While riding down the highway the other day, I made an interesting discovery. Looking down into my lap, I noticed that my hands looked old. I was startled. I don’t feel old. My kids don’t think I act old. My friends think I dress fashionably enough … well, for playing on the beach, anyway.
I do play in the water a great deal of the time and Ted and I fish often, so I suppose my hands get some wear and tear there. Cooking is a favorite adventure of mine and there’s always the clean up, but goodness, my hands aged me, in my opinion. When did this happen? What was I doing while it was occurring? Why had I not noticed before?
I loved my Mama Cole’s hands. Yes, they were old and wrinkled, but they spoke to me of hard work for all of us, lots of cooking, cleaning up the kitchen, working in her big garden, and occasionally fishing and cleaning the fish. Rather than old, I thought of often used, and exceptionally interesting. Nothing felt like her rubbing the side of my face, patting my cheek, or smoothing my hair with those well-used hands of hers.
My cousin in Amarillo shared this lovely story with me and I was taken back in time to one of those very moments I have described. Think as you read exactly what your hands say about you to others and the legacy they will live for family and friends.
“Grandma, some 90-plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. She didn’t move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands. When I sat down beside her, she didn’t acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she were feeling well. Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she were well. She raised her head and looked at me and smiled. ‘Yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking,’ she said in a clear voice strong. ’I didn’t mean to disturb you, Grandma, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were not sick,’ I explained to her.
“‘Have you ever looked at your hands,’ she asked. ‘I mean really looked at your hands?’ I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making. Grandma smiled and related this story: ‘Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled and weak, have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war. ’
“Grandma continued, ‘They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band, they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse. They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn’t understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well, these hands hold me up, lay me down and again continue to fold in prayer.’
“And without missing a beat, she continued, ‘These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life. But more importantly, it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands, He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of God.’
“I will never look at my hands the same again, and I clearly remember when God reached out and took my grandma’s hands and led her home. When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and husband, I think of Grandma. I know she has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God. I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His hands upon my face.”
After reading this, I don’t really feel quite so badly about having old and well-used hands myself. Trust you don’t either.
Brenda Cannon Henley is an award-winning journalist and writer living on the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast. Having enjoyed more than four decades in ministry, Brenda shares her columns with our readers and works with churches and faith-based programs nationwide. She can be reached at (409) 781-8788.