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 alright. She raised her head, looked at me and smiled. ‘Yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking,’ she said in a clear, strong voice.
‘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 continued, ‘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’ve used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.
‘They braced and caught my fall when, as a toddler, I crashed to the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to kiss the mezuzah with them, and to cover my eyes for Krias Shema. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They wiped my tears when my husband went off to war.
‘They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band, they showed the world that I was married and loved by someone special.
‘They wrote my letters, and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and my spouse.
‘They cradled my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn’t understand. They’ve covered my face, combed my hair, washed and cleansed the rest of my body.
‘And to this day, when not much of anything else of me works real well, these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to cover my eyes for Krias Shema.
‘These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life. But more importantly, it will be these hands that will reach out toward the Olam HaEmes, when the time comes for me to go home.’
I will never look at my hands the same way again. I remember when my Grandma reached out toward Gan Eden, when Hashem called her home. When my palms are hurt or sore, when I hold the hand of a friend, or when I stroke the faces of my children, I think of Grandma.