I remember my father’s hands being rough, stained and scarred. There was always some new scratch or bruise from working on the car or tractor, or maybe digging in the garden. They were strong, busy working hands.
They could also pound out a song on the piano or play a tune on the violin. When we were sick one of his big rough hands would feel our forehead to make sure our fever wasn’t too high.
They were hands that picked us up when we had fallen or drew us pictures when the sermon at church got too long.
My sister, Jill, was the first to notice those same hands had become uncharacteristically soft and smooth with fingernails short and neatly trimmed. What had changed? I couldn’t like them this way. The months of cancer and paralysis had taken all the character out of them. They were no longer the hands that I remembered, and I grieved. A few weeks later he would go where I couldn’t follow.
As I look at my own hands they are not strong like his. They are more slender and not usually stained, yet they often get bruised and scraped when I am busy working on a project.
I see glimpses of my Father’s hands when I play his violin or feel my granddaughter’s hot forehead. But my hands are not his. And so I wait to see his hands again. Not the clean smooth hands, but the rough and stained ones, because those are the hands I learned to love.
There is another pair of hands I am waiting to see. These I have never seen with my eyes, but have heard about them since I was small on my Father’s knee. They are hands that were bruised and nailed. Hands that were those of a working man. Strong and rough and scarred. Hands that were given willingly to the nails so I could go free. Those hands that will never be soft and smooth again.
And so I wait to see those hands. The pierced and scarred hands that my Father taught me to love, oh so long ago.