They Do Exist.

Bodies & Beauty: Invisible, Painful, & Perfect.

Editor’s Note: After an entire month of reading submissions like this, I have come to determine that we truly forget that “beauty is fleeting.” True beauty, beauty that gives life and is to be treasured, lasts forever. It continues to give, to inspire, & to do what beauty is intended to do in the beginning: Bring glory to it’s Creator. This beautiful story was written by Laura. She blogs at Daily Dose of Sugar Mama & you can read a little more about her here. – Lauren

Her disfigured and swollen hand reached over to rest on my leg as we sat side by side on the front porch swing. We both watched as the traffic slowly drove by her small white house with its flower-filled window boxes and large oak tree. She couldn’t see the detail of the cars like I could. She could only vaguely see the color of the flowers, no longer knowing their type.  The swing creaked with each gradual swing, and we sat without saying a word.

But her hands spoke to me.

They are gnarled and ugly to most that see them. Their arthritic deformities keep her from doing the things she had done for years before: no more late nights knitting in her overstuffed chair, no more canning beets from her garden, and no more writing in the cursive that become so familiar to me.

Those swollen fingers were usually black and blue these days. Her fingernails still long, as they’d always been. Her skin still smooth and soft. But the fingers had grown increasingly misshapen.

And beautiful.

As I grew up, I was never disgusted by her hands. I watched them fix my favorite buttered toast or turn the page of the book I requested she read over and over again. Her fingers reminded me of the roots of a big strong tree, reaching to soak up all of the goodness. I didn’t realize as a little girl how much pain she suffered. Without complaint, she continued buttering my bread and turning pages.

Her feet were no better off. But she never hid them. She never complained of the pain of the arthritis. Her selfless ways have led others to Christ in a way I feel I never could. Her calm mild manner reached out, like the roots of that big oak tree, and touched the lives of everyone that crossed her path. No ugliness in her soul.

Never making comment of outside beauty that I can remember, instead spoke of people’s hearts, teaching me that it’s what people do that makes them beautiful. She would have loved me no matter what I looked like, but she would have been disappointed in me if my focus had been on my outward beauty. I learned from her that the body is just the body. Her body has become almost useless as the arthritis has overtaken every joint. However, her mind is the same mind, her heart the same heart.

My Grandmother is one of the most beautiful women I have known in my life. The deformed hands and feet are a part of that beauty. What she chooses to DO with the pain of the crippling disease is part of what makes her beautiful. No one knows the amount of daily pain she endures, but we know it would make most people insufferable. She has kind eyes and wisdom in her soul. She passes no judgment, for she knows that is not her place. She listens intently, never making anyone feel insignificant. I can only hope to have a fraction of her beauty as a woman.

When she is gone from this earth the old oak tree will cry along with the many people that love her. But her beauty will be passed on, hopefully, by women like me that listened to her. So I continue to sit on the swing and slightly rock back and forth with my Grandma — if only in my mind — and I cling to the beautifully disfigured hands.


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5 Responses

  1. Meg

    This brought such peace to me. My Mother has endured having arthritis her whole adult life… her hands and feet have also transformed into beautiful twisted and tangled creations and never once has she complained either. It's such a gift to know someone so in tune with life… giving… understanding… and acceptance. What a beautiful example you were given as a Grandmother like that. I look to my Mother everyday in awe and amazement at what she can do, will always do, and dreams of doing. The mind can exist and live on far beyond the end of what the body can do. Thank you for sharing this inspiring relationship and story, Laura!

    June 25, 2011 at 1:38 am

  2. pastordt

    This is simply beautiful. Thank you so much for this tender, elegant, winsome tribute to this woman who has been such gift in your life. May my grandchildren feel that way about me – that is a prayer worth praying! Just lovely.

    June 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

  3. It is amazing what we have done with outward beauty. I want my grandchildren one day to look at me in this light.

    June 28, 2011 at 1:11 am

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