Daddy was a man of small stature, but he had a big heart, and big, strong hands.  When I was
very young, his hands were always calloused from hard work, trying so hard to take care of
his family.

As I grew up, he had big hands to discipline with, and strong hands to hold on to.  Any time I
ever got into trouble, he was there to give me a helping hand, to pull me back up on my feet.  
Daddy always had warm hands, filled with love. My favorite memory is of him wagging his big
strong hands every so gently around a harmonica as he belted out the blues from the depths
of his soul. It always brought tears  to my eyes. He could sure make a harmonica sing, and I
think at one time he was in love with Hank Williams, Sr. who sang, "I'm So Lonesome I Could
Cry." Daddy played a lot of blues on the harmonica after his mother passed away.

One day, years later, Daddy suffered from a major stroke.  His right hand no longer worked as
the stroke had paralyzed him on his right side.  Suddenly, this man who was so independent,
who never asked a living soul for a single thing, was forced to ask others for a helping hand.   
Daddy had been through wars, fought hunger, struggled to earn a living during tough times,
and faced many crisis in his life. But this was the hardest thing he said he ever had to do:  
learning to ask others for help.

He struggled for months during physical therapy, determined with a will so strong that one day
he would regain the use of that hand and be able to stand on his own two feet once again.  
Eventually, his determination paid off and he did regain some use of that hand, but not
enough to suit him.

After he went home, he wrote me little notes that were barely legible, but proved his strong
determination in learning to reuse that hand. He was so proud that he was able to write even
short notes. We were both proud!

As he struggled with his health, Daddy continued to offer his helping hands to others, helping
many in ways too numerous to count, in ways that only Daddy could.

Time passed by too quickly, and the day came that Daddy's heart finally gave out, in spite of
recuperating from the stroke and dealing with prostate cancer.  I've felt so distraught that
death took him so quickly and I wasn't there to hold onto Daddy's hands and to say goodbye.  
I felt like I had failed him.

He used to joke that he had no friends.  He was quite a jokester. He also joked that he was
never going to die, but rather he would just live forever, if only to prove he could.  Daddy told
two lies.  He did die on Valentines Day, taking a piece of my heart with him.  But the second
lie was visible when so many of his friends filled the visitation room prior to the funeral.  Each
one had a special tale to tell of how Daddy was always there for them, with those great big
helping hands.

Though I have many memories of Daddy, the one thing I will never forget is the strength and
the love in his hands.  Now, a power much higher than myself holds onto my sweet Daddy's
hands.
Daddy's Hands
© Ferna Lary Mills


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