You Don’t Know


If you’ve never lived the reality
Of no longer being able to wash your body
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never been the person
Who washes a stranger’s body with kindness and compassion
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never been the person
Who helps to maintain the dignity of those who are ill or disabled
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never wept in frustration
Because you can no longer manage the simplest of tasks
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced relief in a carer’s empathy
When you’re having a bad day
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer gently coax you
To allow them to put cream on your thin bruised broken skin
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer match their steps to yours
Because you struggle to breathe and walk at the same time
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer do your shopping for you
Because they can see ‘today’ you have no energy
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced a carer’s ability
To help while giving you a sense of independence
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never had a carer clean your home
Respectfully moving your husband’s ashes
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never seen that same carer
Intuitively do something you wanted doing but hadn’t wanted to ask
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced terrifying flashbacks because of a change in routine
Been calmed and comforted by the nurse who knows your history
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced a momentary ‘my life is not worth living’
Yet moved back from the abyss because you have the support of carers
Then
You don’t know

If you’ve never experienced the laughter a carer brings
Known the comfort of being wrapped in a towel on a cool morning
Sat and wept while a carer runs warm water on your back
Because the day is the anniversary of your son’s death
If you’ve never been a carer
Looked after people in the most intimate of ways
At the same time enabling them to experience a sense of independence
Never complained to your client when they’re having a ‘bad day’
Then
You don’t know

You might think you know
But trust me
If you’ve not lived it
From either side of the spectrum
Then
You don’t know

I know my carers are friendly but not my friends
I know there are rules to protect both client and carer
I know there will always be a few who’ll break the rules
I know the majority are good and caring people
I know I’m not allowed to give gifts to my carers
I didn’t realise this applied to Christmas

After all I give a gift to my gardener my postie
My doctors
Their receptionists
Just small things to acknowledge their kindness
These people are not my friends either
But they are friendly and I’m grateful

To refuse to allow me to give a small gift of gratitude
After all I receive at the gentle hands of my carers
Takes away the sense of independence
They spend the year imbuing me with
Do you know how hard it is to constantly accept help
Without being able to give anything in return

When you refuse to allow me to give
An end of year gift of gratitude to my regular carers
And the support staff
Then
I know
You don’t know

Tricia 11/2014

About triciabertram

I have written all my life. Writing helps me to make sense of a world I often don’t understand. Poetry is my supreme solace, closely followed by literature and music. When my son ended his life in 1999 I embarked on the most difficult journey of my life, my grief journey. To survive in this unknown, harsh landscape I had to write. It was for me, the only way I could even begin to move forward. Then in 2009 my darling husband died suddenly and so my journey continues. I write about other issues but because of my life experience, grief and death are continuing themes in my writing life. In our culture I believe there is a fear of death, an inability to accept the inevitability of our mortality, and this creates enormous difficulties for the bereaved and those around them. I have begun this blog in the hope I will create a small ripple in the pond of fear that is currently drowning the reality of death and grief. I will continue to skim the stones of my truth, watch them bounce, and see how many ripples I can make.

Posted on November 20, 2014, in Poems. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I have the utmost respect for compassionate and intuitively sensitive careers, Tricia, although I have not intimately and personally been the recipient of that care. This beautifully clear message would be a benefit to anyone considering a career in any helping profession. And for myself, the words stir in me a desire to simply be much more aware of how some of my friends may be experiencing their particularly challenging rearrangement of roles and life without physical independence. I can understand how much it would mean to you to share a gift…I wonder if there are any rules about giving a gift elsewhere, children’s home or charity, in honor of a special carer. It isn’t the same at all, I understand, but I think I would feel honored, acknowledged and respected. Now you’ve got me thinking! oxo Debra

    • Hello Debra,
      Thanks so much for your comment. After much thought I decided to send this poem along with a covering letter to my assement nurse, asking her to put both in the hands of the Director of Human Services. Yesterday the nurse rang to tell me that each of the carers would have a copy of my poem placed in their folder, and that the director would like to meet me. So my nurse and the director are coming to my home on Christmas Eve.
      Because of my history I was afraid I’d be punished, maybe loose my regular carers, for speaking out, but it just felt too important to me to stay silent. I’m so pleased I didn’t let my childhood fears stop me. I’ll let you know how things go. Big hugs. Tricia xxx

