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.