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  2. More Voices
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  4. 2016
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  6. Hands
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  8. Butterfly Wings

Butterfly Wings

Like the wings of a butterfly, Ma’s hands were always in motion. Making beds with perfect hospital corners. Gliding the iron across Dad’s shirts. Breading veal chops and turning dough into chocolate chip cookies. Washing dishes and clothes. Vacuuming and dusting. Ringing up sales at the children’s store where she worked.

I remember Ma’s hands fixing me a “secretary’s lunch” of soup and sandwich, parting my hair in a way that conquered my cowlick, ensuring that my necklace with the star was tightly clasped. Her hands placed cool cloths on my forehead when I was burning up with fever and changed bandages on knees that I managed to constantly scrape and cut. Her hands encased my hands in white gloves so I wouldn’t give myself “scratch scars” when I had the chicken pox. Her hands washed my hair, careful to avoid getting soap in my eyes.

Those butterfly wings never stopped moving, not even when Ma took her twenty-minute “second wind” nap after dinner, not even when arthritis caused them to swell and ache, not even when age spots dotted her once-clear skin. The butterfly wings didn’t stop moving until depression and dementia depleted Ma of her energy and robbed her of her identity.

Before MRSA infected Ma’s body, before Ma entered hospice in the final week of her life, I visited her every day in the nursing home. She usually lay still–a breathing corpse–but one day, as I lay next to her on the narrow bed, she wrapped her hands around mine. They felt warm and comforting against my skin. Ma’s hands gently massaged my hands, moving back and forth in a soothing rhythm. Then, with a strength I didn’t think she possessed, her hands squeezed mine. “I love you,” Ma whispered in a voice weakened by illness and lack of use. “I love you, Ma,” I said. The two of us lay there, Ma’s right hand caressing my head, her left hand holding my hands.

Since her death on March 21, 2007, I yearn for my mother and the touch of her hands–just one more time.

Ronna Edelstein
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania



4 thoughts on “Butterfly Wings”

  1. Absolutely touching!! Thank you. I am going to call my mother right now to tell her that I love her.

    1. Ronna L. Edelstein

      Kelly, thank you for taking the time to read my essay and respond to it. Your calling your mom to tell her you love her made me smile. We should cherish every day with the people we love.

      Be well,
      Ronna Edelstein

  2. Henry Schneiderman M

    Beautifully told and a wonderful leadoff piece for the new More Voices topic for the month! Thank you for sharing this and for making your mother’s spirit visible to others now, nine years after she died.

    1. Ronna L. Edelstein

      Henry, I appreciate your kind words. My paternal grandmother, mother, and dad will always be visible to me, even though all three are no longer physically here. These individuals gave me unconditional love and support during my journey through life. I miss them and value them–always.

      Ronna Edelstein

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