the sippy spoons

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in
and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better
hour because it is dead.
Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(my grandmother’s silver sippy spoons / Julie Cook /2017)

Our trip to West Palm Beach was long, short, sad and wrenching.
653 miles spent driving down on a Friday…
only to then turn around and drive it all back again on a Monday.

It took about 10 hours, with only one quick stop for gas.
Coupled by a constant flow of bumper to bumper traffic hurling itself,
as if lemmings on some odd unknown mission, to an unforeseen southward destination.

We drove and we drove to what seemed to be the ends of the earth…
but that would have been Key West and that would have required more time with
more stops than our backsides would allow.

The color of the sky changes when one is traveling so far south—
It goes from the more familiar north Georgia’s typical hazy blue sky,
to a faint veiled gauzy cloudy azure blue…
Maybe it’s because the land lays so flat, punctuated only by pencil thin palms
as the soil is more white sand than dirt…
and with the sun so intense, light easily reflects back upon itself.

The heat of day does not dissipate with the waning of a day as it does at home.
It doesn’t back off when the sun finally sets, providing that long awaited
respite of comfort.
There is actually a tremendous heaviness that engulfs one’s whole being…
this being due to the overtly high humidity which makes breathing nearly
impossible.
And I thought our humidity was bad.

Moving from air conditioned buildings, which is essential to survival,
out to the oppressive heat and unrelenting sun leaves glasses fogged over
and skin and clothing feeling sticky and oddly wet even before one has had
proper chance to sufficiently break a true sweat.

This is the place Martha called home for the past 30 years.
A far cry from the years spent in Alexandria, Virginia during the early years of
her marriage.

I now understood why…for despite the apparently tropical beauty,
Martha would always protest…
“no no, let me just come up there”…
And because of that one fact, of her always wanting to come to us as she
would always prefer to venture north,
this was our first visit to West Palm Beach.

Martha would drive or fly up several times during the
year, staying for a couple of weeks at a time,
back to state she still considered home…
or more specifically near the city of her birth and raising….
Atlanta.

I can’t really say all that I should or would like to at this point
about all of this…not yet.
Having lost three of the most important people in my life in the past six months
has simply taken its toll…
As processing the emotions, memories and feelings of such emptiness
will take some time.

One by one… the supports and shorings are now gone…
Those that helped to hold up the life I had always known…
This is part of the transition where I become the shoring to others…
a transition that denotes change, loss, growth and new…
all rolled uncomfortably into one.

My cousin, Martha’s adopted daughter,
had asked that I come to the house the day following the funeral
to see what if anything I would like to carry back home with me.

Martha was an avid antique collector…
and her collections were eclectic at best…
old antique Papier-mâché halloween decorations with a proclivity for pumpkins.
North Carolina’s famous family of folk art pottery, the Meader’s ugly jugs,
along with the primitive pottery of Georgia’s Marie Rogers.
The Ohio Longaberger baskets numbering in the hundreds…
to early vintage RCA radio dogs..
all the way down to antique turkeys of every size and shape.

I was really overwhelmed when we walked into the house and actually saw
the level to which some of the “collecting” had spiraled.
Her house not equipped for the excessive spillover.

My cousin immediately asked if I would like Martha’s sterling silver
flatware set.

Once was a time, long long ago, when every young bride
looked to building her proper entertaining set of silverware.
Receiving the coveted wedding gifts of silver pieces was as common
as the throwing of rice…
That being a particular pattern of sterling silver complete with
utensils and serving pieces.
Everything from teaspoons to seafood forks to butter knives….
As that now all seems to be for a time that was more civilized than
our own today.

But already having my mother’s and great aunt’s sets…and truth be told,
as my world shrinks, entertaining and cooking is now not nearly what it once was,
I tried to instill the importance of her keeping the monogramed set for both her
and her own daughter.

