“When I leave, it pierces every time”

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Jane and her father Ross are sitting at a table. Ross is playing guitar as Jane watches on.

Jane’s father Ross was diagnosed with Lewy Body disease, a form of dementia that eventually affected his ability to speak.  

Reflecting through poetry was healing for her as she navigated this difficult time.  

Jane wrote the following poem about a particularly challenging visit with her father, enabling her to process some of the grief that comes with the many emotions dementia can bring.   

Jane’s father sadly passed away earlier this year, but his memory will linger in the words she has lovingly written.   
 

Visiting

I go in. 
He’s down the corridor. 
Pulling the curtain, 
Pushing. 
Pulling the curtain, 
Pushing. 

I wait, and watch. 

He doesn’t notice me. 

Nearby another man is banging a door against his head. 
Again, 
And again. 

A nurse comes and gently leads him away. 

I go closer. 

Stand beside. 

Enter into his space. 

And wait. 
I’m less than a metre away. 

The curtain, 
Is enthralling. 
Push. 
Pull. 
Push. 

I watch this face. 
So familiar, 
And my gut is wrenched as I remember and miss so many other expressions on it. 

Still his attention is on the curtain, 
And I wonder if that is enough. 
This moment, 
Of kinaesthetic focus, 
To give a sense of purpose, 
Now. 

I bend down, and place my face in his direct line of sight, 
For him to 
see me. 
But with mask and hat on, 
does see 
mean know?
I take my hat off. 

Our eyes meet. 
And the smile of recognising one of his people, 
Is not clearly present today. 

He whispers something. 
I cannot hear it, 
But I move closer and we whisper some phrases to one another. 
I hope there is meaning, 
to him, 
Because the words do not reach my ears in patterns my brain can understand. 
Perhaps it is 
my brain 
That is amiss here 
Unable to understand 
My Dad’s attempt to communicate. 

I ask if he would like some music today, 
And his hand moves towards my headphones 
I accept that as meaning 
Though inside 
I am constantly wondering if anything has meaning 
Now 

I show him some choices 
Not really believing that he can read them 
Especially without glasses 
But I look at his face 
I know the right notes will light it up 
Like a stage is lit for an orchestra 

Even Bach doesn’t get a reaction today 
But Holst 
Planets
We take a walk 
And I know 
Because his walk is purposeful 
That the music is meetings the deep parts 
That wake him up 
To aliveness 
For a brief time 
As I visit 
He begins to sing 
Even though Holst 
Is not really a choral composition 
When the soul is moved, 
Singing is the way to express 
And be 
In the moment. 

When I leave, 
It pierces every time 
Because with me come my headphones 
And the aliveness, 
Settles 
Back. 
And I can’t see my Dad 
Inside his body.