No one ever had hands like Grandmommy’s hands. Their frail, gnarled appearance in later years belied their power. We, however, all knew that they were magical. Grandmommy’s hands nourished us. From her famous Christmas Tenderloin to frozen Ore-Ida crinkle fries, she filled us with good things. As children we would joke that her food was so good because her fingertips had special little juices that went into everything she cooked. She’d call it “an extra bit of love.” Later we’d follow her recipes to the letter, but no one could ever replicate those delicacies.
Grandmommy’s hands were patient: At church, they tickled little backs, turning squirmy fannies into well-behaved children. They procured all kinds of gifts from that bottomless purse: paper and pencils to draw on, Cepacol cough drops that would put an end to the pitifully faked “ahems” of little throats.
And Grandmommy’s hands were fireproof: we watched with awe as she reached into the fireplace and adjust a lit log that had fallen over. She took the hot melty cheese toast out of the toaster oven with her bare fingers. It was like having Swiss Army knives at the end of your arms, making both tongs and spatulas obsolete.
As the years went by, though, those hands needed a little bit of help. Those of us who once benefited from their blessings were now able to lend a hand: cutting up food, tucking in a napkin (despite the smirk of protest). In a small way, it was a return on a debt that could never ever be fully repaid.
What I learned from those hands is something that I’m just now figuring out how to put into words. Those loving hands once held me as a baby. They encouraged and corrected me as a young child, especially sitting in a corner pew in this very place, loving the songs and struggling to sit still during sermons. It was those Sunday moments of endless care and attention that began my love affair with the church and led me, eventually, toward my calling to ministry – a fact that Grandmommy always seemed more than a little surprised to realize.
What I have learned through the years is that, hidden just behind those magical hands, were the hands of the one who created her and called her into being and loved her and nurtured her and whose Spirit flowed through her love and nurture of others. Grandmommy’s hands lie still now, and she is at peace. But those heavenly hands are still very much at work. They continue to work their magic, nourishing and nurturing, exhibiting love and patience, inspiring awe. They surround us now as we weep and mourn. And they point the way forward as we remember and celebrate, as we see the trace of those fingers across a life well-lived, and as we carry on the legacy that has been handed on to us.