But when she opened the dusty old silver chest, my eyes locked immediately on the
well tarnished bundle of silver drink spoons / straws…
or what we had always referred to as sippy straws or spoons, depending on who
was using them.

While growing up, whenever we visited my grandmother,
we were always served a tall glass of icy cold
Coca Cola complete with a silver sippy straw.

Coke never tasted so good as when sipped through an elegant silver straw.
It provided a seemingly civilized air of savoring verses gulping and quaffing.
Probably Mimi’s way of getting us to slow down, enjoying and not wasting…
as she was a woman who lived during a time when waste was indeed considered sinful.

The straws were always kept in a certain drawer in my grandmother’s kitchen…
inside the 1920s small Atlanta Buckhead home.
A pale wooden light green kitchen cabinet, I can still see clearly in my mind’s eye,
was where the straws, always shiny and polished to perfection, were stored.

In 1989, when my grandmother passed away, Martha and I were the only two left to
the task of sorting and emptying the house for market.
She got the straws.
I had always wanted just one…
just one to remember.

Over the years I’d see other straws at various antique markets and silver stores,
always thinking I’d buy myself just one,
but in the end deciding it just wouldn’t be the same…

It wouldn’t be one of the straws I’d gleefully
retrieve out of the pale green drawer, delightfully anticipating plunging
it into my frosty glass of brown fizzy liquid…
as I’d gently clench the straw between my front teeth,
feeling the cold drawn liquid being pulled up into a parched waiting mouth…
So refreshing because Mimi’s house, back in those days, was not air conditioned…
an icy cold Coke, on a hot Georgia summer’s afternoon,
seemed like the greatest treat a child could have been given…

I asked my cousin if I could have the straws.

She was 10 years younger than I was and did not have the same fond memories
from time spent with our grandmother.
Being so much younger and living so far away, never afforded her much time to
bond with the long widowed woman with the poodles there in Atlanta as I had.

I had been the only grandchild for many years and we only lived 10 minutes away.
Plus Mimi was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother like others and what warmness
there was, faded with her mind as the dementia grew more and more.

My grandmother had lived a hard life.
A life that she had forged alone for herself and her two daughters during
a depression and a World War as a widowed woman…
long before it was common for women to own a business and work outside of
the home.
Both of which she did very successfully for most of her adult life.

My cousin was more than happy to give me the straws and seemed almost
sad that I really didn’t want to take much more as her task is now daunting
as she figures out what to do with years of accumulated treasured stuff.

This as I still have my own years of stuff to sort through at Dad’s.
As both cousins are now left to the task of picking through,
as well as picking up, the pieces—
all of what stays and all of what goes.

My cousin tells me that she wants to sell the house, eventually moving northward
where there are actually seasons, hills and trees…
verses living where the sky meets the ocean coupled by the
oppressive heat, humidity, and an azure blue sky….

I think I’ll polish my straws and then do something I haven’t done in years…
I’ll pour myself a Coke, a real Coke…bottle only mind you,
over a tall glass of ice…and I’ll plunge a straw deep down into the glass of
cold fizzy liquid as I draw up the memories of lives once known but always loved.

when mothballs make me cry

“There’s a tear in my beer
Cause I’m cryin for you, dear
You are on my lonely mind”

Hank Williams


(a sack of bat deterrent, aka mothballs, Julie Cook / 2017)

When mothballs make me cry…

No, I’m not writing a new country song, not about mothballs anyway…
I’m literally talking about real mothballs.

You may recall that I’ve had problems before with bats wanting to roost under
the awning on my back deck…
and since this is where my cat Percy spends most of his daylight hours…
well, I can’t have bats hanging out where we and the cats hang out.

I tried stuffing dryer sheets up in their little crevices,
I tried squirting them with hornet spray…
I tried poking them with a broom…
but they kept coming back—

So I had a brilliant idea.
I’d hang up mothballs.

