Death of a Stranger

Cruelty has been given a new definition –

When a mind so capable and so beautiful,

Dies agonizingly slowly and piece by piece.

What was a source for inspiration atrophies,

Memories dim and eventually disappear,

The once vital, vibrant now needy, immobile,

Revered patriarch forced into second childhood.

One by one, loved ones receive bitter rejection,

They’ve become forgotten strangers to the stricken.

Relentless march across the mind shows no respect,

As it steals not just all mental capacity,

But the very essence of its latest victim,

Who they are and all that has ever made them them,

Slowly fades to be hidden behind a blank mask.

Long before the end can arrive to grant relief,

The light, signs of life have completely left their eyes.

An ending could surely not come too quickly now,

The mind has ceased and the body is following,

All that is left now is a silent, crumpled mass –

A daily reminder of who this person was.

At the end only the final and anguished breath,

With mind having been stolen, stripped slowly away,

The one here who’s slipping gently out of this life,

Is not who we have always known but a stranger.


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About John White

I've written off and on my entire life. It took years for me to finally take putting words together seriously. Now it's not, nor does it ever feel, like work. Writing daily has become habitual. No day is complete without words having appeared on the page.

Posted on November 16, 2015, in Poetry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 80 Comments.

  1. on our minds today…… beautiful.

  2. Very moving… I watched both of my grandmothers fade away like this, my only source of peace in these situations was my firm belief in an afterlife so I know that all their memories and loves would be restored to their memory after they left this world…. if not… the creator has a cruel sense of humor…

    • Thank you! 🙂 It’s such a tough thing to deal with watching someone suffer with this disease. I lost my grandfather to it and it can be terrible reaching that point when they know no one and can’t remember anything. The best we can do for them is to care for them and make them comfortable.

      • That is true, I have told my children that if I get to that place where I don’t know them that they are not to visit me anymore, it is too painful to not be remembered by your mother and as long as they know that I am being well cared for, there is no need to put themselves through that pain over and over… I won’t know if they don’t visit…

        • That’s true. It would be awful to think ahead to not knowing them and who knows what someone in that condition might say or do. My grandfather certainly entertained and shocked us on occasion.

          • My grandmothers would just sit and smile at us, having no idea who we were. It really devastated my mother to have her mother not know her so I finally convinced her not to visit anymore, it meant nothing to my grandmother and upset my mother so much. She finally agreed and we both just held on to the memory of how my grandmother used to be, but of course, made sure the nursing home was taking proper care of her. Such a sad state in which to end one’s life.

  3. Reblogged this on Karen Stephen aka Doc Flamingo and commented:
    An absolutely haunting and very touching poetic description of losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s.

  4. Such an amazing and touching piece. I think it really hits home to most f us and you really captured the essence of the thoughts and emotions that are associated with the situation of death and loss. Very nice writing.

  5. One’s end is often a burden on those who love them. The memories of the good times must be preserved and in some cases actually revered. If this was a family member I offer my condolences as well as prayers for those who remain. Get your Bible and read
    John 14 :16. There is much comfort in those wonderful pages.

    • Thank you! 🙂 It is important to hang on to those memories we have of someone especially when they are sick for so long and suffer with a disease like this. My grandfather died with Alzheimer’s and it caused as much grieving to see him suffer and wither away as it did when he passed away. Thank goodness we have a lot of memories to cherish.

  6. For some reason this brought Tolstoy to my mind…I don’t exactly know why…but I really like this 🙂

  7. Beautiful work of poetry.

  8. True words that many have experienced. Thankyou

  9. Such a cruel disease ❤

  10. Very sad that so many of us leave this earth unknown even to those who care for us.

  11. You have such a gift with words. To be able to express in such a poignant way the feelings of loss so many in similar situations have felt. It is so much easier when the body is gone for there is closure. A true lesson in compassion not only for the patient, but for the family as well. Thank you for sharing this piece.

  12. Beautiful poem. Once you live your life…you got to go! We are on a journey from here to elsewhere. This life is an experience to enrich our souls for the life beyond. Thanks for this poem…very profound. Yaz

  13. Yes, how it can happen as I have seen. Worse, perhaps, if they can remember just enough…

    • Thank you, Alan! 🙂 You’re right. My grandfather remembered, in fact relived, large portions of his childhood, believed he still had his horses, spent time in the barn which was no longer standing and would speak to visitors often as if they were someone from his past. It was a truly sad thing to watch.

  14. Painful to read but beautiful. Because isn’t that life? I am grateful to say I have not yet experienced this agony first-hand. Hopefully I never will.

    FYI my blog is now under the website Looking forward to seeing you there.

  15. A beautiful poem. I hit follow instantly. 🙂
    It’s a poem that can apply to many situations..isn’t this what we are becoming today too? We have lost intellectual capacity, we don’t question things we ought to. The only questions we have are friend requests. Sigh.

    • Thank you so much! 🙂 Likes, follows, up-votes…that’s what it’s about for the majority rather than using the space between their ears. I completely agree. It’s great to meet you!

  16. Beautiful..moving😊😊😊

  17. My grandmother-in-law is 91 in a nursing home with dementia. She’s Italian and was present the day Mussolini handed over Italy to Hitler — she refused to salute Hitler and someone turned around and smacked her in the face. She was 16. Her husband fought in the war. She modelled for a little while. She led such a vibrant life… To see her in such a state breaks my heart. Beautiful poem about such a tender subject. ❤️

    • Thank you! 🙂 It sounds like your grandmother lived an eventful life and one to be proud of. But it is so hard to see them lose memories and to reach a point at which they can’t identify those they care about and have known their entire lives. All the best to you. It’s great to meet you!

  18. Dementia/Alzheimers is indeed a most cruel disease. It is a cruel to the family and loved-ones as it is to the one stricken with the disease. My uncle lost his three-year battle with it last week. It is a hard road to travel, and you described the journey well.

  19. If God is real, he can be so very cruel

  20. A powerful piece. And given voice with rare emotion.

  21. Beautifully written; filled with emotions! Thank you for visiting and following my blog. Look forward to reading more of your work!

  22. Akinyemi AbdulMalik

    I love this

  23. Thank you! 🙂 It’s great to meet you!

  1. Pingback: Death of a Stranger | Love Lyricism

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