March 5, 2021

Dear M,

I see you.

Every day you faithfully visit.

Even when the doors were locked and you had to just stare through the windows, waving at a non-responsive her…

There you were.

She knows you:

Even though dementia has stolen her words.

I see it in her eyes when you are there:

A tiny spark in the abyss of her dementia,

That beast dementia that has swallowed so much of her.

Your faithfulness inspires,

And restores,

Not just her,

But all of us

Who see you.

*This poem is inspired by the love and devotion shown to one of my nursing homes patients by her husband.  I have struggled with Social Media during the Covid pandemic.  There are so many posts  minimizing the horrific effects that Covid wrought in our nursing homes.  Posts suggested that the deaths of our elderly nursing home patients perhaps didn’t matter because “they were old and going to die soon anyway”.   Posts suggested that I was not being honest in filling death certificates, alluding to some incorrect perception that I would be paid more if I attributed the patients’ deaths to Covid.   So many posts are even now anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-distancing.   Sometimes there seem to be so many people unwilling to do even simple things to protect our elderly and vulnerable.  I have lost so many long term SNF patients.  Those patients were beloved;  they had stories;  and they had value despite being old and fragile.   I have carried the grief of their loss.  That grief mixed with anger at how many did not value those lost lives.   This poem reflects not just my admiration of my patient’s husband’s dedication.  It is also my reminder to everyone that my patient is still a person despite her dementia, a person who is beloved and has value.