Rhonda Cagle

Handcrafted Life

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm

“There is a brief moment when all there is in a man’s mind and soul and spirit is reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the moment to record.” Yousuf Karsh

One’s hands tell a story. Every line, each wrinkle speaks of work and responsibility, rest and pleasure and all the moments that fall somewhere in between. Looking at a person’s hands, you catch glimpses of what life has thrown their way – what they’ve caught, what they’ve held. Sometimes, you even get a sense of what they’ve let slip through their fingers.

For several days now, I’ve had the privilege of holding my grandmother’s hand while death creeps in the shadows of the room. Soon, God will come and take Granner’s hand as He leads her into eternity and that place where there’s no more suffering or sickness – that place where death’s dark shadow is consumed by eternal light. If anyone deserves such a paradise, it’s my grandmother. But in the meantime I’ve treasured the moments I’ve had to hold her hand one last time while she’s still here on earth.

Granner's hands. What a lot of life she's touched in her 93 years.

Some of my earliest memories are of my Granner’s hands. As a one-year-old toddler, I would hold her hand as we walked down the hill from the parsonage where we lived to the church below. There, she would tend the roses that grew beside a little stone church made of Sedona’s famed red rocks. The church and the parsonage are long gone, demolished to make way for the touristy shops that now define Sedona. But those early memories of rugged red mountains and sweet smelling roses, all experienced in the safe, strong comfort of my Granner’s hands, still remain.

My sister and I spent several of our early years and countless summers living in Granner’s home. For us, her love was seen and felt in the kitchen. Being of southern stock, Granner’s fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cherry pies were legendary. So are the memories of what came after. Standing at the sink, washing dishes, she would “sing the wondrous love of Jesus, sing His mercy and His grace.” Looking up at the copper bottoms of her pots and pans and at her strong hands dripping with dishwater, we learned “what a friend we have in Jesus.” We discovered that on the Rock of ages we are accepted, “just as I am, without one plea.” For me and my sister, our earliest experience of God’s love and mercy was listening to Granner sing as she washed dishes.

Holding Granner’s hands these past few days, I’ve thought a lot about the handmade life she’s created. Like the quilts pieced together and sewn by her hands – and her mother’s and grandmother’s before her – Granner’s life offers warmth and beauty. Year after year, memory after memory, she’s handcrafted a legacy of comfort and quiet faith that will be cherished long after she’s gone.

Granner with her beloved Ladybug.

For one last time, I was able to hold Granner’s hand. I lingered, my fingers tracing a bony memory for me to tuck away in my mind. Finally, I laid her hands back in her lap and said goodbye.

Since then, I’ve prayed the hands that now care for her in her final days and hours will be as capable and gentle as Granner’s were for me. I’m trusting that those who lay their hands on Granner will be an extension of God’s hands resting upon her, offering comfort and mercy. And I’m remembering the legacy of Granner’s handcrafted life, praying mine will reflect, in some small way, the beauty she leaves behind.

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  1. Rhonda, the legacy your Granner leaves is rich and full, and not the least of it is found in you — who you are and the way you live your life. Thank you for letting us into this bittersweet, vulnerable part of your heart. Blessings to her for a joy-filled passing; and to you for the hole that will remain in your heart.

  2. Oh how this resonates with me! I often think of the things I miss about the people I’ve loved who are now with the Lord. I have, on more than one occasion shared with others how I so miss the feel of my grandmother’s hands touching my face. When I was young I used to want children simply for the chance to one day become a grandmother. Both of my grandparents were a huge part of my life, but in staying with the theme of your post, I too much say “Thank-You Lord,” for He imparted a truly wonderful gift when He gave me Mama Fair. Lovely post. God bless.

    • Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your own thoughts and memories. It’s amazing the impact others have on us — and we on them.

  3. Rhonda, what a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. I can relate, as I had some of those same experiences with my own grandmother—making bread, holding hands on the way to church, folding laundry together. It’s funny how those little moments shape our lives. I keep thinking of your family during this time—grace to you all.

    • Thanks, Miranda, for your kind thoughts. Thanks also for reading and remembering your own beloved grandmother. It’s wonderful how their lives continue to touch ours long after they’re gone.

  4. Thank You, Rhonda, for taking me on a journey through your heart and soul. for many years, I grieved the loss of opportunities to be a part of my grandmother’s life. She lived away from us, and we saw her so infrequently. But as her health failed, she came to live with my mother – and I had the later-years with her; spending as much time as I could to catch up, to learn about this matriarch of our family, and about the woman she was.

    I had a similar epiphany when I held her 96 year old hands in her last days. She was a faith-filled woman, although quiet and reserved. I learned so much about her during those years – and marveled at what she had endured. You took me back to that place next to her bed in the Convalescent home where she offered last words of wisdom for my life that I continue to cling to. She told me once, that she was not the 96 yr old woman that I see. In her mind, she was 18 years old and still able to dance with the love of her life, my grandfather, who died 3 years before I was born.

    When she let me in to her heart, I saw her as she really was. The person, the woman, the daughter, mother, wife. My respect and admiration for her is boundless – and I knew what a treasure it was to hold her hands – those blessed hands.

    Thank you for taking me back to that moment. I’m praying for your granners and your family…

    • Thanks, Maura, for praying and remembering your own grandmother. I’m confident she is once again that 18 year old woman, dancing down streets of gold with your grandfather. Soon, my grandmother will join them on those streets. And I’m confident that every once in a while, their hands slip through the invisible veil that separates us, strengthening us when we grow weary. It’s the communion of saints and I’m glad we’re part of it!

  5. Beautiful. I have been flooded with my own memories these last few days, as my grandfather just passed 2 days ago, one week shy of 103 years on earth. I am comforted that he is now at peace, in a capacity that I will never even be able to begin to understand. I Hope and pray you are finding peace and comfort in your own way through your loss of your dear Granner.

    • Margo, I am sorry for your family’s loss. Even when one has lived a long and productive life, we still feel deeply the vacancy left by their passing. Grace and peace to you all during this time.

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