Many years ago I had reason to visit St Mary’s Hospital in The Phoenix Park in Dublin over a long period of time. There I met a gentleman who could not speak. Yet night after night for years he had one visitor; a lady who sat with him and simply held his hand. Then one night I arrived and his bed was empty. It left me with a lot of questions and inspired this poem.
You lay there day after day, quietly waiting
For death to free you from your worn body.
For months I watched her come to your bed
And whisper softly to you.
You never responded to her gentle whisperings.
Were you not afraid that your silence
Would send her away as you lingered
Between this world and the next?
What act kindness
What gentle word
In your long life
Inspired her to keep
Her constant vigil
By your silent bed?
Did you slip away in your own quiet way
Or did they call to let her know
You were about to go?
And did she come to hold your hand
And did you feel her tears fall
Or had she shed them many months before?
Her vigil is ended.
Tonight I came and your bed is empty.
And I know nothing about you, but your name
And that, as your life drew to an end
You had a faithful friend.
Eithne Reynolds (c)