A poem written in thanks for the care of the dying

A poem written in thanks for the care of the dying

A poem by Sally Read. Sally says: "as an ex-nurse, and ex-patient, I can testify to how incredibly powerful touch and kindness can be."

These Hands

These hands have held him, washed him, lifted 

him with difficulty from bed to chair to bed. 

He is no package and this no careless work. 

These hands have known him like a gardener 

who knows the shallow-rooted shrub, and tends 

and watches, steady as the light. Or as a mother 

knows the troubles of her son just by holding 

his hand when he wakes, fearful, in the night. 

These hands are more to him than he can ever say now. 

They are a symphony of explanation, a drug, 

the calming of a longed-for face. These hands 

tell a body in slow chaos that there is shelter, 

there is, still, beauty in the world. They are the last 

cathedral he will know, the movement of the last song. 

By them he is ordered in his soul, 

blessed, and ready for the moving on. 

By Sally Read

Sally Read is a poet and writer who lives near Rome.

She wrote the poem ‘These Hands’ when a friend asked her to “recommend a poem of thanks that she could give to the nurses who were looking after her dying father.”

Sally couldn’t find anything really suitable, so wrote this for her friend to give to the nurses.

Sally says, “as an ex-nurse, and ex-patient, I can testify to how incredibly powerful touch and kindness can be.”

Read more about caring for the dying and deathbed etiquette.

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