Seeing Past the Outer Shell

October 05, 2014

A friend sent this to me and I wanted to share it, as I think it relates to everyone and we can all learn from its message. Even if you aren’t a nurse or a caregiver, you probably have someone in your life who seems to be aging before your eyes, or it could be the person you see in the coffee shop every morning, or perhaps that man in the car you beeped your horn at because he was taking too long to turn.


When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in North Platte ,
Nebraska , it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, they found this
poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and
distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Missouri .
The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition
of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health. A slide
presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.
And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of
this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . . .. . What do you see?

What are you thinking . . . . . when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man . . . . . not very wise,
Uncertain of habit . . . . . with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his 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 sock 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 boy of Sixteen . . . . with wings on his feet.
Dreaming that soon now . . . . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom 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 man 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 woman'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 wife is now dead.
I look at the future . . . . .. 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 man . . . . . 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 guy 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 man .. . . Look closer .. . . see ME!!

This poem really touched me and had me think about how I interact with those I work with. I am privileged in my work, as I am intimately part of the lives of countless people. A portion of what I do is visit people in their homes and assist them into the next phase of their life, whether it be Independent Living, Assisted Living or Long-Term Care. I see people at all stages and work with them and their families.

Every person has a unique story and I love being invited into their personal space. I look at their photos, artwork, décor, knickknacks. Some of them have travelled the world and done some incredible things. No matter what, I always learn something interesting from them.

I always feel so inspired by older people and they are a constant reminder for me to enjoy every moment of every day and live each day as if it could be my last, while I create the story of my life. As any person at the end of their journey will tell you; “it’s over before you know it.”

We all get busy in our day and our work - if we take the time to talk to the older people, we might be surprised at what they tell us. I always find their stories fascinating - they talk about love, war, careers, family and travels. They love to talk about their stories and I love to hear about them.

We can all remember this poem next time we have the opportunity to interact with an older person (who is not just an older person). They are a person with incredible knowledge and wisdom, who are on the last phase of their life, they will soon be leaving the physical world and physical body and will remain as a beautiful eternal soul.


1 Response


January 21, 2018

This is absolutely beautiful, it really speaks Truth. I’m a massage therapist, certified for work on “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster”, and Energy Worker, therefore I come into contact with all kinds of ages of people, especially older ones and I am 71, soon 72, so I personally know this poem.
Thank you for sharing

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