Grandpa, some ninety plus years old, sat feebly and crooked on the patio bench. He didn’t move and just sat there with his head down, staring at his hands. When I sat down beside him, he didn’t acknowledge my presence.
The longer I sat, I wondered if he was okay. Finally, not really wanting to disturb him, but wanting to check on him at the same time, I asked, “Are you okay, Grandpa?”
He raised his head and looked at me and smiled.
“Yes, I’m fine,” he said in a clear strong voice. “Thank you for asking,”
“I didn’t mean to disturb you, Grandpa,” I explained to him, “But you were just sitting here staring at your hands, and I wanted to make sure nothing was wrong.”
“Have you ever looked at your hands?” he asked in his shaking voice, . . . “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 he was trying to make.
Grandpa smiled and related this story to me:
“Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have and how they have served you well throughout your years. My hands, though wrinkled, shriveled, and weak, have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out to grab and embrace life’s opportunities and adversities.
They braced and caught me when as a toddler when I had continued to fall upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and pulled clothes over my back. As a child, my mother had taught me to fold these hands in prayer.
They tied my first shoes when I was young and pulled on my boots when I found my first job. Then later they held my rifle while they wiped my tears away when I left your grandmother to go off to war to defend our country.
They have been dirty, scraped raw, swollen, and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. With one finger decorated with a wedding band, they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special.
They wrote the letters home and walked your mother down the isle. And they trembled and shook when I had to buried my parents and later your grandmother. Yet, they were strong and sure when I dug my buddy out of a foxhole and lifted a plow off of my best friend’s leg.
They have held children, consoled neighbors, and shook their fingers in a fist when some people called me an extremist for flying the American flag on my home. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, and dried and raw.
And to this day when not much of anything else of me really works well, these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of the life I’ve had to live.
But more importantly, it will be these hands that God will reach out to and take when He soon leads me home. And with these hands, He will lift me to His side, and there I will use these hands to touch the face of His son.”
Since hearing his words, I have never looked at my hands the same way again. But I remember when God later reached out and took my grandpa’s hands and led him home.
Now when my hands are hurt or sore, or when I stroke the face of my children and wife, I think of grandpa’s words of gentle, loving wisdom to take nothing for granted . . . even these hands.