This is a poem I wrote for my dad after he died. I read it at his funeral last Tuesday (4/16/2013). It was inspired as I looked at my dad in the coffin at the viewing. When I looked at dad’s face, I could tell it was him but for whatever reason it didn’t “feel” like him. But then I looked at his hands and I was impressed by how much his hands “felt” like him. They were just like I had always remembered them. What was really interesting is that when my sister shared her memories at the funeral, she also spoke of dad’s hands. I am not surprised since we spent a lot of time during the last couple days of dad’s life holding his hands and looking at them. This poem was my attempt to capture my memories of dad’s life through his hands.
My Dad’s Hands
By Noah Kelley
For my father, Jeff Kelley
My dad’s hands held me when I was born. I don’t remember it, but they were there anyway.
My dad’s hands took care of my sister and I. He fed us rice and green beans for dinner, French toast for breakfast, and apples and peanut butter for a snack.
My dad’s hands also swatted me with a belt once when I was little and I made him really mad (only, he had to catch me first!)
My dad’s hands played the guitar.
My dad’s hands learned to adjust people when he went away to Chiropractic college, and my dad’s hands relieved hurting backs, and my dad’s hands used the money he made to put a roof over my head and clothes on my back and food in my mouth, and I didn’t really appreciate all that my dad’s hands had done.
And my dad’s hands made toy guns out of wood so I could blow up aliens with my imagination, and my dad’s hands made widgets and whatnots; after all, why buy one at the store when you can make one that works even better out of a piece of wood, some strips of leather, and an old handle that fell off a suitcase you used to have.
And my dad’s hands always played the guitar.
My dad’s hands weren’t perfect. They weren’t pierced by nails, the nails that made peace between me and God. In fact, sometimes my dad’s hands were stained by nicotine, and sometimes they could be angry.
But my dad did a lot of good to me with those hands, and my dad’s hands played the guitar.
My dad’s hands were unique, and they made me smile the way they would write using a ruler to keep the sentences perfectly straight, and then take away the ruler to add the tails to the y’s, the j’s, the g’s and the p’s.
And my dad’s hands were kind, holding my daughter on his lap and taking her for a ride in his motorized wheelchair.
And my dad’s hands loved to play the guitar.
But my dad’s hands got weak, and he couldn’t play the guitar, because God put limits on my dad’s hands, the way He does to the sea when He says, “You can go this far, and no further.”
And I am thankful that when that time came, my sister and I were able to hold my dad’s hands.