Well, I suppose I can’t take full credit, I think I read somewhere on
a critter catcher’s website that mothballs were a low tech deterrent.
I wanted to try something humane as I know and appreciate how beneficial bats
are in the yard and poking them with a broom just made them squeak at me and
spraying them with hornet spray is probably not
exactly good for them.

Back early in the Spring, I ventured to Home Depot and bought a box of mothballs.
Once home I hung up two bags on opposite ends of the deck, just under each corner
of the awning, where the bats had hunkered down to spend their days napping.


(my little neighbor who needed to move / Julie Cook / 2016)

Here it is late July and I’ve had nary a bat.
Conclusion….
the mothballs work.

Mothballs are meant to be in sealed-up containers where things like old books
or sweaters are stored as they are actually a pesticide for what else…
sweater eating moths and paper eating silverfish.

The smell is, well, toxic.
Hence why they’re suppose to be in bins and boxes and not necessarily
out for breathing.

But I figure we’re safe as I’ve hung the bags up high and downwind from where we sit.
and in just the right spot to fumigate the hiding nooks of bats.

Mothballs, like dry ice, dissipate over time when exposed to air.
So yesterday I noticed my little mothball sacks were now empty.
Meaning my mothballs had evaporated and I needed some refills.

Another trip to Home Depot and I returned ready to rehang bags of balls.

As I opened the box I was suddenly hit with an overwhelmingly pungent and
most familiar odor.

They say that scent, odor or smell is one of the most powerful triggers for memory.

Suddenly, I was a little girl rummaging back into the deep recesses of my
grandmother’s closet.
She had mothballs strewn all on the floor, in the way back, of her old cavernous
closet. I was immediately informed right fast not to touch the poisonous mothballs.
This being in the home where my mom and her sister Martha had grown up.
My mom and Martha.

Martha….

sigh…..

Seems I can’t even hang up some mothballs without remembering this heavy
heart of mine.


(Mother,the not so happy bride along with her not so happy 13 year old maid of honor..
seems Martha had been obnoxiously silly, embarrassing Mother the night before at the rehearsal dinner, so they weren’t speaking this otherwise joyous June day 1953…sisters….)

Time to que the country music…..

Lord, I’ve tried and I’ve tried
But my tears I can’t hide
You are on my lonely mind.
All these blues that I’ve found
Have really got me down
You are on my lonely mind

Hank Williams

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

transitional nesting

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain,
or help one fainting Robin unto his nest again…
I shall not live in vain

Emily Dickinson


(a quickly snapped photo while mom was out worming / Julie Cook / 2017)

We live in a continuum of both space and time.

As in….
according to Wikipedia for those of us dummies in anything having to do with physics…
as well as in keeping things in a nice simple nutshell:
Space-time is a mathematical model that joins space and time into a single idea
called a continuum.
This four-dimensional continuum is known as Minkowski space.

Combining these two ideas helped cosmology to understand how the universe
works on the big level (e.g. galaxies) and small level (e.g. atoms).

However in my little corner of the world….
this continuum business simply means that there is a constant forward motion of
ever quickening momentum moving hurdling toward some yet unforeseen future…

Take for example the above image of bug eyed baby robins.

On April 14th, I shared a photograph of a nest with 4 beautiful blue robin eggs
looking ever so hopeful as one had the makings of what looked to be a bit of cracking.

Next on April 23rd I shared the shot of a mom robin’s head peering out over the top of
the same nest as she sat intently vigilant.

Today on April 29th I’m sharing an image of the same nest,
the same blue eggs which are now buggy eyed,
downy tufted little robins to be.

My husband and I were a bit fearful that this particular Mrs. Robin may have had a
bum batch of eggs as she has been sitting for quite sometime…
longer then the bluebirds sat.

He had surmised that she looked to be young robin whose time
of motherhood was maybe a bit overstretched, with this being her first clutch of eggs…
but she fooled us, proving she did know what she was doing…as we now have 4
alienesque little heads bobbing up and down in anticipation of a juicy worm.

And as my thoughts are now focused on nests and the comings and goings from such…
I am thinking of my own family’s current revolving door of a nest.

There has been a frantic frenzy taking place at Dad’s this past week.
There have been nurses, caregivers, security system guys, Xfinity guys, phone guys,
me, my son, Gloria’s two children and two grandchildren, her daughter-n-law,
with boxes, bubble wrap, moving blankets, newspaper…
as Gloria, and her time in the house, is currently being purged.

She moves today to North Carolina to be with her daughter.
However…all of that being said, they are known to butt heads…
so we shall see how long NC lasts.

My son already has gallons of paint at the ready.
One of the caregivers is coming next week for the refrigerator and couch.
The Kidney foundation will be coming for some remaining things.
My cousin is coming tomorrow to look over my brother’s old train set down
in the basement.
As Dad had told me, just before he died, to look in the attic for some things that were Mom’s.
All the while as I bundle up books, videos, DVDs, glasses, clothes, sheets, towels….
all for the Goodwill….

For 55 years Dad called this house home.
As the time has now come to pass occupancy over to a new generation…
As we soon look for a different set of movers to be bringing in
my son and his wife’s possessions…

And so with everyone coming and going, I thought it appropriate to add a link to a
previous post written in 2013…
a post which was the harbinger for the transition that has lead us to today…

That being…if a door could talk…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/if-a-door-could-talk/

Totus Tuus / Entirely Yours

Totus Tuus…
The apostolic motto of Pope John Paul II
latin for
Entirely Yours


(a small creek and waterfall runs into a quiet lake cove / Julie Cook / 2017)

My cousin called me this afternoon, checking in on progress.
I ran down my list…with not much progress to report.
My monotone responses probably told him more than any unfinished laundry list could.
He told me to perk up.
Easier said then done when facing a seemingly unmovable wall.

Life right now is still overwhelming but in an entirely different
sort of fashion then from before.

For good or bad my stepmother’s estranged daughter has decided she wants to move
her mother to North Carolina, to be closer to her.
My stepmother’s son, who I have worked closely with over these past two years,
is reluctantly acquiescing to the option.
It’s complicated.
I think that was the title of a recent movie.
I can relate.

They move her next weekend.

They are packing up her little world.
What’s left and what remains of my dad’s world
will wait to be purged once my stepmother is moved.

It only seemed appropriate that she should move first before I “move” Dad.

When the dust settles with all of this,
our son and daughter-n-law will eventually move to the house…
With the house that I called home for 55 of my 57 years,
the place where I grew up, will soon be theirs.

Dad wanted that.

But I’m still jumping through hoops…
As I continue filing papers, waiting on lawyers, waiting to close then open
all sorts of accounts and continue paying exorbitant bills as none of that
goes away when one dies…
I am facing movings, re-movings, packing, repacking, good-byes, hellos…
shifting lives that are not mine but lives I am responsible for or a part of…

My stepmother claims no knowledge of who Dad was.
She told me again today she had no known remembrance of “that man”
“and isn’t that the craziest thing?”
“I can’t believe you all keep telling me I was married to him.”
On and on she goes remembering everything around him but not him.
She even told him this before he died, that she never remembers meeting him.
He stared at her as I had tried telling him this, but he didn’t want to hear it.

Yet she can point out a mirror hanging on the wall in my dad’s bedroom…
a mirror that she wants me now to take down so she can take it with her…
because that mirror has hung in every house she’s ever lived in.

Go figure.

So as I continue wrestling with life…mine and others…
I have found a new book…
or maybe I should say, the book found me.

The book is from the private diaries of Karol Wojtyla—Pope John Paul II

Any of you who know me, know that the late pope has always been very important
to me—ever since I watched him walk out on that balcony overlooking St Peter’s square
in 1978, with arms raised, greeting the world as the first Polish pope.

The title of the book is
In God’s Hands
and it is the spiritual diary spanning approximately 41 years of his priesthood.

