The Language of Hands

August 15, 2010 at 11:30 pm 7 comments

Hands -Da Vinci

Have you ever really given any thought to just how important the language of touch through our hands is to our lives.

I remember being a very small and ill little child. Apparently I got all my childhood diseases in one fell swoop, mumps, measles and then whooping-cough . A bed was made up for me in the dining room- the table pushed to the side, a fire in the grate flickered brightly casting a comforting orange glow in the darkened room. It was the cool touch of my mother’s hand on my forehead that I remember most, she must have sat there hour after hour stroking her child’s fevered brow. I can remember drawing great comfort from her hands, I still do .

Gabriel's Touch - photo Lisa Miller


Hands – when your child is born and you count the tiny toes and fingers , that first small curling of that tiny hand around your finger- hanging on, reaching out in a strange new world- a handclasp of life – speaking volumes without the need for language as a mother and child are introduced through their first touch.

The young child slipping their hand in yours as they walk to school for the first time, hands linked together as children play –

Rover Red Rover

Chris with his Dad


holding on to dad – “

don’t let me go”

The caress of a hand between young lovers, hands clasped in prayer, wrung in anguish, in a fist of anger. The hands of a son identical to those of the father and now a nephew, Gavin. who has his Uncle Chris’ hands .

There hangs on my dining room wall a sketch done by my son- he created the piece as part of assignment at least 10 years ago. I found it when he was throwing it out – he said it wasn’t very good – I think he got a C-. But to me , the mother, Da Vinci didn’t compare. I said

No! don’t throw it out – I want it – frame it for me and I will hang it.

You could see by the look on his face that was the furthest thing from his mind or want to do but he did. He put it into a poster frame and it hung on his wall for a couple of years.

Other art work took its place eventually, although I have to say he was never satisfied with his sketches and painting and I rescued more than one from the garbage.

The language of hands became the most important means of communication in the end, it was like traveling back in time to those little tiny moments of a new-born babe and those curling fingers looking for comfort and giving comfort. –

My son would reach for my hand when we would go into the Drs. in those last weeks in Texas a quick squeeze to say it will be OK! reassuring and giving me hope.

And then in those final days when his voice was taken from him a thumbs up to the nurses, or a thumbs down was his only means of communication to tell them of his condition. His smile and voice blocked by tubes and tape, his eyes swollen shut .

I would sit for hours holding his hand trying somehow to infuse through touch some strength , courage, a force to heal and love. The last time he squeezed my hand it was so strong it actually hurt but then nothing, was it a stroke, was it the paralyzing drugs I don’t know but his hand although warm no longer spoke.

But just in case I kept holding his hand, desperately wanting to feel the language of the hand once more.

In my unreal world after his death I found myself, for some reason, going through closets, attics and basements, and under beds- hands that needed to be busy – to be filled – reaching for something that was no longer there.

I found the sketch of the hands under a bed – the glass was broken and others things had been piled on top of it. As I removed the artwork I realized that he had folded the canvas to get it into the poster frame.

The language of the hands is all there in his work the child, the thumbs up , the grasp on life, the caress of the young of the old.

I realized that this work that he dismissed so lightly was speaking volumes. I had two prints made up for two very special people who have spoken and felt the language of the hands as I had and had known their language of delight and unbearable sorrow.

I took the original work to be professionally framed , they said

“we can get that crease out for you if you like”



I thought about that – aesthetically it would look better but then I remembered my son’s hand had formed that crease , it was now a part of the language of the hands, I said

No , leave it as it is.


And so a sketch that was meant for the garbage now hangs in a very expensive frame on my dining room wall and speaks to me more clearly than a Da Vinci and is priceless.

This is a very painful week for me and at least one other mother I know – I am not sure when I will be writing next…… it will all depend on my hands……….

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Entry filed under: Chris Ritchey, grief, men of substance, Mothers. Tags: , , .

Apologies it wasn’t me !!!- Viagara Language of Hands- Farewell

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ngaire  |  August 16, 2010 at 2:35 am

    I too held the hand of my dying friend a few days ago and as I rubbed my thumb between his thumb and forefinger on the very delicate and fine skin of this most honourable and respected 81 year old chap, I was so glad to be doing so while there was still warmth and he could squeeze me ever so gently back. There was no need for talk, just the closeness of us holding hands.

  • 2. thatwoman  |  August 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Ngaire, I think quite a number of those that read this blog have heard the language of the hands as they say goodbye…..
    I much prefer the “hello!”

  • 3. dave cotton  |  August 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    poetically beautiful and profound.
    thinking of you this week!

  • 4. Grammy  |  August 17, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I reach through time and space to share a moment with you. I hope you will find “hands” of comfort for this trying time. Seeing the Lisa/Gabe photo gives me pause and rememberence.

    Hold on to all the good things/thoughts and move forward holding on to those surrounding you.

    Love and hugs,

  • 5. thatwoman  |  August 18, 2010 at 12:36 am

    I try Grammy – doesn’t always work – and trying times for not just me .thinking of you too Loraine

  • [...] I mentioned here http://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/the-language-of-hands/ I keep finding ( even a year and bit on) artwork and projects that my son “rejected” [...]

  • 7. A Cuddles from the Heart change |  |  January 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    [...] While I was doing some much-needed House-work over the holidays, I discovered that the Cuddles from the Heart blog had been taken down. I went over to Stefanie’s and didn’t see any mention of CftH at all, so I emailed her. All is well, it was just a matter of time and energy and too many people saying they wanted to be involved and never following through. Stefanie and her family are going to continue doing CftH donations. She encouraged me to continue and said that I could use the “Cuddles from the Heart” name. As these emails took place over a few days, I started thinking of an alternate strategy just in case the CftH name was no longer available to me. I was going through some pictures and came across this one: It was captioned “Gabriel’s Touch, as named by Loraine“ [...]

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