Mama’s Hands

Mama’s Hands

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Mama’s Hands

A few days ago I stood outside an intensive care unit, a stranger looking in, and saw my mother for the first time in five years. I watched as she lay there so helpless and fragile and tried to remember what had made us turn our backs on thirty-three years of love. Later, when I was sure she wouldn’t know, I went to her bedside and touched her hand. Even after five years I could have picked that hand out of a thousand. I have felt the love in her hands so many times . . . when they brought me out of emergency surgery, she laid her hand on my cheek and I knew in that instant, without opening my eyes, that she was there. I knew that everything would be okay. When my father was dying, Mama’s hands reached across his bed and gave me the strength to face what lay ahead. Mama’s hands were always there to nudge me when I hesitated and to catch me when I fell. Of all the hands in the world, I knew hers. There was a lifetime of love and strength and giving in those hands. To feel Mama’s hands reach for me just one more time and to give back to her all that she had given to me, would calm the storm that raged in my heart.

My mother had suffered a massive aneurysm. She was semi-conscious and could not speak. On the night before she was to have surgery, she indicated she would see me. As I approached the bed, I was so afraid of hurting her, but I had to connect with her just one more time. Standing by her bed holding her hand, I believe she knew it was me by her side. She squeezed my hand tightly, and tried to sit up as if she were reaching for me. When she lay back, a single tear escaped and slid down her cheek, bearing silent witness to all that we had lost.

I hope she heard all the things I told her in the last three days that we were together. I held her hand and told her how foolish we were to let pride destroy the extraordinary bond that we had shared as mother and daughter. But most of all I told her that I loved her, and that I had never stopped loving her. When I held her hand to my cheek and closed my eyes, all the noises and smells of the hospital faded and I was a little girl again. Sitting on the bed watching my mother paint her nails, I knew in my little girl’s heart that she was the most beautiful mother in the world and that I did not have to be afraid as long as she loved me. But when I opened my eyes, I was afraid because I knew I was losing her and I was never going to feel the love in Mama’s hands again.

Families in the ICU form a common bond born of sudden pain, sorrow and sometimes, tremendous loss. Usually when your eyes meet theirs, all you can give is a quick smile before you look away. It is just too much to hold their gaze and see your own reflected pain.

The day my mother died, a new family came into the ICU. It was apparent that their tragedy was untimely and heart wrenching. Their story was told in the lost expression on the little girl’s face clinging to her grandfather in confusion, not understanding why her mother was there. When her frightened eyes found mine, I did not turn away. I could hold the gaze of that little girl, because in my heart that night, I was that little girl.

As we stood in the hallway, her grandfather stopped to talk to us, his eyes wet with tears; it was his daughter, the little girl’s mother, who was fighting for her life. Yet he put aside his pain to offer comfort and to pray with us. Through the night, if he saw us outside the doors, he would stop and ask how my mother was, and to see how we were doing.

Sometime during the last six hours we were together, Mama’s hands showed me the way again. I realized that whatever had kept us apart for all those years didn’t matter, we had never stopped loving each other. Our lives had come full circle. Mama’s hands had welcomed me into this world and guided me through all the years of my life. Now, holding her hand to my cheek, my tears washing over it, I sent with her all the love of a little girl and the grown woman I had become, as she moved on. At last, I felt the storm that had raged for so long in my heart grow still.

As I fled the ICU, I ran straight into the arms of my husband. Blinded by tears, I did not see the little girl’s grandfather approach and put his arms around us both. Not long after, I heard a terrible cry in the hallway, and I knew another little girl had lost her mother that night.

I hope that two souls met on their way to Paradise that night: One a sixty-seven-year-old woman who had seen life come full circle, and the other a twenty-six-year-old woman for whom the circle had been broken, so that Mama’s hands were there to guide and give strength for the journey that lay ahead.

Beth Crum Sherrow

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