I sit quietly, the only sound is the hum of the Oxygen concentrator beside the bed. I gently hold Helen’s hand. Her hand is cool, soft to the touch. It rests limp in my hand. I study the hand veined with blue lines and wrinkles. I turn the hand palm up to trace the long life line extending past the wrist. The hand is rough with dry skin. I reach for hand cream and rub some into her palms.
On my first visit, Helen grabbed my offered hand with a fierce strength. Her grip was painful. I talked and sang to her until she drifted into a light slumber and her grip relaxed. I felt my hand was the lifeline anchoring Helen into this world.
On the next visit, I held a hand that lost it’s strength. When I squeezed a light squeeze was felt in return. The strength increased as the time for her Morphine drew near. After receiving the drug, she rested and released my hand.
Another day, the hands were gesturing and Helen laughed and chatted with her deceased sister. She was showing her how to fix soft boiled eggs. Her eyes were open but it was not this world she saw.
Yesterday the hands were hot to the touch. When I attempted to hold one, she pulled back and grimaced in pain. Only the Morphine released her to allow a light slumber.
Now I hold a cooling hand with no muscle tone or movement. I squeeze but there is no response. I gently place the hand under the blanket and rise to give Helen a last kiss on the forehead. I whisper, ”I love you, go in peace.” I leave the room, knowing this is the last goodbye.
‘Hand Signals’ first appeared in the Spring 2020 Magnets and Ladders
Carol was born with glaucoma and became blind in her mid 40’s. In addition to writing a blog ”Blind on the Lite Side” Carol is active in the disable writers group “Behind Our Eyes”. Carol writes short essays and poetry.