The diaries were to be burned upon the Pope’s death but his close aide and confidant
Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz defied that wish as he understood the spiritual
significance of sharing these private thoughts and writings.

They were just recently translated into English and made available to an audience other
than Polish or Italian readers.

The Pope reminded me of something very important, right on the very first page…

“At a certain point, however, one needs to abandon human calculations and
somehow grasp the Godly dimensions of every difficult issue.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the One who is always in control no matter how
out of control we may feel….

Thank you Fr. Wojtyla….

Oh Heavenly Father, may I learn to be…
entirely yours….

Totus Tuus…
Entirely yours

a darker side of play….

“Grown ups are complicated creatures,
full of quirks and secrets.”

― Roald Dahl

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(Gaylord the walking dog circa 1960)

No, this isn’t a tale about child predation or anything as awful or evil as that.

No…. this is actually a story about the naiveté that we use to find in our
favorite childhood toys…
and to what those once happy and comforting memories may be sadly morphing into
during these odd days of the 21st century….

Candice Bergen has often lamented that when she was growing up she was actually
jealous of Charlie McCarthy.
Charlie was the ventriloquist doll, aka “dummy” that her Dad, Edger Bergen,
used during his early days of Vaudeville…
moving to radio and eventually television.
Candice was often introduced to audiences as Charlie’s little sister.

charlie_mccarthy_edgar_bergen_x
(Charlie and Edgar 1938)

Yet there has always been something rather creepy about a ventriloquist’s doll.
Hollywood cemented that notion deep within our psyches with the creation of those
infamous B rated horror flicks featuring the puppets dating back as early as the 1960’s.
Even later with children’s shows such as Goosebumps in the early 1990s,
our need to be creeped out was capitalized on with the notion of a puppet having a mind,
albeit evil, all to itself.

When I was a little girl I had a Chatty Cathy doll.
Not a ventriloquist’s doll, but one that “spoke” none the less.
I don’t really remember her but my Dad tells me about it all the time.
She was a doll who, when a string was pulled, would speak.
An early prototype to a conversing playmate.

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She was large for being a doll and had a complete ensemble of clothes that she could change into
with the aid of her “playmate”…aka me.

Personally I preferred Gaylord.
I actually remember Gaylord…although I am told I referred to him as gayhog….
He was a dog, complete with plastic bone that would stick to his magnetic nose.
Gaylord could actually walk when pulled on a leash.
My love for Gaylord was probably because we didn’t have a dog…

So yesterday afternoon as I was reading the latest headline offering from the BBC, imagine
my alarm over the words “German parents told to destroy “spy” dolls.”

Naturally I opted to read further…

It seems that the latest and greatest “talking” doll Cayla,
which somehow uses the internet in order to “talk,” can be hacked…
Allowing for the doll’s conversing with, say her real-life playmate,
to be anything but innocent or naive.
There could be all sorts of responses or commands that would be more sinister and twisted
in nature.

I have provided the link to the story…
be sure to click on the brief video clip as that it most telling

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39002142

I suppose we are sadly learning that there is no bastion of innocence remaining….
Which I suppose leads us to just another reminder that we can’t ever be too careful
as to who or what we listen to…

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.
For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

Cause the times they are a-changing

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing

Lyrics by Bob Dylan

dscn4688
(antique color plate of a wild turkey / Julie Cook)

Normally at this late inning in the game, I would be up to my elbows in flour, giblets,
and sweet potatoes…franticly watching the clock tick off the precious seconds of time…
time until it was…
Go Time…

But not this year.

Not this year, at all.
No flour.
No giblets.
No sweet potatoes.
No festive deserts.
No dressing (as in what we southerners call stuffing that’s not stuffed)
All simply…
no….

I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving, or at least the bulk and better part of it, ever since I was
a junior in high school…

Because that was the year my great aunt died in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning
and my mom, as her only living nearby relative, had to drop apron and
mixing bowls in mid mix…with Turkey quickly slammed in the oven,
as she practically threw me the basting bulb,
while shouting over her shoulder as she dashed out the door…
BASTE EVERY 20 MINUTES TILL DONE…”

Huh?

I think I was still mumbling questions when, like a bat out of hell, my mother with the car
slammed in reverse, barreled out of the driveway,
racing off to a distant nursing home leaving me in a puff of confused exhaust fumes….
still holding a forlorn basting bulb.

Did I mention that on this now discombobulated Thanksgiving it was also the Thanksgiving
that our pet parrot, the one we had rescued a couple of years earlier,
after a brief cold, had decided to also give up the ghost on this Thanksgiving morning?

So needless to say that this was not to be like any Thanksgiving that I would be able to,
in my youthful naive memory, recall.

Yet might I add that the turkey, by shear pluck, turned out really quite lovely.

And so I’ve been cooking ever since…

Oh I started out somewhat slowly, with but a few components of the feast left to my expertise,
eventually becoming the full Master of Ceremonies…
as those were the heady days and weeks of plotting, researching, planning,
buying and preparing…
The aromas leaving all in their wake salivating….
It was to be the stuff of legends….

Until this year.

Yet had I not seen it coming?
Slowly and methodically coming my way…
Despite my not wanting to acknowledge it…
it was hell-bent on coming.

My husband, over the past couple of years would gently, if not a bit too tactlessly,
remind me that the time was coming…
that the day and time would eventually come….
Our numbers were now diminishing at a far greater rate than they were multiplying…

As those we have loved and have known…have come and now have sadly faded…
in other words, the family has shrunk.
My husband’s side and now mine…
lost to the annuals of time.

The time when Dad would be too old to come to us…
The time when our son would be too old to stay…as he would now have to divide his time…
and the time I would be too old to manage it all…on my own….

Don’t you hate it when husbands seem to actually know it all…
or perhaps more accurately can suddenly, after 34 years, find the gift of verbalization…
As in verbalizing what we try so desperately to deny…
Whenever did they become ones to verbalize…?
When you least want it, that’s when….

And so it is…

No linens have been pressed.
No grandmother’s silver polished.
No burgeoning refrigerator bursting at the seams.
No massive turkeys sitting in brine as basting bulbs have long since been discarded.

For we will become one of “those people…”
The people I use to turn my nose up to who would go out to eat on Thanksgiving.
The people who make other people have to work and miss time with their families
because they were having to cook and service “those people”……

We will eat out and then take plates to dad, my stepmother and the caregiver.
As our son travels to in-laws as my in-laws are now longer…
Aunts, uncles, nieces, grandparents, parents, brothers have all since departed…
leaving but us…left to find solace in our memories of times now past…

So Bob Dylan was right all along…
for the times, they are a-changing…

PS….
you should know that going out to eat was not my idea.
It was my husband’s…
The same husband who, after 34 years of marriage,
has suddenly gained the gift of verbalization.
He has also gained the gift of thoughtfulness….
as in he has felt sorry for me these past several most trying months
and he has decided it is time for me to become one of “those people”
and I am actually both grateful as well as thankful….

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

hands

“I take comfort in the fact that somehow,
in the mysterious resources of the human spirit,
even pain can serve a higher end.”

Dr. Paul Brand

“I don’t pray that you may be delivered from your troubles.
Instead, I pray that God will give you the strength and
patience to bear them.”

Brother Lawrence

dscn4502
(the hands of Mother Teresa / A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

The other evening a visitor to my blog made a comment on a post that I had actually
written 3 years ago…

It was a post about feet.

And the feet in question were not just any pair of feet,
but rather the tired and worn feet of a relentless saint of a woman.

A woman, mind you, Pope Francis most recently declared a saint.

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/)

For some, especially my high school students…at the time I had originally shared the photograph,
the image of her feet were hard to look at…
for the image was that of a pair of feet that had not lived a pampered life
but rather a life of back breaking labor, toil and work….

And we are each the better for those feet.

In the commentary of the post, a dear friend of mine lovingly and sweetly reminisced
about the rough and worn hands of her grandmother.
Recalling the vivid details that had been etched on her young heart.

The new visitor added to that very train of thought with her own poignant memories of the rough and worn hands of her aunt…and of the very touching response from her uncle to her aunt’s weary anguish over her “ugly worn out hands”…

There is a post unto itself in her very touching words…

And it was today that I read the most beautiful tale of hands that I thought most appropriate to share with this most current thought of hands…

“What practical effect does Christ’s identification have on the person who actually suffers?
A dramatic example of the effect of this truth was seen in
the ministry of Dr Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India.
There he preached a sermon, one of his best known and best loved.
At the time, Brand and his workers were among the few in the area who would
touch or closely approach a person with Hansen’s disease—townspeople quarantined them.
Brand slipped in late to a patients’ gathering,
sitting on the mat at the edge of an open courtyard.
The air was heavy with combined odors of crowding bodies,
poverty, stale spices, treated bandages.

The patients insisted on a few words from Dr Brand,
and he reluctantly agreed.
He stood for a moment, empty of ideas, looking at the patients before him.
His eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them,
most pulled inward in the familiar “leprosy claw-hand,” some with no fingers,
some with a few stumps.
Many patients sat on their hands or otherwise hid them from view.

“I am a hand surgeon,” he began and waited for the translation into Tamil and Hindi.
“So when I meet people, I can’t help looking at their hands.
The palmist claims he can tell you your future by looking at your hands.
I can tell your past.
For instance I can tell what your trade has been by the position of the
calluses and the condition of the nails.
I can tell a lot about your character,
I love hands.”

He paused and looked at the eager faces.
“How I would love to have had the chance to meet Christ and study his hands!
But knowing what he was like, I can almost picture them, feel them.”

He paused again,
then wondered aloud what it would have been like to meet Christ and study his hands.
He traced the hands of Christ,
beginning with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, futilely grasping.
Then came the hands of the boy Jesus, clumsily holding a brush or stylus,
trying to form letters of the alphabet.
Then the hands of Christ the carpenter—
rough, gnarled, with broken fingernails and bruises from working with saw and hammer.

Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer.
Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them,
so much so that when he touched people they could feel
something of the divine spirit coming through.
Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.

“Then,” continued Dr. Brand,
“there were his crucified hands.
It hurts me to think of a nail being driven through the center of my hand,
because I know what goes on there,
the tremendous complex of tendons, and nerves and blood vessels and muscles.
It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it.
The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me
of what Christ was prepared to endure.
In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled
human beings in the world.
Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor,
weariness with the tired,
but–clawed hands with the cripple.”

The effect on the listening patients,
all social outcasts,
was electrifying.
Jesus—a cripple,
with claw hand like theirs?

Brand continued.
“And then there were his resurrected hands.
One of the things I find most astounding is that though we think of the
future life as something perfected,
when Christ appeared to his disciples he said,
“Come look at my hands,’ and he invited Thomas to put his finger into the print of the nail.
Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity?
Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an eternal reminder
of the sufferings of those on earth?
He carried the marks of suffering so he could continue to understand the needs
of this suffering.
He wanted to be forever on with us.”

As he finished, Paul Brand was again conscious of the hands as they were lifted,
all over the courtyard,
palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste.
The hands were the same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches.
Yet no one tried to hide them.
They were held high, close to the face, in respect for Brand,
but also with new pride and dignity.
God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.

T.S. Elliot wrote in one of his Four Quartets:
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
the questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart

The surgery of life hurts. It helps me, though, to know
that the Surgeon himself, the Wounded Surgeon,
has felt every stab of pain and every sorrow.

Philip Yancey
Jesus’ Reminders

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