stacked and held,

matted and framed

hanging on a hook above my bed.

Four hands.  Mine is at the bottom, followed by my grandmother’s, my mother’s, and the tiny newborn hand of my eldest daughter.  When a friend took the picture 8 years ago, I had no concept of the significance it would hold for me in future years when the physical hands would begin to perish.

I miss the hand that covers mine so much.

Those soft hands, weathered from digging into an active life.  I remember how my grandmother didn’t want her hands to be near the top because she thought they looked too aged and wrinkled, so my mom traded hand positions with her.

If only she could have seen the hand that I now see, how each deep line holds a memory… one crease for each of the nine she bore, bathed and fed; one for each meatloaf baked to hot goodness; one for each face massage soothing tired eyes; one for each swim, golf and bridge game; and one for each time those hands folded, head bowed.

I love how I can glance at this photo daily and see the new dimensions it seems to carry, as if her life has embedded itself within each tiny pixel.  I’m not going to start worshipping this photograph or anything, for those starting to squirm as they read this, but for the first time I understand why, for centuries,  humankind has erected statues in honor and remembrance of both the mortal and Divine.

There is something in these objects that not only remind, but that teach and shed light.  I have vivid memories of walking past ornate statues and stained-glass windows while on a mission trip to Venezuela when I was 15.   I was there with this conservative, Protestant organization.  We’d pass these gorgeous Latino churches, many of them Catholic, and the group leaders would get nervous and say things like “Careful, don’t go in… it’s obvious those warped churches worship statues”, and they truly looked terrified, as if one of the statues might reach out and grab us.

I remember, even as a young teenager, having grown up Catholic and feeling a bit out of place in a Protestant mission group,  thinking it was funny how consumed with judgment and worry one group can be over another group’s spiritual beliefs and practices, though it would take me several more years to see the sadness in it– how easily we discount and criticize what we don’t understand.

Perhaps if the trip leaders had taken Cultural Anthropology or read about how much Indigenous  culture melded into those churches to create those eclectic statues, they would have seen how much history is embedded in art….and how much is lost when we discard people’s stories.

Sometimes we’re so consumed by the wrinkles  that we miss the raw beauty in all those creases.

Thanks, grandma Jean, for your hands that continue to teach me so much.

(re-posted from Joy’s personal blog in honor of Mother’s Day)

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2 thoughts on “Hands

  1. Profound joy sweeps me as I read the legacy a Grandmother can instill. This understanding has indeed taken me a life time to figure out. Now Psalm 71: 17 & 18 is indeed my life verse. Thanks for sharing Joy. I remember seeing that picture right after it was taken and I can’t believe it’s been 8 years already!

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