A Lifetime of Stories in the Palm of a Hand
Mom’s taken to examining her hands lately. Advanced dementia refracts her perception and she can’t grasp that those almost-ninety-four-year-old palms and fingers belong to her. Yet those hands hold a lifetime of stories. With her cognitive filter eroded I wonder if, on some level, she sees more clearly, even if she can’t express it.
Those hands have never been idle. She and her younger siblings toiled on farms to contribute to the family coffers as soon as they were able. She worked her way through a demanding nursing education, including a post-graduate degree. Once married, she and Dad cultivated their dreams on a bedraggled fruit farm, nurturing it to maturity and viability. She returned to part-time nursing to do the work of her heart—and pay the bills. At the same time, she filled an essential role on the farm and raised six active children, all of whom participated in extra-curricular activities. Later, she joined in medical missions delivering eye care in Latin and South America.
Sitting together quietly, I watch her quizzical gaze move to her hands as they catch her attention. I contemplate the wrinkles as a roadmap and ask if she realizes how many people have benefitted from their touch? How many peaches have those hands packed? What about those Saturday morning marathon baking sessions? How many Zwieback (Mennonite buns) have those hands pummelled and formed? How many weeds did they pull from her beloved flower gardens? What have those hands done—or not done—that she regrets?
She was never given to deep introspection, at least not conveying it, and shrugs my question off, much like she would have were she fully lucid. Even though her response is incomprehensible, I like to imagine she takes some of it in and considers how much of a difference those hands have made in making a better world. Maybe it’s more that I want her to know it.
And then I open my palms and imagine my life’s roadmap. How have my hands contributed? Are they doing what they’re meant to do? Are they making the world a better place for current and future beings?
Hands deliver the work of our head and heart. They help us maintain balance by giving and receiving. We can never know how far their touch has reached but we can know with certainty that if we follow our inner guidance, our hands, decorated with scars, blemishes, and wrinkles, tell a lifetime of stories.