      • Tricia, Your decision to share this poem with the Director of Human Services was a wonderfully proactive move! I’m so glad you did, and I think that whether or not anyone is moved to change policies, they can’t claim they are ignorant to where their “hardline” policies leaves a person in your position. I really applaud that you have “taken charge” of your own circumstances at least to this extent. You are so very clear about your dependency on others, but that’s in physical care needs, while I hear a strong and powerful woman in your spirit and voice. I hope that you never silence what is most meaningful and important to you, my friend. I will be so interested in hearing how your Christmas Eve visit goes. Be yourself and remember that there is a marvelously capable woman inside a body that is currently not functioning at its highest. My fingers are definitely crossed. oxo Debra

  2. Tricia my lovely friend, this goes way beyond beautiful, simply for its truth and gritty honesty.
    And I can feel tour frustration at not being allowed to offer a gift to these caring people to show gratitude at christmas.
    Maybe you could offer your carers a copy of this beautiful piece of yourself. You can even tell them it’s not a gift but you would like them to take it away to read. Im sure they will see it very much as a gift.
    Love you lots and lots my precious friend
    ❤️ Xxx

    • My dear Christine, as always your words mean so much to me. Your Facebook comment on this brought tears to my eyes, it was so intuitive, just like you my lovely friend. 🙂

      I’m going to copy part of my response to Debra, as I’m not sure if everyone will see it if I don’t answer each comment individually:-
      After much thought I decided to send this poem along with a covering letter to my assement nurse, asking her to put both in the hands of the Director of Human Services. Yesterday the nurse rang to tell me that each of the carers would have a copy of my poem placed in their folder, and that the director would like to meet me. So my nurse and the director are coming to my home on Christmas Eve.
      Because of my history I was afraid I’d be punished, maybe loose my regular carers, for speaking out, but it just felt too important to me to stay silent. I’m so pleased I didn’t let my childhood fears stop me. I’ll let you know how things go.

      Much love to you my dear friend. ❤ xxx

  3. How frustrating to not be allowed to give a gift to someone who means so much to you. I’d be a little bit naughty, Tricia— sometimes rules are meant to be broken …

    • Louise, thanks for your comment. I’m sending a group response so that you’ll each know what happened. The only thing with breaking this particular rule is it could cost the carers their job. Also I feel that many of those who are cared for will share my feelings, this isn’t just about me. Some elderly clients spend the year crocheting coat hanger covers, even these home made gifts are not allowed to be accepted. Imagine how these people will feel.

      After much thought I decided to send this poem along with a covering letter to my assement nurse, asking her to put both in the hands of the Director of Human Services. Yesterday the nurse rang to tell me that each of the carers would have a copy of my poem placed in their folder, and that the director would like to meet me. So my nurse and the director are coming to my home on Christmas Eve.
      Because of my history I was afraid I’d be punished, maybe loose my regular carers, for speaking out, but it just felt too important to me to stay silent. I’m so pleased I didn’t let my childhood fears stop me. I’ll let you know how things go.

  4. Beautiful! Thank you for posting!

    • Thank you for your comment. The following explains what I decided to do:-

      After much thought I decided to send this poem along with a covering letter to my assement nurse, asking her to put both in the hands of the Director of Human Services. Yesterday the nurse rang to tell me that each of the carers would have a copy of my poem placed in their folder, and that the director would like to meet me. So my nurse and the director are coming to my home on Christmas Eve.
      Because of my history I was afraid I’d be punished, maybe loose my regular carers, for speaking out, but it just felt too important to me to stay silent. I’m so pleased I didn’t let my childhood fears stop me. I’ll let you know how things go.

  5. So pleased you decided to do this Tricia. I am sure your words will be greatly appreciated. Lots of love and hugs being blown across the seas to you my lovely friend ❤️ Xxx

  6. As you say, unless I have experienced those situations I will never understand exactly. And yet these words so cleverly convey your feelings (and of others in similar circumstances) that it is clear to appreciate your point. I can’t imagine a better way of wording your “request”. I do hope this brings about even a small change in the department’s attitude. Thinking of you xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: