The Gift of a Touch
I remember sitting there, at the foot of the bed, trying my best not to cry so that she could see me smile. One of her last wishes. Even then, to me she was beautiful. Cancer had stolen the glow from her skin, and pale cheeks in that now thin face looked like they hadn’t the strength to support a smile. So I smiled in her stead.
She wanted to know about my day – I was about to graduate and was busy preparing for the entrance exam to a prestigious high school – and she did not want to miss anything. I was telling her how a particular assignment had been irking me for hours when, suddenly, I could not word my way around the inevitable any longer. I looked away and was wiping the tears unsuccessfully when I felt the warm familiar touch of the hand that raised me. I glanced down and realised how tiny it looked. Graceful, with fingers long and elegant. A pianist’s hand.
“You have my hands,” she said. “But yours are so cold. One would think it should be the other way round now.” She smiled and her eyes showed that the body may have been dying, but that her spirit was not about to slip away yet.
The words burned as I spoke. “I can’t talk any more.”
“We can just sit in silence. I will not ask for more.”
The hand was warm and, as it enfolded mine in its caring grasp, I felt the tide of life go through it. The wedding ring, now too big for the finger, had a pure glint. Pure as the love that I felt flowing from the hand, pouring off the fingertips, communicating countless messages that words could never form. The gift of a touch. The love of a mother.
She died two weeks later. In an isolated and sterile hospital ward where latex ruled over ten fingers, and where medications were sparse and arrived too late. Alone. During nightshift. With no one to hold her hand and share the flow of intimacy through entwined fingers.
I do not believe in Heaven. I believe in the afterlife that we create by ourselves in the form of legacy, and in the future where breast cancer is curable. I believe that a simple touch can mean more than words, for it speaks straight to the heart. And I cherish the tactile memory of sharing the depth of my mother’s loving hand to this day.