Poem to My Late Sister, Leslie

My older sister died in March 2012 of what looked like Alzheimer’s but was instead dementia that resulted from brain trauma. At 50, she hit her head while biking and suffered a debilitating concussion. Though she appeared to fully recover, over the next nineteen years we watched as her memory slowly faded. This poem was written after I had traveled to Utah to visit her in the hospice area of a memory unit in the nursing home where she had come to live. She was 69 years old.

I honor my siblings by remembering them. Here’s to Leslie, who told me a few months before she died that she loved my face because “it was so full of light.”

I loved her deeply.


I see you lying in your hospital bed

Dark brown eyes half closed

Square jaw tight

Can you hear me?

I lean close

“Hello, Sister.”

Your pale lips shift

Into a half smile

Your skin is smooth

Your body warm

Your legs toned

From constant walking

But I know your body

Is hiding the truth

That a brain once quick

Now has locked doors with no keys

I want you to open your eyes

To sit up and glide off that bed

Ready for a quick walk

Ready for a quick talk

And yet I know

You are going nowhere

Except away in the most real sense

Whether it’s today or tomorrow

I lean close

And say softly,

“What a good sister you’ve been,

And will always be.”

You stare off

Eyes focused on your path

That takes you away from here

To a place that’s free

I kiss your cheek

Bid you farewell

Watch as you close your eyes

And hope we’ll meet again

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeanne Guy says:

    Oh, Len. This brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful poem, beautiful tribute, and so deeply loving. You’ve made me search deep within about my own situation with my sister. Thank you.




  2. Thank you, Jeanne. Yes, sisters can be challenging. For a very long time, we didn’t know what was happening to Leslie and some of her behavior and choices were deeply upsetting. In the end, the truth of her situation became evident through MRI imaging, but that literally was almost 20 years after the accident. Learning that truth helped all the pieces fall into place. I wish you healing in terms of your own sister. Holding you close, my dear.

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