Leaving Home

Pristinely presented, impeccably dressed

She receives me from next to her hospital bed,

Casts disparaging glances at fellow inmates,

With their gaping nighties and matted hair,

Still disgracefully abed, not up in their chairs,

‘I’m not like these women, I don’t belong here.

I want to go home’.


I tell her about professionals’ concerns

That she can’t manage alone, she shouldn’t go home.

There’s nothing wrong’ she repeated stoutly,

Except being terribly old – I’m well past ninety –

I forget some words, I’m very deaf

And I’ll be gone soon, I don’t have long left.

I want to go home’.


‘Can you make your own food, brew a cup of tea?’

I go out every day with my trolley on wheels,

Buy enough just for me, prepare my own meals’.

‘But they say you’ve lost weight, you’ve been wasting away,

Your cupboards were bare, your food was rotten,

That, perhaps, you had simply forgotten?’


I don’t remember that’.


‘Can you manage your money, pay your own bills?’

After my husband died, in ‘88…’

(My entire adult life, I swiftly calculate)

‘…I had to cope, I learned the drill’.

‘But they say you’ve been giving money away,

Five hundred a month to a ‘friend’ you don’t see,

And thousands more, unaccounted for…’


‘I don’t remember that’.


‘Can you manage at night, do you ever feel scared?’

I’m not fussed about that! I’m very strong,

I’ve managed alone for ever so long’.

But they say you bang on the neighbours’ doors,

Distressed, undressed, at all hours

And they ring the police to report on your plight,

Concerned for your safety, especially at night’.

‘I don’t remember that.’


But I remember my son, he was born in the house

And died there too, a terrible waste –

Just seventeen. And my husband’s gone,

I’ve outlived them all, there’s nobody left,

I don’t have long,

I’ll remember them there, I want to go home’.






Filed under ageing, poetry

14 responses to “Leaving Home

  1. This is utterly beautiful. So well-written and so haunting. It gave me goosebumps and I may have shed a tear or two. Ross’ grandfather died at the end of last year and this reminds me so much of him.

  2. Beautiful and so thought-provoking. It must be so hard for those trying to weigh up the pros and cons of trying to support an elderly person to live in their own home whilst also trying to decide what is safest for them. I love the way that your poem really brought the person to life – through their story which was a poignant reminder of the history that someone has lived through and all that they have endured up to this point in their life.

  3. Oh wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could let more people die at home, rather than treating every last thing, forcing the majority to die in sterile hospitals. Surely there comes a time when we need to respect the life lived. Thank you.

  4. maddy@writingbubble

    A heartbreaking poem, beautifully written and which captures so much of the dilemma of someone who wants to be in their own home but can’t manage there without support… and how much support? Is it possible? Such a huge choice. #theprompt

  5. This is an incredible piece of writing. So emotive. It’s heartbreaking, and captures this awful dilemma so perfectly. My grandmother is still in her own home, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to see how she can stay there. It’s terribly hard. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt, wonderful to have you, and apologies for taking so long to comment, it was Mother’s Day here in the US so I took the weekend off 🙂

  6. This really moved me. You brought the characters to life so vividly I could see them so clearly. The sense of memory being a two edged sword is there too – being able to remember things from the past but not the things that keep you healthy and safe. A terrible choice that so many are having to make.

  7. You have wrote this so well. It must be such a difficult decision, as you feel that you need to honour their past and their current view of their own capability, but yet you also feel deeply responsible for their safety and wellbeing now. Thank you for sharing. #ThePrompt

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