My mom never liked her hands. She said they were too big to be attractive and she was embarrassed to admit her ring size. She would find it ironic that her hands and all their gifts are what I cherish most in my memories of her. For me, Mom's hands were the embodiment of her strength...and mine.
Those hands wiped tears, soothed fevered brows, applauded every childhood accomplishment, and guided my own smaller hands in learning. Those hands taught me to cook...how to stir and fold and knead and cream and baste, how to thicken gravy and judge the consistency of bread dough by feel. Those hands and arms never failed to offer a heartfelt embrace. Having lost her own mother as a toddler, Mom knew there was no greater gift than a mother's touch and she was generous with hers. The gifts of my mother's hands shaped me first as a girl, then as a woman, and ultimately as a mother myself. Even now, I have only to close my eyes and remember the feel of those hands to draw on the wellspring of strength, knowledge, and skill that was my mother's legacy, nurturing me in my life and comforting me after her death. As a daughter, I think of her each day; as a mother, I try to follow her example. I tell my own children that if I've done my mothering job well, they will hear my voice in their heads long after I'm gone...it'll be up to them to decide if that's good or bad.
My mom's last years were not easy. She suffered first the loss of my Dad, then her vision, her health, and finally her independence. On the night she died, I sat by Mom's side and told her it was OK to let go, that her job was well done and she could rest. The last thing I did for her was to polish her nails. While Mom never liked her hands, she was quite proud of her lovely fingernails and always took great care with them. Silly as it seems, I couldn't bear the thought of her leaving this world without her signature manicure...a small tribute to all those hands had given me.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I miss you and your beautiful hands.