This week in e-mail, my friend Donna sent a photo of five generations of women’s hands. The photo moved me for many reasons, not the least of which is that the contrast is striking between the first hands and the last. Who knew I would make it to this stage of my life, that I would someday be a grandma. I knew that as a young woman. I just didn’t think it could come about this quickly.

I think it was the Ivory Dish Soap commercial that, when I was growing up, used to show pictures of women’s hands and ask who was twenty-five and who was forty, the implication being that Ivory Soap kept your hands looking young. I remember looking at my hands and thinking how obvious the younger hands were, that certainly my hands would stay young. I believed that until I was forty something and saw my son watching me eat.

“What?” I said as I watched him watch me.

His eyes were bright with tears.

“Oh, Mom,” was his reply. “I saw Grandma’s hands when I looked at yours just now.”

That made me smile. My mother went to be with the Lord some thirteen years ago. Even though I had by then been married almost twenty years, I missed her so! One of the things that I missed was her hand on my forehead when I wasn’t feeling well. I even told the hubby that, as much as I loved him, his hands could never comfort me the way my mother’s had. His hands do comfort, of course, but it was my mom’s that, for the first years of my life, were a refuge in this not-so-perfect world.

My hands are no longer smooth and young-looking. I’ll be fifty-three in ten short days. The veins in my hands often stand out. My skin has acquired a patina, like often polished silver. Yet, to my son, my hands are beautiful, just like my mother’s hands were to me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world who looks in the mirror sometimes and is surprised by the face which greets them there. I am aware of the passage of time. I just didn’t expect it to rush by so fast. In seeing the picture of the generations of hands, though, it was easy to see that there is beauty in every one of those stages as they go by.

Perhaps you have to have some distance, some perspective, such as that in a photo, to see the beauty in them all.

In looking for a source for Donna’s picture, this is the closest I could come. You can see the picture that I received there. Since the poem that accompanies the picture says the author is unknown, I will print it below, just as I found it.


Grandma, some ninety plus 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 in a clear voice strong.

“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,”
I explained to her.

“Have you ever looked at your hands?” she asked. “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 serve our country in time of war.

They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were
uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. The left hand
is 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 my 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 of anything else of me works
real well, but these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue
to fold in prayer.

These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life.

But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out
and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me
to His side and there I will use these hands to touch His Face.

I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God
reached out and took my grandma’s hands and led her home.

When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my
children and husband I think of grandma. I know she has been
stroked and caressed and held by the Hands of God.

I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His Hands upon my face.

When you read this, say a prayer for the people in your family. Those
generations above you and those generations after you and watch
as God’s answers prayers in your life and all of your family’s lives.

Let’s continue always to pray for one another.

— Author Unknown


5 Responses to “Hands”

  1. 1 writeathome February 27, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Great post, Becky! How neat that you can pass on the legacy of the hands to your son. I thought of another poem too that I like as I read this post. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here.

    Tis THE HUMAN TOUCH in this world that counts,

    The touch of your hand and mine,

    Which means far more to the fainting heart

    Than shelter and bread and wine;

    For shelter is gone when the night is o’er,

    And bread lasts only a day,

    But the touch of the hand and the sound of the voice

    Sing on in the soul alway.


  2. 2 Becky February 27, 2008 at 6:42 am

    This is a beautiful poem, Carol. Thanks for sharing it. My younger sister shared a lot of memories of my mom’s hands when she read this, proof that Mom’s hands “sing on” in our souls. I love the imagery!

  3. 3 Lillie February 27, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I feel the same way about my Mom’s hands. 🙂 Happy early Birthday Aunt Becky!

  4. 4 Becky February 28, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks, Lillie. Yours will be here before you know it!

  1. 1 My Grandma’s Hands: Across the Generations & Across the Net « Potential Within: Yoga & Inspiration Trackback on August 16, 2008 at 4:18 pm

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