The human hand is an engineering marvel of truly Divine Creation. Each human hand is made up of 27 bones. Ligaments and tendons connect the 14 bones of the fingers to the 13 bones of the palm, and even more connective tissue connects all that to your wrist and forearm. All this is formed by only about the 10th week of pregnancy. In utero, babies are using their hands to explore the world around them. They touch, feel, grab, and — much to their mother’s distress — push, poke, and punch everything that surrounds them in their tiny world. Sonograms frequently capture images of unborn babies sucking their thumbs and unborn twins holding hands.
When they’re born, babies continue to use their hands to explore their world, but then they add new uses as well. They reach out their hands when they are in need of comfort, and when picked up they grasp their mother’s clothes tightly. As their muscles get stronger, they use their hands to steady themselves and to pull themselves up. They learn to feed themselves and play with toys. Before long they’re using their hands for drawing and writing; for playing sports and musical instruments; for operating cell phones and driving cars. Eventually, rings are placed on fingers in marriage, and before long those hands are holding a newborn infant’s hands as they begin to explore the world around them.
While structurally, everyone’s hands, male and female, are the same, there is something just different about a mother’s hands. When a child falls and gets hurt, even if the father is closer to the child, the child will run to the outstretched hands of their mother leaving their father to wonder, “What the heck?” even though the father did the same thing when he was a kid. Our mother’s hands held us in the first moments after we were born. They cradled us when we couldn’t sleep, held us as we ate, and supported us as we learned to walk. They bandaged our knees and wiped our tears, made crafts with us, blew bubbles, wrapped presents, and held our hands to guide us safely through every busy parking lot. They baked cookies and birthday cakes, wrote love notes for our lunches, and sometimes grabbed a wooden spoon or spatula to correct our errant ways.
As we got older, we became less reliant on our mother’s hands. We didn’t want to hold them in parking lots. We fed ourselves, dressed ourselves, and told her, “I’m a big boy now, mom. I can do it myself.” So her hands began to take on a new task of their own: hands of worry and folded hands of prayer. We might get married and leave our father and mother to become one flesh with our wives, but we will always be our mother’s son, and a mother is always ready to be called upon to listen to the troubles of our lives and to give us comfort however she can.
Inescapably, one day we will all hold our mother’s hands for the last time and we’ll remember all those hands had done for us in our lives. But while they might not be there to welcome us home anymore, we can keep our mother alive in our hearts as we pass along the lessons those hands taught us over the years. And when the woman who brought us into this world passes from it, we need to remember that we are never, ever alone in it. We always have our Heavenly Mother, the Mother of Mercy, the Mother of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Compassion, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, to be there with us. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s hands held her Son, cradled her Son, comforted her Son, held her Son’s hand as He learned to walk, bandaged her Son’s every skinned knee, made crafts with Him, taught Him, cooked for Him, worried for Him, and prayed for Him. And as any mother would do for her son, she stood at the foot of His cross, and never left our Lord in His time of suffering. As the New Eve, mankind’s perpetual mother, she will never leave us in our times of suffering.
This month, give extra thanksgiving and prayers for the mothers of our children, for our mothers, grandmothers, Godmothers, and all the mothers in our lives. Give thanks for all they do and have done with their hands. And make extra effort to deepen your devotion to our Heavenly Mother. She is there to cling to when you are weak or in distress or in need of comfort. She will be with you when you feel alone. She will never leave you, no matter what. Call her name in your hour of sorrow, and she will be there to wipe your tears. And when you are surrounded by darkness, take her hand and she will lead you to the Light that is her Son. Her hands are outstretched for you. She is your Heavenly Mother, and she wants you to take her hand.