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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Her Hands

Our Mother's Day Week extravaganza continues today with a post from one of the original moms without a blog here at MWOB, Kath.  I have known Kath since we were 9 years old and we are blessed with a rare and lasting friendship. Her words today hit me to the core and my heart aches for her as she approaches her second mother's day without her mom.  I knew her mom.  I ate lots of her mom's food at a green formica countertop surrounded by the love and humor and hospitality of an Irish family I am proud to know.  Kath's mom simply ruled.  And she is so missed.

Written by Kath, a mom without a blog

For me, Mother’s Day is really about my own mom. I know it’s supposed to be the day that we, as mothers, are showered with flowers, gifts and some much needed “me” time by those we love (good luck with that everyone). But for this gal, it’s a day I reflect on and give thanks for my own mother.

My mom was definitely the most hard-working, giving woman I have ever met. If you look up “selfless” in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure my mom’s name would be there. She was the oldest of seven children and, as such, was a born care-taker. Her whole life was truly dedicated to the service and loving-care of others.

In her early 20’s, my mom emigrated from Ireland to New York. Now, I know the mere mention of the word “immigrant” opens a can of worms big enough to supply fishermen until the next century. I’m not going to go there today. Suffice it to say, my mom did things by the book. She had each and every paper in order and was properly sponsored by a distant aunt. (Back then, an immigrant had to have a “sponsor” who was completely responsible for the individual and was held accountable if the immigrant did anything illegal while in America).

On the boat over from Ireland, my mom contracted tuberculosis. She subsequently had to spend months in a sanatorium for her recovery. She endured lung surgery and isolation (her aunt would visit every few weeks or so), completely away from her family in Ireland. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that was for her. I’m sure I wouldn’t have the strength to endure what she endured. But when she spoke of that time later in her life, she did so without anger, bitterness, or sadness. She simply did what “she had to do” and was grateful to be in her new country. That was my mom.

I think it’s her hands that I will remember the most. My mom did not have pretty hands. Her nails were not manicured (I never remember them even painted). She worked hard each and every day and her hands took a beating. Her skin was rough, dry and calloused.

But I loved those hands.

When I was sick, those hands would gently touch my forehead. I remember their cool abrasiveness. It was soothing. My mom was there. Her very presence provided the security I needed to get better. I just knew that everything was going to be okay.

In church, those hands would often grab mine to hold. They felt strong and protective. I felt safe and loved.

Those hands made the best meals ever. My mom could seriously cook, and anyone who ever entered my home growing up could attest to this fact. Food was always prepared for any guest who came over. You just HAD to eat when you came to my house. And, boy was it good. I remember, in college, after a weekend home, she would send me back with loads of yummy goodness. I’d have stuffed Cornish game hens, homemade spaghetti sauce, and baked chicken. When I heated that food up in my dorm room, I’d soon have a steady stream of neighbors dropping by “just to say Hi”. Yeah.

Those hands skillfully and lovingly sewed and knitted through the years. There were graduation dresses, prom dresses, play costumes, and even items for good friends. When I brought my first born home from the hospital, he was warmly wrapped in a beautiful white blanket painstakingly knitted by those very hands.

In the last few years, those hands would shake periodically due to her illness and the curse of those dreaded seizures. My mom HATED having to be taken care of. She always wanted to provide the care for others, not be on the receiving end. But she accepted her illness with the dignity and grace that only my mother could.

I held those very hands 19 short months ago when she peacefully left this world guided by the abundant love and thankfulness of her family. 

I miss those beautiful hands…

Last Friday, my boys had a “Mom’s Morning” at their Catholic school. My daughter was at preschool and my oldest sings in the choir, so during the school mass, I sat next to my middle child. He’s my little affectionate guy, and loves to snuggle up close--anytime, anywhere. 

He held (no, squeezed) my hand throughout the church service. At one point, I looked down and gazed at his hand in mine. I do not have pretty hands. They look weathered; scratched and scarred from bumps over the years. The skin is dry and cracked from washing them. A lot. 

But I realized something. 

My hands are beginning to look just like my mom’s.

I couldn’t be more proud.

My mom in her element

My mom also in her element - holding one of her precious grandbabies.


  1. Very sweet pic!
    I have been checking out new blogs. I'm on a mission to leave 1000 comment for the month! :)

    Stop by sometimes please :) Please let me know if you have any questions. I'm just a mom of 2 little boys.. helping other moms grab freebies, deals, and save money :) If you subscribe please let me know.. I would love to return the favor!


  2. That was wonderful Kath! You done your Mom proud with this tribute!

  3. Oh Kath, your mom sounds like a one-of-a-kind lady. Excellent post.

    Excuse me while I go find one of my mom's hankies...

  4. What a wonderful train of thought...the little things that turn into lasting memories, and find a way to stay with us always...

  5. What a beautiful tribute. The world needs more moms like yours!

  6. What a loving tribute to your mom. You have made her proud (as I'm sure you always did) just as your children make you proud.

    It sounds like she was one of the best moms around - and I bet she taught you well, just by her loving deeds.

    Keep all those memories in your heart and you will always have her with you.

  7. That was so beautiful. I can't imagine how painful it is and can't stand the thought that we will all have to celebrate Mother's Days some time in the future without our moms there.

    This made me recall that I was listening to NPR this morning and caught The Writer's Almanac which featured a poem at the end by a Jim Harrison, I believe, and the last line was, "Death steals everything except our stories." ( for the whole thing) Long live your memories and the stories that you can share about your amazing mom. :)

  8. Wow Kath. That was incredibly touching and she sounds like an inspiration to us all.

    Hold your kids' hands on Sunday and think of your mom. She'll be smiling down on you from heaven.

    Happy Mother's Day.

  9. kath! this is amazing! you, my friend, have been blessed. but i have to disagree with you... looking at those photos and reading your lovely words... your mom's hands were absolutely beautiful.

  10. Kath -- you are blessed to have had such a mother and she was blessed to have had such a loving daughter. It is this kind of family love that makes the world a better place. Happy Mother's Day.

  11. This is one of the most honest and heartfelt tributes I've read.

    And it's interesting...hands...

    My grandmother's hands were what I always loved.

    Thank you so much for this post...

  12. This touched me so much! I lost my mom 6 weeks ago and can't imagine Mother's Day without her. I'll remember her wonderfulness and pay tribute to her memory like you do.

  13. Oh, Kath. What a lovely tribute to your Mom.

    Happy Mother's Day.

  14. Bravo, Kath! That was excellent!

  15. Beautiful post. A woman greatly missed, clearly.

  16. Wow! Your post is wonderful and says sooooooo much about you as a mother by the loving respect you have shown for your mother in this tribute to her.

    Also glad to hear I am not the only one w/ unpolished/un-kept nails!

    Have a Happy Mother's Day.

  17. Sonya in ColoradoMay 11, 2009 at 5:47 AM

    Kathy--This is amazing... another thing your hands can do-write. Keep doing it. What an amazing treasure for your kids, your brothers, your dad, and YOU. Sonya Hemmen (Bonnette)


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