Until she was dying, I didn’t know that my mother hated her hands. She considered them ugly. In reality, they were small and pretty; the hands of an artist. Perhaps it is what they did that made them ugly. But we never talked about that. Not even at the end.
I remember exactly where I was when we received the news my mother had pancreatic cancer.
I immediately felt such love and compassion for her, as did my sister. My brother’s reaction was not so kind. But his reaction was normal. Mine was not.
I often wondered if the world could bear one more story of a child with black and blues. Each time a news story appears about a villainess mother who abuses a child, I can barely watch. I loathe her. I root for justice. I want to jump into that child’s world and rescue them. I want whisper into their ear, “God will help you escape.”
I lived that world. That was my childhood. My story.
My mother was born the oldest of 12 children. Her father was a talented artist but a drunk, plain and simple. That’s what they called it back then. Her mother was schizophrenic, abusive, and bisexual.
The few stories told to me, it is no wonder my mother was… my mother.
I cannot remember a day in my childhood I did not live in fear. A fractured skull at two years old –
a fall down cellar stairs my mother recalled. The doctor told my father ‘someone’ beat me severely.
Third degree burns down my back at toddlers’ age; my mother said I turned the water on in the tub when she left the room. But wouldn’t the burns be on the front? A broken arm at three years old; fell into a hole in the driveway. It goes on.
When I was a teenager, my mother accepted the Lord. That just meant verbal and psychological abuse with God thrown in the mix. After all I was too old to hit.
Over the years, into our adult lives, my sister and I gave our mother two names. On-line Mom who was really sweet and played online scrabble with me and sent fun little emails. The other was Reality Mom. Mean, cynical—the mother I grew up with. A complex, broken woman who would not let anyone in, much less allow God to heal her pain.
Fast forward to my adulthood. Past a few years escaping into the military service. Past a few years of depression and counseling. Years of God’s own hand in my life, weaving, working, healing. Through the proverbial blood, sweat and tears of working out my own salvation. And in the end was the gift. The gift that by allowing God to work in my life for so long, He invisibly strengthened my heart enough to feel nothing but love and compassion for the woman whose hands leveraged such power, pain and sorrow enough to haunt my dreams and bruise my soul..
I held those hands as she lay suffering terribly. I kept them warm. Put lotion on them if they were dry. Held them if she was sad. Held them because I could. And she felt loved. And that is how we parted.
No closure was needed. No verbal apologies. God molded my heart all those years and prepared me.
With His hands.