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My Mother’s Hands

Loss, Hospice, Covid, letting go.

These Hands...

These hands....

Born 2 pounds and something in 1944. Told by my grandmother to take her home and make her comfortable. So she pinned her to a pillow and made up her own formula. And she thrived.

They were the first to touch me after I’m sure the doctor and the nuns at Mount Mary did. And they never let go

Every bath. Every bottle. Every plate of food. Every cold or ache. Every walk up Baker Hill when she was pregnant and I was little and we’d stop along the way and sit in the shade and she would say we’re almost there baby. I remember before my sister was even born sitting at the table and not wanting to sit down and eat. She said I have an idea. You get up and run around the apartment and then you have to come back and take one bite. Then you can run around again and come back again. So I did. And I ate. How those hands felt so small as I became an adult and she would hug me tightly. Always with a parting Sweet dreams god bless you I love you. Even to this day.

Those hands that would rock the bed and sing to us at night, “Turn Around” was always our favorite.

Those hands that held a switch that whipped me half a block home when I was seven for throwing mud at a neighbors house. Which I’m sure the neighborhood watched the public flogging thinking it was about time. Or that time I got new glasses and I was an obnoxious 11 or so and we were at our usual Friday grocery store trip and I was acting 11 and I said I hate you and she slapped me on the face and my new glasses slid down the aisle and I said now look what you’ve done you’re going to have to get me new glasses and she said if you talk to me like that again you won’t need any glasses because I’ll slap your eyes out of your head. She was always spot on with the comeback. Two of the most deserved whippings I ever had.

Those hands and finger that pointed at me and said never think you are better than anyone else. That you never judge another person by the color of their skin or any difference. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. It wasn’t just a song. How those hands wiped away tears from her face at The National Holacaist Museum. How she would speak passionately about justice and equality, always reaching out to the underdog, the ones that had no voice.

Those hands that cleaned countless commodes, bathtubs, dishes, floors, windows, mountains of laundry, thousands of miles of sweeping, mopping, scrubbing.

Hands that prepared countless meals that I rarely remember ever eating without a guest when I was growing up. That bathed animals, fed them, nurtured them and loved them.

The hands that changed countless diapers, countless baths, countless bottles. Carresed tiny backs and tiny faces, cooing and kissing and rocking and quietening. Wiped faces and noses. Cuddled tiny bodies against her chest. Held tiny hands tightly in hers walking on the seashore.

Those hands that held a warm cup of tea through countless talks about everything. Science, life, family, memories, meanings. Or in silence watching the ocean crash, the moon shine bright or the sunset change to vivid orange. How the awe and beauty of Gods earth was never lost and always new with wonder. Always holding an unassuming wisdom that would often amaze those that got to know her.

The hands that were recently held up to a storm door with a piece of glass between us to try to meet during a pandemic.

The hands that held a phone sometimes for hours talking to friends, loved ones. Me. Practically every day. Always checking in on me when I traveled. Always calling when I got there safe.

The hands that laughed. To her mouth. To someone’s shoulder. Laughing. Always finding something to laugh about. An absolute endless sense of humor and wit. A legacy that has kept the worst in life not always the worst. And how you can’t always take yourself that seriously. That sometimes our flaws are not only funny and worthy of a good laugh but what makes us unique and beautiful and human.

Those hands that would hold my face and call me precious boy. Like she could still see that brown eyed baby boy she said she prayed for. Her own baby. Her babies. Her reasons to use those hands...

Those hands...Today she passed away quietly, softly, in Hospice care. And it rained.

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Joey Johnson
See all posts by Joey Johnson

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