These hands hold so much.
So much history. So much potential.
These hands hold worlds, lifetimes. They hold life and love.
These hands hold hope.
These hands hold. Sometimes clenched so tight… sometimes too tight. I like best how they are pictured here, gently surrounding, supporting, carrying, lifting. These hands have ached with the weight, the effort, the beauty of it all.
I recently learned that some of the pain I am experiencing (especially in my hands) is intrarticular osteopenia – bone loss inbetween inflamed joints. A precursor to osteoporosis and a highly indicative feature of rheumatoid arthritis. I’m on a new medication to try to disrupt the autoimmune inflammatory response my body is having and we are using an anti-inflammatory cream to try to decrease the swelling in my hands, to minimize the pain and to try to preserve long term function. My symptoms come and go, but this last week has been especially hard. I’m using my hands for lots of things these days, like typing papers and helping little hands cut snacks or colour pictures. I have trouble opening my pill bottles and when I went to the spring dance concert it hurt too much to clap, so I just cheered instead.
A week ago I had the incredible privilege of guiding women through a worship service. We gathered to honor and serve women who experience grief around Mother’s Day. As a planning team we struggled to name and describe a service that we intentionally wanted to be open and somewhat vague – we wanted to accommodate those in need, those who came. We realized almost immediately that we couldn’t possibly describe the range of experience and the kinds of grief in a blurb that fit in a church newsletter or in a short announcement. After each time I spoke of it, someone mentioned ‘or women who…’, and I said yes, yes. Yes women with that grief, that burden, that story.
We had beautiful music and readings from the Word. We sang together and listened to one another. I overheard afterword someone realizing we hadn’t had a formal prayer, but for me it felt like we prayed the whole time.
We closed the service with what I called a liturgy of light. Every woman at the service was invited to light a candle, or perhaps many, from the Christ Candle. It was an extremely powerful moment for me to look out at the gathered congregation, holding their lights, something they carry inside their hearts everyday, here made visible for this moment, for all to see. They lit lights for children they’ve never held or for ones they aren’t raising. They lit lights for children who died before them or for ones who are still in this world but far from them. They lit lights for mothers they miss and mothers they never had. They lit lights for the mothers they wish they were or are trying to be. They lit lights for themselves, for their children who will live on after they are gone. They lit lights for hopes and dreams and prayers. There was so much light, and it all came from the One Light, which was not diminished.
There came a time for the lights to change. Some carried their candles with them. Others left them burning brightly in that sacred space. When the Christ Candle changed, I offered a benediction, a prayer, that they might know that even though The Light was no longer with us in that time and that place, we would know it is with always and everywhere we go.
My heart and my hands ache from the weight of that service, from the privilege of seeing all that light. It is the privilege of the Church to Mother, to hold that weight, that ache, so tenderly. It is not the responsibility of any one of us – it was simply my turn, in a time and space where I could serve that use. Rather, it is a responsibility we all share, as members of the body, to see and honour the lights we all carry and to hold them, so gently but firmly, cupped to catch and to carry and lift towards heaven.