I was reminded tonight of something I have long thought about. That being how much our hands and our feet are connected to life and to what makes us human. To what sets us apart as being in the image of God. Today our parish held the funeral for a little girl who was the victim of a miscarriage at twenty-four weeks. Bella Rose the family named her. She is the sister of a boy who has played baseball for me for four summers. Bella was not destined to live as the week prior doctors discovered that her brain cavity was almost completely empty. “When she comes, she comes” was all they could tell the family. And so they began preparations for the funeral of a babe still breathing in the womb. So she came, hours after it was revealed that she had already ceased to live. Twelve inches. One pound, one ounce. Those who attended the rosary the night before the funeral made remarks to me tonight about her perfect little hands and feet as seen from the tiniest of coffins.
Minutes after our miscarriage six July’s ago I held the lifeless body, only inches long, of our baby who was a mere eleven weeks from conception. While sitting on the edge of my bed I wept with a wave of emotion the likes of which I’ve only experienced thrice before, the second being at the funeral of a close friend a mere forty-eight hours earlier. But both before and after that wave I remember marveling at the little hands and feet. I counted ten fingers…ten toes. Perfect hands and feet on a child we named Nathan. Hands that would never clutch my own. Would never toss me a ball. Feet that would never stumble uncertainly towards me while learning to walk. Such loss. Such a black wave. It regathered its strength and washed over me again and again as I brushed my finger against the delicate, still toes and fingers.
On December 7, 1983, we lost Tom to a car accident after school. It is here that I experienced the black wave for the first time. The only images I recall from the rosary the night before the funeral are of my high school algebra teacher kneeling behind me and profusely sobbing. A memory of shuffling by his coffin to say goodbye to my best friend; the friend I shared all but one class with that year, and noticing his hands. I stopped and stared at them. I remember that I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to. I couldn’t stop looking at his hands. These are hands that will forever clutch his beloved rosary in death. Hands forever fifteen. Tom would have turned 41 this March 21st.
The hands of Bella, Nathan and Tom. Hands that will never fold themselves in prayer. Hands that will never pass over their rosary in meditation. Hands that will never shake another in friendship. Hands that won’t be a channel for God in writing a sonnet. A story. A love letter. Or wash the feet of an unworthy servant as Our Lord did on the night of his Last Supper.
From the intercessions during Morning Prayer in today’s Divine Office we read:
Christ our Lord came among us as the light of the world, that we might walk in his light, and not in the darkness of death.
I could write a small book about the imagery surrounding our hands and our feet and how they signify life. Study iconography. Observe Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son. They are in the sandaled and dusty feet of Jesus as he walked throughout the holy land performing miracles with the touch of his hands. Hands and feet that were to be pierced by nails in the must humiliating and painful of manner. But for now I write simply of observations made during three occasions in which the hands and feet were rendered still.
Ours are not. Not yet. Ours are to be put to use. To walk in the light, not in the darkness.
And so I ask of you…and of me…how are you using yours?
Your Hands. And feet.
©2009 Jeff A Walker. All Rights Reserved.