Look, Nana, No Hands
This is an excerpt from the eulogy I'll be delivering at my grandmother's funeral this afternoon:
"I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
I will always remember Nana's hands.
She has a shelf full of them – ceramic and glass hands, all in different positions. Some look like they're praying. Some look like they're giving, and others are receiving. The rest appear to be holding, loving, caressing, or leading. This shelf full of collectibles will serve as a visible reminder to me of the intangible things her hands did over the years.
When I was younger, her hands would hold books as she visited me and read to me in my room on my big-boy bed. When I would visit her, she would use those hands to get out her toy collection, reserved especially for the grandkids when they visited. Her hands made sandwiches, played cards, held cut glass, and decorated dollhouses. Even at my young age, I would imagine what those hands had done over the years.
And even now, I marvel at the years that were packed into those hands. She was a mother to eight kids, a wife for 68 years, and a friend to many. I could only imagine the things those hands did that I never would: hop on a streetcar, use a washboard, or dial the operator.
For Nana, those hands served as an extension of her heart. Whatever role Nana played in our lives, those hands meant love. They might have meant the tough love of discipline when you disobeyed your mother. They might have meant the sweet love of a grandmother when she offered you candy or other 'happys.' They might have meant the tender caress only a wife can give, or a gentle touch that only a friend can show.
As she got older, Nana couldn't use those hands to bring out the toys, to hold the books, or play cards with me like she used to. But she still loved – with no hands.
We all liked to ride bikes when we were younger and shout to whoever was watching: "Look! No hands!" In a similar vein, Nana flipped the tables of time, and in a sense shouted to us, those she loved the most: "Look! I can still love you with no hands!"
As arthritis rendered those hands nearly ineffective, I made sure to use mine more and more. On several visits, I would sit and listen to the stories that made her who she was, and write down those stories to remember for days like today and all the tomorrows that follow.
She ended one story with, "If you are a Davidson, you can say to yourself, 'This, too, will pass.'"
And so we must say that today. Because we are all Davidsons. We are people who will honor the legacy of Nana's hands by using our own. Nana challenges all of us love as she did – using two hands to show the overflow of love from a big heart. The best way to preserve Nana's memory is to love those around us. Love them with vibrant actions and kind words. Love others with a listening ear and a wise counsel. Love everyone with blind compassion and unconditional affection. Because the only way you can truly touch someone's heart is not with your hands, but with your heart – like Nana did.