My mother’s hands

‘Despite the emotional avoidance that has kept me from gardening, each year I try to override it with a new resolution.’

Delicate is not a word I’d use to describe my mother’s hands. They were large, strong and capable of many things, such as making the finest pastry, digging the soil, or rubbing my back. Like her they were full of life and full of love.

I can see her hands now, covered in flour rolling out pastry on the kitchen counter-top. I can picture her gripping the heavy wheelbarrow as she rolls it down to the compost heap at the end of the garden. I can feel the feather light touch of her broad fingers on my back as a small child, soothing me to sleep when my mind was racing. I can picture her flat bare nails, only ever painted on special occasions. She was too practical and too impatient for manicures and so she kept them short with nail scissors and was often heard exclaiming “Oh I snagged a nail!”, then scrambling for her nail file at the bottom of her handbag. I see her sparkling rings on her fingers, her white gold wedding ring paired with a diamond ring on her left hand and an eternity ring, which I now wear, on her right hand.

My mother’s hands made many beautiful things in her life, but they also caused her a lot of pain. She suffered with Raynaud’s disease, which constricts the blood vessels in the fingers and toes, preventing full blood circulation. I remember her rubbing her bone white fingers together with a pained expression on her face. As a child I had no idea this was anything more than a quirky feature of my mother’s body.

I didn’t know it signified an auto-immune disease. I had no idea that auto-immune diseases start multiplying. Like a line of dominos they can gradually build up to a toppling process that races towards cancer. I just knew that my mother often had cold hands and was always searching for the warmest gloves she could find. Ten years ago, on April 23rd, my mother died from complications resulting from Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma, specifically the white blood cells that produce antibodies for our immune system.

Read the full essay over on Medium.