Crabby Old Woman

When an old lady in the Ashludie Hospital Geriatric Ward, near Dundee, Scotland, died, it appeared that she had left nothing of value. Then the nurse, going through her possessions, found this poem.

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 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 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 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 too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people, Open and see,
Not a crabby old woman; Look closer . . . see ME!!


  1. That's a good one for all future nurses to see, too. I'm sending it to my son.

  2. What a beautiful, thoughtful poem. A MOST valuable thing. We all know the day is coming, yet we tend to forget others are already there...

  3. such a sad poem, it was familiar to have made me weep tonight.

    My dog has a blog, but I write it for him. Look in on ours sometime, it is all done for fun! We have met such good people via blogging. I reached your blog via Margaret R via Jenny.

    Love and much light, Jeannie xxxxx from Dunblane in Bonnie Scotland xx