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Finding strength in holding hands

By DAVID WHITLOCK

Life Matters

I was afraid to do it, but I finally mustered the courage.

In the dark of the theater, I reached across the arm rest and gently took Lori’s hand in mine.

She squeezed my hand in return.

Sometimes, holding hands comes naturally, because we are sure of the relationship, but for two teenagers on their first movie date together, it was a trial of nerves, at least for me. Then, after taking Lori’s hand in mine and sitting there, watching Robert Redford and Mia Farrow on the big screen, I was no longer hesitant but comfortable with her at my side. “She might even like me,” I thought. And though we didn’t hold hands through the entire movie, (The Great Gatsby,1974), her grasping of my hand was a sign of hope.

As contemporary Russia author of fiction, Vera Nazarian, has said, “Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey.”

But, holding hands is not just for the beginning of a journey.

Pointing to the knobs behind our house, I announced to my then five-year-old grandson, Eli, “Let’s conquer that field.” Even though my son, Eli’s uncle, Dave, had agreed to join us, I sensed Eli’s hesitation at the prospect of hiking across what was to him, unknown terrain. After taking his hand in mine, I felt his confidence surge. Moments later we were marching forward, hand in hand, the three of us boldly singing, “A-hiking we will go/A- hiking we will go/Heigh-ho, the derry-o/A-hiking we will go.”

Holding hands can do that for you. Author, writer, Megan Smith said, “I could conquer the world with one hand as long as you’re holding the other.”

And then, sometimes we need someone’s hand for comfort at the end of a journey, like when the resignation has been tendered or the retirement party is over. You can see it: one spouse reaching for the other’s hand as if to say, “Well, done, love; I’m still with you; I’m not leaving your side; let’s hold hands for the next phase of life.”

Then there comes a time when the mountains of our life have been conquered, or finally left alone to themselves, and we’re ready for the Lord to take us to his Holy Mountain. “You hold my right hand,” the Psalmist prayed to the Lord, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory.”

But sometimes he doesn’t come; sometimes, we wait, and wait, and wait.

Before it’s his Time, we often need the hand of someone we love, someone we trust, someone who knows our struggles, our stumblings, our skinned knees.

“Just sit and hold my hand, and let’s rest a while,” my 96-year-old momma tells me as I sit in the recliner at her bedside. It’s quiet, except for the traffic on the freeway outside her window, a soothing soporific, but also a reminder that the world goes on with its hustle and bustle, oblivious to this one beside me whose light is flickering, whose life is by slow degrees fading into darkness.

And so, I sit, holding my mom’s hand. When I feel like I should be doing something, I relax, for I know I am doing something, just like she did so many years ago when she sat, rocking me as I slept on her bosom, my head cradled over her shoulder.

And when I think I’ve sat long enough, she says, “Shhh, just hold my hand.” And so, I do, aware that holding her hand assures her that she is not alone in her aloneness.

When we are born, someone is there, taking our tiny little hand, holding it in theirs, caressing our baby fingers as they instinctively grasp theirs. In between that time – the first greeting of our life and our final goodbye – we do well if someone takes our hand for the journey, clasping it with the promise of love, clutching it along the way, transferring confidence from their hand to ours, assuring us we are not alone, until finally, at the last chapter, in the final waiting room of life, our name is called, and releasing their hand from our frail grip, The One gently envelopes our hand in his, lifting us up, walking us ever so softly, into the heavenly presence.