By Christine O'Brien
When my parents were old I went to visit them several days every month. They had taken up my Quaker practice of holding hands in silence before meals. Every meal as I held my father's hand in one hand and my mother's hand in the other, I felt intense gratitude that in this moment, at least, I was able to hold their hand. Each time, I remembered the flow and impermanence of all things of this earth.
For her last Mother's Day I made Mama's card, beginning with Psalms 139:7,9-10:
Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?
Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I take the wings of the morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there thy hand shall lead me,
And thy right hand shall hold me,
Happy Mother's Day dear Mama - whose hand will always hold me.
As she died, I held her right hand, feeling as the warmth left her body, studying the precious, familiar hand for the last time until they took her.
I don't think there is lasting safety in the things of this world. If we are lucky we have moments of gratitude, wonder, joy and love, and we know that something holds us until we sleep.
Published in What Canst Thou Say? in Winter 2003