I’m not good at moments of silence. I can’t meditate. I’ve never been capable of clearing my mind of all thoughts. Instead, I think about things like what I’m going to eat next, if the rain will clear out, whether or not I have time to run an errand once the moment is over. I don’t want anyone to know I’m not focusing, so I look down at my hands.
That’s what I thought about today, my hands. As I looked down I noticed how old they looked. I thought about how one might be able to deceive their age with Botox injections and youthful clothes, but hands always give you away. As a kid, I remember thinking my Mother’s hands looked old. Her veins popped like a soft blue circuit board. They looked different from my young hands, no veins popped through. There was no supple, soft skin around each joint. My hands were young. My Mother’s hands were old.
I have my Mother’s hands now. Soft. Loose. Crisscrossed with puffy, blue veins. Old. I think I’m as old as she was when I first noticed her hands.
I’ve noticed this before, the oldness of my hands. But today, for the first time, I was grateful for them.
Grateful for the chance to have old hands.
You see, the moment of silence today was during a memorial service for an American Soldier.
A fallen Soldier who was born when I was a freshman in high school. Who graduated from his high school and enlisted in the Army the year I turned 35.
Who died a few months shy of his own 23rd birthday.
His life, cut so short that he will never have old hands. The blue, puffy, pulsing veins in his hands will never give away his age when he tries to pretend he is a younger man. He’ll never watch as his newborn baby grasps his finger with his tiny perfect hand. He will never look down one day and realize that he now has his Father’s hands.
He gave all that up. Willingly. Bravely. Selflessly.
And for you.
So that we can each live long enough to have old hands.