What I remember most about my grandma, perhaps, are her hands. Many say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but I tend to disagree. The hands, I believe, can tell stories of a life like nothing else can. Grandma’s hands told stories of work, love, and loss, and I will forever miss holding them in mine and feeling her soft yet firm touch.
I can see her hands now, pinching the edges of a piecrust or working a batch of cookie dough. I can see them reaching out to touch my baby daughter, for the first time, full of love and tenderness. I can feel them, too, tissue soft, caressing the back of my hand as we sit together quietly on the sofa. I can even catch a whiff of the Chantilly Lace that scented the hankies she often clutched.
Her hands were tough, gentle, and strong. They were no nonsense, midwestern, hardworking hands of a farm girl used to work. They were the hands that crafted rockets at a war plant during WWII. They were hands that guided her son through the doors of the house she worked tirelessly for when she was raising a child, alone, in the 1940s. They were the hands that crafted stories from cotton and thread and wove love and devotion into every quilt she ever made. They were the hands that held the strong hands of her loving husband, my grandpa Oscar, for forty years. They were the hands that brought meals to her neighbors and planted seeds in her garden. They were the hands that snapped hundreds and hundreds of pictures over the years in order to capture the fleeting moments of life before they were gone. They were the hands that trembled with shock and sorrow when her only son left this earth before she did.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said that:
"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."
Sylvia Mechling Joggerst was one of those beautiful people. But, like Kubler-Ross said, she did not just “happen.” She struggled and fought her way into her beauty and along the way touched the lives of everyone she met. She worked hard, played hard, and loved hard and we are all privileged to have known her light.
So today, in honor of my grandmother’s memory, reach out and hold the hand of someone you love. Memorize its feel, its scent, and its strength. When you touch that hand infuse it with love and peace and warmth and think fondly of Sylvia.