberating.

    QMM and PK, I am not sure which is worse, a sharp mind trapped in a broken body or a healthy body with nobody home. A loving creator would have designed a better exit strategy!

    RA. I still can't get right through that poem if I read it aloud. But before you think 'what a sensitive guy', I cry (at least partly) for me, because I can imagine myself being there one day.
    Poor Mum just wanted it all to end but all I could do was have some fun with her and try to make her laugh.

  10. How touching to open your blog this morning and see my name. And how beautiful your poem. There were days I felt as though I was 'on stage' in a one-woman play with hundreds of acts .. trying to make my mother smile and laugh .. to bring her back to me. The mother I remembered. It was exhausting but I never tired of trying. Those five years were the most spiritual of my life and I am better for having lived them.

    The photo is gorgeous ... do you live on your floating flat?

  11. I must admit to feelings of acute loneliness at times, living aboard Tiziana (the floating flat where I still live), in Eden harbour and spending twelve hours a day most days, 24 on others with her. The worst part was the waiting. Nothing much to do but wait for her to need attention. There were no breaks because if she awoke alone she became terrified (and angry). The journey was hard but my destination is a better place than where I was before her stroke.

  12. I hope it moved the CEO to action. A beautiful poem. Your mum sounds like she was lots of fun. I think one of the best things we can teach our kids is to laugh a lot. My mum used to love to play Scrabble too. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  13. That was a most beautiful poem...really
    Your photo of the sun setting was a metaphor
    for life....blazing and awesome
    when loved and she was

  14. SWEET MARJORIE !....




    Lucky you Stafford with ' Sweet Marjorie ' as your Mum..
    Lucky for us she had ' You ' as one of her ' Much Loved Sons .

  15. I had a similar experience with my dad three years ago Stafford. I willed him to live when he wanted to die. He recovered from his stroke to be a form of himself but he hated being disabled. when he ended up in a home I was appalled. They did their best but it's never a "home". I wish I had had the guts to nurse him myself. Your post has helped bring him back for a day.

  16. Sue J, yes it did. From then on staff spoke to her in a 'normal' voice.
    Suz, yes an amazing sunset, a fitting metaphor indeed!
    Butterfly knew Mum well and anyone can see her opinion. Thanks B.
    Little Hat. Home nursing of a severely diabled person is not always possible and (I guess) your dad was like Mum and didn't want her kids 'wasting' their lives caring for her! Too long a story to tell as a comment, but Mum's epilogue is worth sharing as an insight into her attitude to her own dying and what she wanted for and from us at the time. Will post that story soon.

  17. Dear Stafford,
    Your Special Poem is and always will be :-
    A Wonderful , Tender and Extremely Moving
    ** Validation of Sweet Marjorie's Life **

  18. You brought me to tears with this one. So beautifully written.

  19. Lovely tribute to your mother, Stafford. "Beautiful mind, cruelly spared" is such a powerful line. A bittersweet post, indeed.

  20. A beautiful, moving poem. You have driven me to tears. What a sensitive heart you have.

  21. mr, Tears are appropriate. Thank you.

    willow, so true. she felt betrayed by her body. Tried to starve herself to death... but said she got too hungry and laughed about it. That is real humour!

    Selma, strangely, poetry comes to me at times of strong emotion as if from somewhere else. Your comments are always kind.


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