Slipping the Surly Bonds of Earth


High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

This poem is posted on the wall in Ralph and Martha's hallway. As I watch the Colonel slipping away day by day, I often think of these words. They are surly, the bonds that he seeks to retain. Connecting him to a world which holds pain, and a seemingly never-ending cycle of waking, eating, vomiting, sleeping...
I wanted to share a resource for other Caregivers, and to tell you how I practice what the resource teaches.

The first thing Ralph asked for when he woke up this morning was a shower. This is a huge production, and I end up nearly as wet as he does! But this is also a gentle bonding time, in which I can nurture his spirit and care for his body with dignity. Yesterday was one of the hardest days he has had so far, but last night was great. This morning I took the opportunity to very gently apply lotion to his legs and feet, after the shower. "Compassionate Touch" is the technique, and is worth learning. It's sort of the secret to the sense of wellbeing the person has after what might have been an embarassing or awkward time of washing, dressing, etc. Every touch is delivered with powerful mental messages of worth, esteem, and care. Putting lotion on the legs, the thoughts go like this "I am honored to serve you. You are a person of great value. You deserve grace and dignity." If you look up into the face of the person to whom you are delivering this touch, you see the expression of relaxed enjoyment. Putting on the tee shirt, pulling up the Depends, all have the same effect. "I honor you. I care for you. You are not a burden." I don't know how, but the message is delivered. You must be very present with the person for this to "work". You cannot be putting lotion on withered hands and consider what you'll be cooking for dinner. If you do that, all that is received is moisturizer. Hold their frail hands gently in both of yours, and slowly rub lotion into the delicate skin. "You mean so much to so many. You've lived and served well, and it is your turn to receive this care." Even pulling the tee shirt over slivery gray hair, the message is sent. This is why, every single day, I hear "When you're here, I know everything will be alright." It's the message conveyed in every touch. It can be instinctive, however it's also good to learn. Anyone can do this. If you're a caregiver, take a moment to see if this might help you.
Here's the resource page: Until he slips the 'surly bonds of earth', he will know there is deep care on that earth, just for him.

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Ed, that is a wonderful idea, i looked on your profile and saw you are a ex marine. I have the utmost respect to all military persons. My dad wasn't a military man, but he wanted to be. It was his dream, he so badly wanted to be drafted into vietnaum but they wouldn't allow him in even by draft cause he was left handed, flat footed, and dislexic. He always talks about how he practiced dry-shaving, swallowing tobbacco juice, and ate all these raw eggs everymorning trying to gain weight and muscle. Poor guy. Anyways that was a wonderful idea. Her words touched my heart also. Ruth~you are an inspiration. Christina~thanks for sharing what you learned about this poem. I wondered myself the story behind it.

I can't tell you how much the comments on this thread have encouraged me. Thank you, thank you, all - so much. Most of those on this site are caring for family members or friends, and some of us care as a profession. I absolutely salute the daughters, sons, wives, husbands, and all family members and friends who walk this road daily. Sometimes we have to ponder what's possible, and then step beyond that. I've learned a lot through knowing, and then losing, my Colonel.

You are truly an Earth Angel. You gave him the most valuable thing one person can give to another, and that is love. I am sorry for your loss, and the empty space it leaves .I can only imagine what he is telling God about you. You made it possible for him to have love and dignity, and that is priceless Hugs and prayers for you and Mrs. Can only imagine how lost she is without him. Love to both of you.
I am also a paid caregiver and will do as you suggested when Ruth gets out of the NH. Thank you for the loving suggestion..

Thank you for starting this thread of your very special mission with the Colonel and his precious wife, Martha. I Googled that poem because I remembered it from years ago. Hard to believe it was written by a 19 year old boy/man, John Gillespie Magee, Jr., who lost has life at that age as a fighter pilot in WWII.
I think of you often, Ruth, and am inspired by your manner and philosophy of your 'compassionate ways'. I hope you write a book about your experiences; you are truly inspiring.
With Lots of Love and Tremendous Respect,


It was a privilege reading -- and feeling -- your Compassionate Touch. I'm not allowed to physically touch my clients, but I can certainly post the words "I am honored to serve you. You are a person of great value. You deserve grace and dignity." on my desk where everyone can read them and feel as I do right now. Thank you so much.

-- ED

Bless her heart, it's so sad. My aunt and her husband were married for almost 65 years before his passing last march. I can't imagine how hard that would be to be with someone for 65 years and then they are gone. She was a militery wife also. He flew bomber jets. He was gunned down half a dozen times and survived, was a P.O.W. and succumbed to some sort of dementia,probably alz. It's interesting to hear you say they were to hide their fears. I never thought of that. She still crys, says shes ready to go be with him. Its so heartbreaking. How old is she?

Thank you so much, allshesgot and LillyLu, for your comments. Yes, I still care for Mrs. Colonel - 24-hour shifts. We talk and cry and I pray with her. It's so sad to see her plod slowly toward the bedroom, so unwilling to face that empty bed where the Colonel used to lie.
I get to spend 24 hours with her starting tomorrow morning at 10am. I got one of those large jars of HUGE Spanish olives at Trader Joe's, because they're her favorite. Plus they're green!
Last shift, at almost 11pm, she was crying and I was sitting on her bed. She said she was tired of trying to be brave. I told her that nobody is expecting her to be "brave", and that she has every right to cry and grieve. I told her that when she shows her true feelings, her kids can surround her with love and support. She's such a Southern Lady - so proper. And she also learned, as the wife of a member of the US AIrForce during war time, to hide her sadness and fear.
She's a dear little thing. I get to take her to the doctor tomorrow.

Ruth, you are an inspiration to me and an incredible example of selflessness. I have often wondered this last couple of years about the bones of women found out in the dry bareness of the southwest near the TX-New Mexico border. How these women died - I cannot fathom! Some not even old enough to be grown women. And there are missing children all over the country. The brutality of life dulls my response to others now. Although, every now & then, there is someone like you who will give a person the hope to push them forward for many years to come.

Bless your heart ruth. I still love this poem and come back to look at it often. I have seen them hold on and hold on, and then wait till the family goes to get a bite to eat or something. Sometimes I think they wait. You are a wonderful person. So are you still taking care of the coloniels wife? Im sorry you have been sick. i had my 3 boys home today to with the cold. I think they had half cold/half hookie from school. I swear that bus is magical school bus everytime someone is sick as the bus passes so does the illness and they are well again until the nest morning. not gonna work this time lol. I hope you get better. Tina

"Oh, Martha, I think he's gone" I said to her at about 10:20pm on the 20th of February. The monitor I kept on him at all times had suddenly grown quiet. I was reading the Hospice and Care notes from the previous shift, and I was not at his side. My only regret is that I did not sit by his side that evening, and hold his hand as he crossed over into eternity. Of course, who's to say that he wanted company? I had only been out of his room for one hour when the monitor went silent. I had let him know I was there, I had given him some of the comfort medications to ease his breathing and let him stay relaxed, and I had given him his nightly kiss on the forehead. And then suddenly he was just gone.
Seeing his son deal with this reality was so hard, but together we dressed "Dad" in one of his best shirts. It was a night of little sleep, of course.
They took his body away at 2am. His hair was neatly brushed; and as I told his wife "I knew I better brush his hair, or deal with his wrath!" She laughed. There is a beautiful sound to the laugh which comes in the middle of sorrow.
The poem at the start of this post was read at his funeral. There were full military honors.
I feel as if a family member has died. He was a big man, in a small little frame at the end.
He sure did put up a fight!

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