It has been five years since I lost my mother, I offer the following as a tribute to a full life led by an amazing woman, Phoebe Elaine Parr Rutan.
"What a beautiful sweater!" the woman exclaimed when my daughter and I came into view. "My mother made it for me when I was a kid," I replied. "Now my daughter wears it. Those hand-knit sweaters last forever." The woman smiled in response and we each continued on with our daily business.
Later in the day I became pensive about that pink and white sweater with the kitty-cat buttons. I remembered going to the store with my mother and picking out those black and white cat silhouette buttons. Becoming nostalgic, I thought about the comforting sound of the clicking knitting needles I grew up listening to. How exciting it was to have a new article of clothing made by my mother's hands! That thought led to consideration of my mother's hands.
Those hands that knit that sweater had a busy life. They changed four babies' countless diapers. They wiped away the tears shed when a baby died, and folded in prayer for God's help numerous times over her 76 years on Earth. They held hymnals and bibles and Dr. Seuss books. Those hands held those of her husband and children and grandchildren. They clapped for countless children's performances, laid Scrabble tiles over and over, and dug gardens. In her younger days growing up on a farm, those hands touched cows, petted dogs, picked vegetables and learned how to make bread. They were not just the hands of a mother, they were the hands of a sister, a daughter, a wife, a friend and a volunteer. Those ten fingers made beautiful music on a piano, typed countless pages of meeting minutes for PTA and church groups. The woman who owned them nearly froze them hanging laundry on the line in the winter until they cracked and bled, and squeezed lemons for lemonade to go with sandwiches in the summer. Not only could they work magic with yarn, they could sew clothes, embroider,and bake countless batches of cookies over the years. Near the end, the hands that had been so productive, so happy to cradle a baby's head, so busy, forgot what to do. They were idle, no longer was their owner able to make beautiful things, she simply couldn't remember how to make them work. As her illness erased her abilities, others took her hands to lead her. When finally her time on Earth was finished, God took her hand in the night and gently led her Home.