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Hand Signals: nonfiction by Carol Farnsworth

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

(lotion, image by saponifier, on Pixabay)

Hand Signals

I sit quietly. The only sound is the hum of the oxygen concentrator beside my

mother-in-law’s 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 it 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


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 slumber and her grip

relaxed. It felt like my hand was the lifeline anchoring Helen to this world.

On the next visit, I held a hand that had lost its 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.

(Previously published in Magnets and Ladders, Spring/Summer 2020 Edition)

Carol Farnsworth is an artist and writes poems and short essays on the light side of living with blindness. Her writings have appeared in The Avocet, Magnets and Ladders, Plum Tree Tavern, The Handy Uncapped Pen, and the Blind Perspective. Carol was born with glaucoma and has experienced decreased vision all her life. She has had no vision for the last several years. Carol lives with her husband John. They ride a tandem bike to enjoy nature. Carol gets her inspiration for her nature poetry from these rides.

May 2021 issue

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