God’s Hands

stock-photo-a-pair-of-hands-releasing-a-bird-into-the-sunset-2642215I’ve always noticed hands…maybe it was because, growing up, I usually found my hand buried in someone else’s.  As the youngest of four girls, seems someone bigger and stronger was chronically holding my tiny fluttering hand in theirs.  I remember sometimes struggling to pull my hand from captivity; wiggling and straining to be free. But, truly I sought the shelter and strength offered in this simple gesture more often than not.

When I was in high school, I wrote of my father’s hands.  They were unremarkable in size or texture, but to me they had a significance and a power that I struggled to define.  He was a quiet hard-working man with a silly sense of humor, a WWII Marine who didn’t communicate strong emotions — positive or negative — well.  Despite his reticence to speak of feelings, his true softer character was revealed to me one day when a wild bird — a simple brown chickadee — flew, or more aptly fell, down our chimney and found itself a captive of our living room.  Sweeping back and forth in blind panic, the poor thing was frantically throwing itself into windows to the hapless shrieks of my mother and me.  My father, exasperated with our near-hysterical caterwauling, impatiently “shushed” and banished us to another room.  Minutes later, he emerged with the bird cradled in his two bare hands.  The defining portrait of my father releasing that bird from the security of his two simple hands is indelibly burned into my memory.

At his wake, a relatively few years later, I kneeled before his form laid out in the casket I had helped my mother choose.  I had held her hand as we walked by the open options…until we stopped before the one that we imagined most to his liking.  Her hand seemed to drink my strength like a straw directly from my grip. On my knees before him, I couldn’t keep my eyes off his hands — hands that had seldom been idle in his life — now, resting inert before me.  Just the night before the accident that claimed his life, I had stopped by the house.  Impulsively, on my way out the door, he had uncharacteristically reached out and told me he loved me.  His hand had felt warm upon my shoulder.  I swear, sometimes, I can feel it there to this day.  A simple gesture of affection that might have seemed unremarkable to so many others — but to me, it was a momentous event in its rarity.  The legacy of his hand on my shoulder would have to last a lifetime.

The morning of the funeral, in the stolen moments before he would be sealed forever from my sight…and touch… I finally gathered up the gumption to reach up one tremulous hand and softly touch that still cold  hand.  I had to.  Without my hand touching his, it would have been like not saying goodbye at all.

The night before my mother died, a widow for many years, I sat beside her bed and stroked her arm and held her hand until the wee hours of the morning.  The night finally passed, I showered and dressed… the summer dawn unfurled rosy tendrils across the cerulean blue and revealed in its palm her final minutes. My sisters and I listened to her labored breathing…and I, perched on the foot of the bed,  instinctively reached out and lay my hand on her leg.  So much transmitted through that laying on of hand — love, sorrow, and, paradoxically, release.  Touch was the only means of communication left to us as the gulf between life and death widened and she finally pulled away. Then she was gone.

But, these two hands have touched life too…as when they first put my son and daughter in my arms…I remember examining each incredibly tiny wrinkled hand with the tip of my finger.  I traced each little face…outlining sweet lips and lingering over each button nose. Memory provides timeless afternoons with sweaty restless toddler hands in mine as we  waited to cross the street or anxiously clutching hands as we walked into the lobby of the elementary school for the first time.  My hands have cooled feverish foreheads, wiped away angry hot tears and rubbed bowed backs wracked with relentless coughing from asthma or pneumonia…my fingers have swept bangs out of eyes, coaxed a smile out of a frown, and written, “I love you” countless times in equally countless games of paddy-cake.

My mind has wondered at the power of touch, even that of a stranger’s, when a few months ago I awaited surgery.  Once wheeled into the operating room, there were the introductions — faces swimming in and out of my dull vision — and then, as I began to sink into the pillow of anaesthesia…I felt the comforting weight of a hand on my leg.  A gesture that communicated reassurance, connection and the unspoken, “It’s okay to let go, we’ve got you.”  And, as I released into the ether, it was with a calm assurance that I was neither alone nor insignificant.  The touch of a stranger, whether intentional or not, conveyed great peace to a lone voyager trekking into the unknown.

Of course, the powerful need for connection is not reserved only for humans.  Pulling into the driveway last Friday, I was impressed with the ease of my three-hour drive.  Another week of treatment behind me, I was ready to celebrate my return home. I had barely dropped my bags inside the front door when I discovered that our little dog Miguel was not doing well.  Only a few minutes with him revealed a situation I knew was beyond my ability.   My husband met me at the vet’s. However, it was a situation beyond their limited capabilities as well.  On to the animal hospital we sped…another hour in the car.  All the while, both of us not speaking what our sinking hearts already knew…  After the vet and technicians respectfully left us to have a few quiet minutes to say goodbye, we stroked his still silky coat and gazed into his sad brown eyes, whispering how much we were going to miss him — yes, even the barking — and how we loved him so.  We stayed with him, and lay our hands on him while the vet administered the dose that would cause him to slip into that sleep from which he would not return.  In that moment, I reached out and held his little paw until the young vet looked up with tears in her eyes to let us know that he was gone…but, she didn’t have to…we already knew.

On the way home, I held my husband’s hand…two hands resting together in sorrow, in comfort and in support.

I glance at my hands from time to time…they look so much like my mother’s.  It reminds me I am a product of her, and though she has sailed beyond, I am a continuation of her, and yet…they are my hands, unique to me with their own history to tell.

My hands have touched both life and death…and everything in between…soothing hands, joyful hands, loving hands, worried hands, angry hands, pleading hands….hands that have sought to heal others, hands that are learning to heal myself.  Hands that have wriggled to be free, hands that have held on for dear life…hands that have gently cradled the swaddled body of a yawning newborn stretching tiny fists upward like a flower opening to the world … hands that have tenderly released the souls of loved ones like once-captive chickadees into the infinite cerulean blue.

“If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all ok
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I will not be made useless
I won’t be idled with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken…
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees and I will pray
I will get down on my knees and I will pray
I will get down on my knees and I will pray
My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken”


“Hands” as written by Jewel Kilcher, Patrick Leonard

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

Lyrics powered by LyricFind


2 thoughts on “God’s Hands

  1. You are my in-spi-ra-tion. Christine! Sung to a tune from one of our favorite Rock and Doris movies! I read with tears, the passing of your Dad, Mom and now little Miguel. Having gone through that with my beloved Kiki just a few months ago, I understand that heartache that comes with the passing of one of our furry loved ones. Love you! Mean it! and you cant do a dang thing about it! 🙂

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