I looked at my hands, wishing they were young, slender and beautiful like they were when I was young. The longer I looked; I began to think of my mother’s hands. They were so beautiful, even at the age of seventy-six. They were hands that loved me, hands that cared for family, home, and hearth her whole life. Every floor she scrubbed, diaper she changed, dish she washed, meal she prepared, were represented in the hands that I knew so well. Every time she felt my forehead for a fever, every time she held my hand or touched my face, the last time she touched my face, the last time she held my hand so tight, it was all there.
I looked at my hands again, and I saw her hands in front of me. My hands have raised five kids, changed countless diapers, scrubbed floors, washed dishes, prepared meals. My hands have lovingly cared for residents in the long-term care facility that I worked at for sixteen years. My hands have lived a life, loved so much. They’re beautiful.
Brandi Carlile recorded a song, and there is a part that resonates so powerfully each time I hear it.
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
Yes, every line around my eyes (“crow’s feet?” What a horrible term!), speaks of a lifetime filled with laughter. They speak of smiles shared with my family, friends, and strangers. The furrows between my brows tell stories of worry for my children from when they were young until now, worry for my loved ones, pain that comes with saying “goodby” to people I’ve loved deeply, surviving trauma, hurt that is simply part of life, making mistakes and living through them, forgiving myself. I work a little bit harder at loving the face I see in the mirror, loving every line. I’ve earned them all, they’re part of who I am, and they tell my story.
Vanity has found me coming up short, measuring myself with impossible expectations. I imagine we all find ourselves there. But again, every once in a while, I notice features that resemble my mama’s, expressions that mirror hers. She was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Part of her is there in my face, my hands. I’ve got to embrace that beauty, celebrate that beauty as I did hers.
We are all our own worst critics. I’m learning to give myself a break, see myself through the eyes of a daughter who watched her mother in awe of her beauty. Appreciate the last time she touched my face and spoke the last words I ever heard her say, “I love you, honey. I love you so much.” The last time her beautiful hand grasped mine and didn’t let go for the longest time. I was on the edge of a chair leaning forward and holding her hand. She didn’t let go, and I wasn’t about to move, break the spell. I didn’t want to ever let go. My back began to ache; yet I held on.
These hands of mine sit at a keyboard, allowing me to pour out stories, the stories of who we are, how we got to where we are, and feel drawn back to writing about. Life is good, and when it’s really good, appreciate the evidence of that in your face. When you look at your hands, see the beauty that tells of the love you’ve given with them. Remember the stories they tell. Live the life you desire, smile at strangers, laugh with abandon, love without hesitation, and appreciate the evidence of that. Embrace the beauty you possess at every chapter of life. Be tender with yourself. See your story. Life is brilliant, as is the evidence we wear, the beauty of life well lived.