Updated: Apr 9, 2020
She looked at what was in her hands --- not the best, but she would make do. She would give the others a run for their money; she would not just cave. And she would make them work!
15 days later she lay in her bed, those same hands holding onto her family members. She closed her eyes and passed into glory, at home and surrounded by love. Her 96 year old hands, as well as the rest of her, told the story of her long, interesting, and colorful life.
But, oh, return to that day which had occurred 15 days earlier, to those hands.
It started as her hands chose from her wardrobe clothes that would keep her warm and yet make her look pretty, for she was going out. Those hands then combed her thin, white hair and put on a dab of lipstick. Even though they fumbled a bit, her hands then took her car keys from their hanger and inserted them into the ignition.
She arrived at her destination and with her loving hands reached toward her one friend of over 70 years, to other friends and acquaintances. As she navigated the room with all of the tables and chairs, those hands – not quite as strong as they had been previously – helped to steady her as made her way to the table of her choosing.
Every four rounds she lifted her wrinkled hands and dealt the cards. She looked at each, counted her points and then bid. The cards weren’t as good as she would have liked, her hands weren’t as steady as she would have preferred them to be, but her friends were as near to her as she wanted, and her mind was clearer than she might have expected. And with what she was dealt, she did more than make do.
Her name was Aggie and she was a bridge player. On that 15th day before she died, I was her opponent at the bridge table. We played 24 rounds, about a 4 hour game that day. Aggie, albeit a kind and demure woman, was a fierce, bright and tough opponent. While my partner and I had taken the bid many times and ultimately won the 24 round game, we lost quite a few of the rounds because of Aggie, because she played well the cards that were dealt to her. Her mind remained sharp. She counted each card and we kept trying to force her to play that one winning card so that we could lose that trick and then proceed to victory, but her mind did not relent to forgetfulness, and her hands did not release that winning card. She did this to us time and again, winning a few rounds that other opponents whom we play would not have. She never succumbed to despair over the poorer cards she had been dealt. She took these cards and played each one incredibly well.
One often wonders how someone has spent her last days on earth. For Aggie, she played well, very well, one of the last hands she was dealt. She was also fortunate in the other hand she was dealt: she succumbed to death before she would not have been permitted to see her friends or family, before she would have had to live through many cloistered and sheltered days. Hands of cards and hands of family marked her last days.
Perhaps this pandemic could help each of to realize that there are many folks out there who are dealt a hand not quite what they would like it to be , just like Aggie’s hand of cards. Sometimes it is not what one is dealt, but how one plays it.
The cards which we all have been dealt now are ones of sequestration and stay-at-home orders. There are many folks out there whose hands might be reaching out for someone, someone who can’t be with them because of the quarantine. There are many folks out there whose hands might be wringing with worry over a loved one. Some people out there are playing the last hands they will be dealt; others will be playing for many more years.
How are we playing the cards we are dealt? Can we, like Aggie, take our not-so-good cards and turn them into something memorable or perhaps victorious; and, if so, how?