A Mother’s Cradle
It’s not always easy to see what’s hidden in the depths of a person’s heart; it’s tucked way inside the drawers of our chest, after all, where it lies guarding the soul’s hidden treasures with every fierce beat it makes. Yet some of that precious cargo within can be gleaned from the outside... if you know where to look for it.
Paulo Coelho wrote, “The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden.” I say, look at the hands of a mother, and there you will see all that fills her heart.
I have to warn you though. It’s not a simple process. It requires a keen eye, one that can see beyond the skin and delve into the depths within. And it demands quite a bit of courage, because there’s so much to see when you get there.
As I look back on myself as a child of eight years taking one last look at her mother lying in a glass-topped bed before saying goodbye forever, I remember her beautiful, peaceful face, but the vision that remains vividly etched in my mind is that of her hands. One folded over the other, with a rosary entwined through the fingers, her hands spoke of a life spent in service and in love. They weren’t very pretty, not with the years of work they put in. But to me, they were my mother’s hands. And they were resplendently beautiful.
Today I am older than my mother was back then. And like hers, my hands are not very pretty. They’re veiny and just a wee bit stubby and quite a bit roughened by years of labor. But they’re mine and they’ve raised five boys, and I must admit that I am quite fond of them. Because when I look at my hands, I see reflected in them layers upon layers of a life spent living the gift of motherhood.
These hands have stories to tell. Taken one by one, these stories are little snippets, nothing headline-worthy really. But shaken and sifted and stirred together, these stories form an epic novel of a mother’s love, a love story crafted specially for her children:
These are the hands that reached out for you, when you were a freshly delivered squalling babe bundled in softly-faded hospital blankets. They cradled you and held you gently amidst whispered professions of love and fervent promises of lifelong lion-fierce protection.
These are the hands that fed you and bathed you and rocked you to sleep when you were plagued by colic or awakened by a moonlit nightmare.
These are the hands that supported you firmly as you took your very first step, ready to catch you at any moment you should falter, and boosting you through each pace you took, from that wobbly walk to the more confident run and sprint and jump.
These are the hands that wiped your tears, your spilled milk, the sweat from your back when you came in from playing under the afternoon heat of the sun.
These are the hands that dipped with yours into poster paint to create shared masterpieces, that shaped play dough into funny creatures, that built Lego castles and took them apart so we could build something else all over again.
These are the hands that applied cotton balls soaked in Betadine to scraped knees, that plastered Band-Aids lovingly on wounds, that measured the solution for the nebulizer so you could breathe more easily on the nights your chest was stuffed and breathing was difficult.
These are the hands that poured milk into your cereal, that shaped burger patties into balls and grilled them over fire, that wrapped your sandwiches in Ziploc ready for you to unwrap at recess the next day at school.
These are the hands that held you tight when you screamed at the sight of the syringe, vaccine after vaccine, year after year… and even when your screams turned into quietly-tensed shoulders, still they held you, letting you know that it was okay to hate injections.
These are the hands that applied gel to your hair so you could look cool, then sprinkled it with water because you said the style wasn’t quite right, then reapplied gel again till you nodded your nine-year-old head in approval.
These are the hands that administered discipline always tempered by love, because you needed to remember that hitting your younger brother wasn’t okay, that answering back in that tone wasn’t okay, that bending the truth wasn’t okay. (You need to know a secret: they always hurt more than the slight sting they delivered).
These are the hands that tickled you and ruffled your hair and tweaked your nose and squeezed your cheeks, just because it made you erupt in giggles and merry laughter.
These are the hands that gestured forcefully to punctuate words of defense against any who dared accuse you unjustly. That grabbed you when you were about to tumble and hurt yourself. That squeezed all their strength into you and set your shoulders straight and steeled your nerves when you needed confidence and a little push in the right direction.
These are the hands that typed in practice tests for you late at night every exam week so you could review thoroughly and do your best in school. These are the hands that clapped and cheered and pumped in the air when you took home a perfect test, when you conquered that fear, when you walked onto the stage and took a bow.
These are the hands that embraced you and held you tight when you staunchly tried to pretend that she didn’t succeed in breaking your heart.
These are the hands that clicked the shutter to freeze precious moments so that you could have pictures to look back on one day when you reminisce on our lives spent together.
These are the hands that to this very day secretly caress your face while you dream dreams at night, pressing a Sign of the Cross on your forehead along with a prayer for your guardian angel to keep watch over you till morning comes.
These are the hands that fold in prayer, every morning and every night and every moment in between, asking for all that you need to keep you hale and whole in body, heart, and soul.
These are the hands that painfully but gently let go when you needed to step out on your own and begin to live your own life.
And even having let go, these are the hands that will always remain open to you, ready to welcome you back, to embrace you and hug you and wrap you in the warmth and affection that only a mother’s hands can give.
These are my hands. And they hold in them a heart filled with immense gratitude, fierce protection, and infinite love for you.
One day these hands will be even less pretty, covered in wrinkles and probably shaky with age, but they will always, always be a cradle for you, no matter how old you are. They are your mother’s hands, and they will forever be yours.
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