BY GABRIELLA FECHER
“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”
Today, I held my father’s hand in mine as he lay in the hospice bed, unresponsive.
I had held that same hand so many times in my life and it never once felt like this. The fingers were cold and weak— and not gripping mine back— but I desperately held on because I didn’t want it to be the last time I held his hand like this. Once I let go, I wouldn’t get the chance again.
This was the same hand that I had clenched so tightly that my knuckles were white back when I was seven years old and scared of going on the ferris wheel. He hadn’t let go from the moment we stepped into that brightly-colored Contraption of Doom until the moment my glittery purple sneakers stepped off. This was the hand that held mine as we jumped off the dock into the green lake, the cold water enveloping us both. The hand that spun me in circles across the dance floor and the kitchen like they were one in the same. The hand that pulled me up from the snow heap after he himself shoved me in, giggling the whole way.
When a parent holds a child’s hand, it often brings about a sense of security, protection, peace, affection, and comfort. There’s a reason so many children cling to their parents when they encounter something scary or even new; that small gesture contributes to a sense of not being alone. We are assured that someone wiser and stronger is there, sharing the moment and the space with us. That “someone” is guiding us, reassuring us, or simply making the moment more special.
In my own grief journey this week, I stumbled on Isaiah 42:5-6:
“Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
‘I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;’”
I’m drawn to the visual of a God stretching heavens and earth, breathing life into its inhabitants. The power and majesty that is exemplified here is one that demands reverence and glory. He is the Creator, the Life Giver, the Artist who molds and shapes, the LORD of all. This picture demonstrates a handiwork of greatness that our human mind can’t even fathom.
And yet He holds my hand.
The placement of that one phrase— “I will take you by the hand and keep you” — right after this majestic scene is no mistake. It fits perfectly into this space that calls for the glory due to His name. The Alpha and Omega connects with us. Our fingerprints— our very identity— comes into contact with His. After all, His nature is simultaneously one of power and tenderness, magnitude and intimacy, protection and comfort.
The mighty hand that “laid the foundation of the earth” and “spread out the heavens” (Isaiah 48:13) is the same hand that “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17), uphold us (Isaiah 41:10), and support us (Psalm 18:35). We’re told that no one and nothing can take us from this hand (John 10:29) that holds our own.
And He never stops holding it. The Psalmist wrote, “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand” (Psalm 73:23). Only a few verses later, he writes, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” That connection with God and the corresponding strength, guidance, and comfort bolster us when our hearts fail, the discouragement creeps in, and the grief washes over us. This connection is the Comfort of all comforts, the type that speaks to the soul without always needing words.
This attachment between Heavenly Father and child is beautiful. He, like a Father, loves us and gives us “eternal comfort and good hope through grace” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). His presence is one that assures us that Someone is already looking out for us— that nothing is going to happen without His guidance and His support. We can, in fact, get on that ferris wheel because He’ll be doing it with us and He knows better than we do. We can jump into unknown waters. We can dance with even more joy because we’re sharing the moment with Him. We can get back up after we fall.
What a comfort it’s been to know that I never have to let go of my Father’s hand.