Who Holds My Hand?

By on January 1, 2013

By Sandi Elzinga –

August 4th, 1961. My husband of but a few moments holds my hand as we walk up the aisle. Grinning. The white-ribboned pews are filled with relatives and friends.

Members of my church family lean forward in their balcony seats, grinning back.

Two hours later, Bill once again holds my hand as we leave this building through its double-glass doors. He takes me far away, into a new life with him.

More than forty years pass before I return to live in my home state. This time I’m at a chapel, the mini-church tucked in at the edge of the cemetery’s rolling hills. Loved ones gather with me for Bill’s burial service.

The sky weeps as his body is carried out in a mahogany box. I stand stiff beneath a black umbrella, listening to the whine of the gears that lower the casket into the sodden ground. The air is claustrophobic. Oh God, I breathe upwards, gulping in oxygen.

I had cared for Bill during the four months a paralysis crept up his right side and down his left. Diagnosis? Three malignant brainstem tumors. I held him, our tears mingling as he moved through anguish to acceptance far sooner than I was able. I watched wide-eyed, as he lifted the one hand he could still move, in praise to God.

His hands now and for all eternity, in the hands of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A few months later, I re-visit the church of my childhood. I wander through quiet rooms on a weekday, memories flashing like a strobe light: At age seven, sitting between my parents during Sunday evening service. Feeling safe as twilight falls. At seventeen, singing off-key in choir and acting in a play with my best friends. I walk into the room where I taught Sunday school so long ago. Push open the door to the adjoining bathroom one little boy locked himself in, mid-lesson. The same rooms where I dressed in lacy-white while Bill waited for me up front in the sanctuary.

I peer into the Fellowship Hall, seeing in my mind, the plates of finger sandwiches and jello molds laid out on white tablecloths…wax melting down the length of flickering candles as Bill laid his hand on mine. Together, we cut our four-tier wedding cake.

Now he’s gone.

I grab the doorknob as the room shifts. The pastor is padding down the hallway in his stocking feet.

“Left my shoes in my study,” he smiles as he introduces himself. My breathing slows. We amble through the new wing, stopping before one wall lined with photographs of all the ministers for the past 100 years. I recognize several of them. During their years of service here, they and their wives often visited with my parents over coffee and Date Nut cookies.

The pastor and I circle the church and walk back into the Fellowship Hall. The custodian pauses in her vacuuming and welcomes me as though I just left yesterday.

Remembers me. Remembers my wedding.

On my way out, I pass the sanctuary. One last memory: Bill and I kneeling, head bowed, before the cross that still hangs central behind the pulpit. The cross of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.

Jesus. My Savior. My Redeemer. And my…Friend.

I walk through the double-glass doors. Holding those nail-scarred hands.

 

Sandi Elzinga is the author of GriefWalk: Hope Through the Dark Places, a blog offering comfort and support to those who have lost a loved one. www.sandielzinga.wordpress.com

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Who Holds My Hand?