Day Eight: Her Hands

When my Mom was first admitted to the hospital on June 18, my sisters and I took turns holding her hand.
She recently had a manicure, her fingernails neatly painted pearly peach, her cuticles trim and clean. It made me smile to think of my Mom sitting comfortably while someone pampered her, something she rarely did but thoroughly enjoyed. So when it was my turn to hold Mom's hand, I lightly massaged her palm and fingers. Sometimes she would squeeze my hand back to let me know that she was aware of my presence.

Sometime during that first long night (Liza and I took the first night shift to watch over my Mom), I noticed how much my own hands resembled hers. I laughed a little because I always thought that I had my Dad's hands and feet. But it made sense that I would have my crafty Mom's hands. And after all the crazy crafty things I've made, my Mom was always the one who cast an appreciative eye rather than raise a skeptical eyebrow. I thought that I would share this with my Mom and sisters in the morning, and kept it to myself.

But also sometime during that first long night, something drastically changed, and she stopped squeezing back.

As the hours passed and the reality of her condition sunk in, we started holding and touching other parts of her: her legs, her feet, her hair, her cheeks, her elbows. Whatever part of her that was free from tubes and needles were touched and caressed and kissed.  When it came to her hands, I put them to my face and wept into them. I cradled them in my own hands, and took mental pictures of them, storing the images deep in my head and heart. These were the hands that made my First Communion gown, Liza's prom dress, and the bead work on Elle's wedding dress. These were the hands that made wonton soup every New Year's Eve, popcorn shrimp for my high school graduation party, and arroz caldo soup whenever I asked. My Mom's hands were precious things to me, and I needed to remember what they looked like next to mine. Because my hands are my Mom's hands.

When her heart finally stopped beating and the tubes were taken away, we were able to hug her one last time. I put her hands around me and pretended that she hugged me back. I tried to remember the last real hug she gave me, on Easter Sunday a few months back. She was happy we were all together then, and although I didn't know it then, so was I.