It was Christmas and I traveled home to visit my mother. She was now in a long-term nursing care facility. Her mind drifted in and out of reality but she always seemed to recognize me and greet me with a smile. It was difficult to see her sit idle in a chair because she had always been so active and had such a strong spirit.
She was asleep when I got there, her head slumped almost to her chest. I sat down beside her and took her hands in mine and for a few moments just looked at this special woman who had been such a wonderful mother.
I looked down at her hands, now wrinkled and shrunken with age. I couldn’t help but think about how she had used those hands to embrace life and mold lives. In her hands I saw a mother who sacrificed and gave up so much in order to serve others.
I recall how those hands held me when I was small, picked me up when I fell, wiped tears from my cheeks, and rubbed my forehead when I went to sleep.
Those hands made favorite snacks and birthday cupcakes for me, and somehow created meals out of nothing when there seemed to be nothing in the house to eat. They sewed clothes when we couldn’t afford to buy them.
Those hands tied my shoes, zipped up my jackets, gave me a bath, and helped me put on my pajamas.
They helped me hold a pencil and write essays, poems, and do math for school.
Those beautiful hands helped me make play dough creatures, played board games with me, pulled me in the wagon, pushed me on a sled down a snowy hill, clapped for me when I was in the Christmas play at school.
Those hands received dandelions when I gave them as though they were the rarest of flowers, received my finger paintings as though they were masterpieces, and carefully and tenderly tucked away the Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards I made out of scraps of paper as though they were purchased from an expensive card store.
Those worn hands gripped my arm firmly when I misbehaved, guided me out of danger, held me tight and comforted me when I got hurt
Those hands lovingly held her grandchildren, carried food to friends and family members in times of illness and grief, served the needy, planted seeds in the garden, picked the vegetables and froze them for eating later.
Those hands decorated the Christmas tree, made gifts for under it, cooked delicious holiday meals that became family traditions, crocheted afghans, and constantly made little surprises that made my day.
Those hands were folded daily in prayer, turned worn pages in her Bible, selected songs in a hymn book to play on the piano at night while I lay in bed and listened before falling asleep.
May her beautiful hands, so full of a life well lived, be forever engraved in my memory. I’m so very grateful and honored to have held those hands in mine.