Recently a very special man passed from my family. He was one of those people characters are developed from in novels and emotions are forever compared against. He was in so many ways everything life was meant to be, how it should be shared and experienced. The family released a photo of just their hands touching, as he left this life for the completion of his journey, and the reward he so richly deserved. I can honestly say there will never be another tribute as perfect, complete or as eloquent in stating who he was as that simple and loving image.
In this life, he was the one who was always first to lend a hand, even as he aged, fought cancer and pain or was just unsure of his ability, and in his youth, those hands taught high school wrestlers the meaning of strength, honor, perseverance and commitment. As an educator he reached out to those who welcomed his knowledge and guidance, and prayed for those he was unable to touch.
He held new life from his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, was there when they needed a hand in being raised, shared or celebrated, but especially when they just wanted to hold his large calloused fingers. He was a husband who held up his end, and a businessman who held others trust sacred. He was a veteran who had a hand in the freedom and security of those against war and conflict; and he was a son who held values against his soul , a friend you could always count on.
There are beautiful buildings and homes he had a hand in making, some through design and some through actual nail and hammer, which he held in a grip of ability, knowledge and pride, most men never know. Stadiums across the country held Super Bowl games, not knowing his handy laugh and sweating brow helped make them happen, because in his humble humility, he became nothing more that another fan applauding in the stands when the players took the field.
As his life continued he handed down wisdom and humor, laughter, honor and compassion to anyone who had the privilege of sharing time with him. In his last days, knowing the cancer trials he participated in would not help his suffering, end his pain or extend his life, he did so because he knew someday they might help, and he would have a hand in saving someone from experiencing what he had.
Hands down, there are people in life that will touch you, move you and even give you a moment to rediscover who you are inside before it is too late. These are the people who have their hand on the pulse of life and should one cross your path, you will never be the same again. Trust me you will know when they appear, just don’t ignore their gift.
Maybe it will be a twinkling eyed Santa handing you a gift you never expected – himself, not just the package, or that moment of acceptance after everyone else has turned away or forgotten, letting you know you matter, just as you are. It might even be the kind soul who moves out of the way, smiling after you are handed ice cream at a Dairy Queen, and you find yourself remembering that smile more than the soft serve once you get home.
These are the people who are the true treasures in our journey of life and too many times we fail to see them for the gift they are. We tend to keep our hands in our pockets, as we walk by shutting ourselves off from the greatest blessing ever offered in this life – an open gesture of unconditional love. How sad for those who never experience what my own life received so freely and beautifully.
The next time you find yourself alone, concerned or scared with sweaty hands, look to the faces of those who love you, and just maybe there will be someone as special as this man who now calls heaven home. And just maybe, if you are lucky, you will get the chance, to have a hand in shaping the destiny of both yourself and someone else before you leave this life.
Compassion is a gesture born from the soul and only allowed to grow when it is offered freely and shared honestly, so don’t wait until the hands of time have stopped and all you have is regret running through your fingers. Not every outstretched hand is asking for something – many are offering to share, but it is up to us to know the difference. Make a point to use the example these travelers of life give to us daily, and take a stand to make a difference, because if you do, hands down it will be the investment of your lifetime and someone else’s.