She was sitting on her bed, her hands on her lap, one casually fingering the material of her skirt.
My attention focused on her hands;
soft, white, almost translucent with blue veins under the wrinkles like tiny streams
criss-crossing the back of her hand and flowing up her fingers.
I remembered then mother’s oft’ complaint she had large hands.
The fingers were long, well formed, the nails, like opals, nicely manicured.
I sat beside my 92-year-old mother thinking, what beautiful, elegant hands.
Once more, I touched those hands,
now cold and stiff, and recognized how large they really were,
how much those hands had done in all the years.
Those were the hands, pushed into hot water by
angry workers, while she, a little girl waited for adoption.
Those teenaged hands plucked rose hips by the roadside
as she walked to school.
Those beautiful hands my father held as a young man
courting the local school teacher.
Those hands wrote letters to so many of us,
shaping that scrawling penmanship that seemed
to breathe space and eagerness
as if a thousand other projects lay waiting her attention.
Those hands marked papers, wrote exams,
corrected others’ work and gave directions
on chalkboards black or green to a thousand students.
They fed chickens in their day, those hands;
milked cows, hoed gardens,
prepared food for harvesters, family, and visitors.
Those fingers stitched and knitted, crocheted,
washed tons and tons of clothes,
baked bread and pies and wrapped a hundred gifts.
Large hands, for sure, that nurtured sons to adulthood,
directed plays, led choirs, instructed crafts,
embraced all types and tasks.
Loving hands, indeed. I`ve watched those hands reach out
to touch a grandchild’s face, smooth their hair;
a caring touch that spoke beyond the words,
asking how they were.
I`ve seem those hands shake hands with many,
and tie the knot of family or of friends a little tighter.
Just recently, I watched as those dear hands
reached out to touch my father’s hands
as he wheeled close by.
With fingers interlocked they held each other and thus
embraced, if only with their hands.
I had noticed her hands, that visit some time ago,
because they had grown still, less occupied.
Those hands are folded now in final rest, cool to the touch,
insensitive to hot or cold or pain.
But they have left a legacy of grace
in knowledge given, in nurtured deed,
in care: examples to treasure and retain.