So Many Years

written about and for my mother, Ellen. 1924 – 2009.



Here you sit, touching eighty-five.

Confused, smiling, sometimes vacant.

To the passing stranger, perhaps

Sad, even insignificant.


Alzheimer’s has you in its vice.

You’re here and yet you’re not;

Your mind has been assaulted;

Devastated, and left to rot.


What secret place do you dwell in?

What thoughts cause you to smile?

What prompts your mumbled words?

Do the clouds part just for a while?


You seem to flit from frown to smile,

Emotions borne of thoughts that

Are spent before they can begin;

Worry defused, attention zapped.


Growing up in rural Ireland;

A mother stolen by TB;

A father stern and burdened;

Love, a precious commodity.







A life spent in care and toiling;

You worked your fingers to the bone;

Nursing, cleaning, for little pay;

All to provide a loving home.


What’s the sum of so many years?

Viewed by what this world believes,

A person of no great substance;

No wealth, power, or prestige.


No prompt to history’s footnote;

No rumour of impropriety.

Not even fifteen minutes’ fame;

No infamy of celebrity.


Yet in His eyes a shining star.

You understood the Gospel call –

The supremacy of selfless love –

Your mite transfigured after all.