“The Hand” – by Dzagbe Cudjoe- a story for all those people who live under the threat of terrorist attack

The eyes gazing into mine are young, full of sympathy and deep hurt. Those eyes will never acquire a hard, cynical expression. How long will this young man remain in a job suffused with such profound pain and distress I think to myself? Slowly I turn my head to stare fearfully at a small table covered with a green cloth. Dark green is a positive life-affirming colour. It’s not a colour we associate with death. It’s the colour of Nature’s yearly re-birth.

I notice how carefully laundered the stiffly starched cloth is. You can see the creases where it was folded into four. It could have been the handiwork of a well-trained butler in a stately home. I struggle to gather my thoughts together. I force myself to concentrate on the green cloth, steeling every nerve against the even greater pain to come. My chest heaves then the muscles contract. Frantically I attempt to breathe out. Take deep breaths, relax and try to concentrate I command myself in the midst of my panic.

When the young man senses that I have regained control he puts the question “Ready?” Incapable of speech I can do no more than nod. Carefully he pulls back the green cloth to reveal an object in a shiny stainless steel kidney dish. At this point my vision blurs and tears prick painfully at my eyelids. Icy shock renders me incapable of speech or movement. It is with a superhuman effort that I manage to focus on what is in the dish.

It is a human hand. Not a strangers’ hand but an instantly recognizable, well known, and dearly loved hand. It had lain under hundreds of thousands of tons of rubble and must have been extricated covered in dust and grime and debris of an indescribably guesome nature.

The hand now lies cleansed, the severed writst area neatly concealed in a white surgical napkin. The finger nails have been carefully filed and the cuticles pushed back. I can see that the hand has been treated with respect. It has been understood that this hand symbolizes the only mortal remains of a Beloved Person – someone’s grandmother, mother, sister, daughter, niece. How were they to know which? The stainless steel dish shines like a sacred silver reliquary. She never did like silver, She had always associated it with the qualities of reserve and the female upheavals of life. She had always been a sun-worshipper. She had loved its’ masculine warmth, the fierce intensity of life it symbolized. She had understood its’ pulsating life-giving energy.

I scutinized the hand as never before. To my intense surprise and overwhelming relief I found that there was nothing gruesome or ugly about it. I could only give profound thanks that this precious relic had survived. How many hundreds perhaps thousands of grief-stricken people would be left with nothing to lovingly place in a funeral casket. The thought came to me unbidden that the entire family must come together to design a casket befitting such a special hand. It would be a labour of love.

In death the hand communicates the same qualities that it had in life. It is an incredibly beautiful hand that like the rest of her had aged very well indeed. True, time had thickened the fingers and coarsened the hand. It had always been her dream to have a weekly manicure but time and money had never coincided. Her dream of having hand-made shoes for her awkwardly shaped feet had also remained an unfulfilled dream. Still she’d done the best she could herself with her impatient manicures. It was the same story with her hair – she couldn’t cope with it herself but she had always had to.

It was a hand that had been dedicated to bringing beauty, love and healing into peoples’ lives. This had had a twin with which it had knitted, crocheted, stiched and painted. It had done housework dutifully but with a marked lack of enthusiasm. It had made the lightest pastry and the most delicious of cakes. The cakes were marvellous but she had always felt that she let herself down on the decorating front. Acturally this was not true.I remember many breathtaking birthday cakes.

The hand is unmarked by liver spots. Ageing seems to be kinder to dark skins. It is a completely unadorned hand, the fingers unmarked by rings. The first gold band she had worn conventionally on the third finger of her left hand. The second gold band was worn for twenty-one years on the little finger of the same hand. The little finger now with a bent first joint which she had never again been able to straighten completely. This had come about as the result of her enthusiasm for gardening and this accident marked the end of her guitar-playing days. Her final, gloriously creative, blessed and joyous relationship was not to be symbolized by a gold band on any of her fingers.

I ask myself what she would have thought about the cataclysm which had engulfed her and thousands of others and left them all lifeless. She was a Libran and had been a woman who sought equilibrium for herself and harmony and justice for all people. She had understood that true peace is essential for these states to manifest themselves in this world. She had been a human being who made no distinctions based on race, nationality or religion. This was a person who had been open to all and always endeavoured to understand people’s true motivation. In our family we had a traditional African stool with a carved base showing two hands holding a human heart. This symbolizes purity of heart something which she had always strived and prayed for.

I pictured in my mind the thousands of people walking down the steps of the buildings from one floor to the next moving calmly and helping the less able. These people showed enormous courage in the face of death. The fortunate ones escaped but how will they rebuild their lives after such a catastrophic event?

Would she have felt that the answer to this heinous crime lay in blowing to smithereens both the guilty and the innocent of a totally impoverished land? I think not. She knew that violence is self-perpetuating, that it does not lead to long-term solutions. She would have been introspective and would have considered whether the people who perpetrated this terrible act had any legitimate grievances whilst fiercly condemming the evilness of their act. She believed that only by bringing about change in people’s hearts can you bring about change in their minds. Look first for common ground, not for differences she had always told the family.
“Don’t follow the herd” she said “Do the right thing!” She believed that we can take the most terrible, dark, evil, negative events and through goodwill, love and right action can like alchemists transmute the negative into the positive.

My reverie ended and once again I looked at the had. This was a hand I had known all my life. It was one of a pair and now was bereft of its twin and mirror-image. This hand had helped carry me, feed me, created things for me, supported and soothed me from my birth to its dying day. In my babyhood it had played the game “Two little dicky birds sat upon a wall, One named Peter, The other named Paul. Fly away Peter! Flay away Paul! Come back Peter, Come back Paul.”

Another of my earliest memories is of these beloved hand intertwined with mine playing “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man, Make me a cake as fast as you can: Pat it and prick it, and mark it with D, And toss it in the oven for baby and me.”

This same hand had offered healing and love to many in pain and distress. This hand had been an open one and not a clenched fist. It had been a conduit to her heart. The unique quality of the life that was represented in that hand radiated clearly still for the living to see and experience. This hand had not met death in the hoped for manner but somehow there was a feeling about it of acceptance and peace. I gazed at that dearly loved hand and gave thanks for a life rich in its’ living and understanding. I saw not just a hand but a complete and iridescent human being.

“Yes” that’s my mother. There is absolutely no doubt about it” I told the young attendant. But was it desperate, heartfelt wishful thinking on my part?

Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me for Information Click Here

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2 Responses to ““The Hand” – by Dzagbe Cudjoe- a story for all those people who live under the threat of terrorist attack”

  1. donnette Says:

    This made me cry.

    I love you.

    thank you for sharing.

  2. ghanaiangrandmother Says:

    Thank you for your comment. Hopefully we can use sharing as a means of bringing change.

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