A week from today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 88. This is a poem I wrote shortly after her death. It is my tribute to her on her birthday.
My Mother’s Hands
By Jean Fitch Justice
My mother’s hands were graceful ‘til the End.
After her sight dimmed,
her memory fractured,
her hearing diminished,
her sense of taste and smell died,
her strength left,
her voice rasped,
her muscles atrophied,
her hold on reality unraveled,
After so much of life had abandoned her,
Her hands were graceful ‘til the End.
Those last few days, her hands were seldom still.
She lifted her arms and linked her hands
as if she embraced someone dear.
Her slender fingers worked busily at unknown tasks.
Was she folding laundry?
Was she preparing dinner?
Was she sorting papers?
Was she searching for all she had lost?
Those of us who loved her stayed by her side.
We held her hands.
We spoke soothing words.
We moistened her lips.
We synchronized our breath with hers
Willing her to let go,
to simply stop,
to follow her sight,
In the End, I held her hand
and sang the songs she had taught me,
wetting each word with tears.
In the Beginning, she was present for my first breath,
she whose heartbeat was my own,
she whose voice sang to me before birth,
she who loved me first and longest
though perhaps not best.
In the Beginning, we two were one.
In the End, I watched her leave this world
with wonder and grief.
I held her still graceful but now stilled hands in mine.
I traded my first breath for her last
And she was gone.
October 27, 2012