When I stand at the graveside for an elderly person, I think about the life they have lived, that dash between the birth date and date of death. I think about all they have seen, all they have experienced. And I think about this story that is told:
Grandma, some 90+ 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 was OK.
Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was OK. She raised her head and looked at me and smiled. ‘Yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking,’ she said. ‘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 Ok.’
She asked, ‘Have you ever looked at your hands, 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.
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 ...
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