I am old now.    

     I know I am old, because my body tells me that this is the case. The arms which lie still and wasted on a hospital blanket, once wrapped themselves around my children and pulled them towards me. My arms were once as yours are, strong and free and open. Now I need you to lift a cup to my mouth, but these are the arms which lifted a baby from a cot and linked along a sea front, in the ice cream days of a black and white photograph. And they are the same arms. I remember.

     The skin on my hands is paper thin and roped with veins, but they were once as yours are now, quick and sure and definite. The hands which shake and hesitate were hands which held each day with certainty. Now I rely on the touch of strangers to comfort me, but in my mind, I will forever take the long gone hands of those I used to hold. And they are the same hands. I remember.    

     My heart has grown slow and tired. But once it was as yours is now and would quicken with the sound of another’s voice. This same slow, tired heart was fresh and eager and filled with tomorrow. When I said ‘til death do us part, I never really believed that it would, and yet here I am, alone and with a slow, tired heart. We counted the minutes and not the beats, my heart and I. But it is the same heart. I remember.

     You talk around me and above me and, although I try to speak, my voice is small and blanketed in age. The words I speak are lost in the conversation of others, but this voice which is so easy to ignore, was once clear and strong and certain. My voice knew what it wanted to say and no one shuffled and sighed and tapped as they waited for me to find the words. My voice is no longer heard and yet it is the same voice. I remember.

     My eyes are milky and struggle to see. They were once like yours, free and impatient and looking ahead. Now it is easier to watch the past play out to itself and to feed my mind on times gone by. These eyes which have looked upon a thousand things, now watch as a world passes at the foot of a bed. And yet they are the same eyes. I remember.

     One day, you will find yourself here. One day, you will lie as I do now, with a slow, tired heart and you will look down on livered, worn hands which you cannot recognise. Your dignity will be lost in the hang of the curtain and a stranger’s touch and your words will lose themselves in the folds of a sheet. One day, you will watch the world with milky eyes as it passes at the foot of a bed.

     And then you will remember.


  1. Jo, darling, this is a beautiful, heart-touching piece. Compassionate – and yes, victorious and life-affirming – without being sentimental.

    Be proud of yourself, hon. You are very talented.

  2. Whenever I get a message that there is a new blog post from you I go straight to it eagerly, and I am never disappointed. As always, this is thought provoking and beautifully written, but so melancholy. Your ability to empathise with your patients must make you a very special doctor. Once again, thank you.

  3. Off my phone now so I can comment. Yes, I rush straight to your blog too once I see a post.

    Another beautifully observed post. Even though you promised us a happy one this time! Sad but also something life affirming about it. This comes to us all.

  4. So poignant and moving. My dad had Alzheimers and I fought passionately to make sure people spoke TO him, not around him. It didn’t much matter if he heard or understood, it just had to be that way. For him. And for me. Beautiful pieces of writing. Thank you for sharing them.

  5. I too go straight to your blog when you have posted a new one. What can I say that has not already been said! You could be speaking about my mum, dad, aunt, mother-in-law, and once again you have me in tears! I have a friend who trains staff in a nursing home and I know she would love a copy of this to show the young staff I think it would really help them empathise with the elderly residents.

  6. What incredibly lovely comments, thank you so much. I was seeing an elderly patient on one of the wards this week and Elton John’s ‘Something About The Way You Look Tonight’ was playing on the radio. It made me think that there is nothing more beautiful than someone in their ninetieth decade. Truly breath-taking.

  7. Jo, your words are magic. You reminded me of.. Oh God, the memories have flooded back.
    Thank you, Jo, your blogs are beautiful and touching.
    Now I’m goin to bed with tender thoughts.

  8. So beautifully structured and worded, yet it reads as though it flowed from the keyboard in a single breath of consciousness. Truly heart-wrenching and poignant.

  9. Someone once said to me that something was “lump-in-throat beautiful”. It’s not my phrase but I wish it were, and I tell you this because this piece is just that: it is lump-in-throat beautiful.

  10. This is brilliant, beautiful and so lonely. I work in a nursing home and I try to see everyone as a whole… Not just who they are now, but who they were, because inside it’s still who they are. Your words bring to life what I see in a lot of peoples eyes. Thank you, I have shared this with some of the amazing people that I work with. I think we all could benefit from the emotions that this spurs. Thank you for giving a new voice to those who sometimes have lost their own.

    Peace… Mike

  11. As a thirty something, I know this will be true. I already lament my younger body, four children will do that to you! This is another beautiful piece of writing. You must be an extraordinary doctor x

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