Let me be – a poem from a hospice volunteer

Caroline Macdonald is a volunteer coordinator for a hospice organization in Maine. “One way I have found to deal with the work is to write poetry and to share it with my volunteers, my colleagues and whomever when it seems right to share it.”

 I’ve read it in the newspapers,

seen it on the TV.

There’s even posters at the senior center.

They’re all talking about “having the conversation”, like it was the most important string

of words you could ever utter.

Just thinking about “it” – “the conversation” – gets my stomach all balled up.

“Talk to your doctor,”  they  say.

Well, I don’t know about your doctor, but mine?

He doesn’t ask me, he tells me and if I ask, he just tells me again.

I mean, who’s talking to who is what I want to know.

Sometimes I darned well feel like telling him a thing or two, but

my appointment always seems to run out of time.

The last time I was in hospital, the social work lady was hell bent on me signing a paper

about the durable power and the DNR, the DNI, the DNH, the DN-THIS, the DN-THAT!

Initials and small print, do-not’s and wherefores.

My heavens, you almost need a lawyer with a dictionary.

I finally said to her, “Later, my family and I will figure it out later.”

She said, “Don’t make later too late”.

My daughter and I do think about what’s going to happen when I get closer to my time.

My sons get fidgety and sharp when the subject comes up. It’s not that they’re nasty;

it’s just hard for them to imagine their mama being old, passing on.

Maybe they talk to their sister in the other room when I’m not around and

maybe they think about it more than they let on but they certainly aren’t at “the conversation” stage.

I knew how to take care of my mother.

I knew she didn’t want to waste away in some hallway under florescent bulbs, wrapped in

tubes and fed by pumps; she wanted to be home.

When her body told her to stop eating she did;

gently squeezed sponge water was plenty of wet.

We let her rest; she slept a lot.

I guess these days it’s not enough just to tell someone.

Can’t count on them remembering it straight or being there when it counts.

Maybe that’s what that woman in the hospital was getting at.

If I see her again, she can write down my list:


Pluck my chin;

Brush my hair;

Wash between my toes;

Massage my whole body with sweet oil;

And for God’s sake,

Let me be.


– See more at: http://theconversationproject.org

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