©2002, Elaine Kozak
Elaine Kozak of Kenilworth, N.J., is the daughter of Jim Koerner, one of the veterans whose story is featured in "9 Lives."
So long ago there were the hands of a young child
Holding his mother's hand, his big brother's hand
His father's hand
Little hands playing with toys,
Making the mischief of a child.
Hands doing assignments of writing, arithmetic
in a composition book.
Hands doing chores for mother.
Hands getting in fistfights with bullies.
All too soon, the hands of a brokenhearted boy
holding his own face
crying mournful tears
for the father who took his own life.
Childhood ended abruptly, cruelly,
Now a young boy's hands
his widowed mother.
Heart and hands calloused too soon.
A little while after
A young man's hands volunteering into service
for mother country
to serve in World War II
that carried wounded soldiers
over frozen battlefields
Shamed hands held clasped over his head
and forced to surrender to the enemy
Hands that chronicled
A POW's personal journey of
Being to Hell and back.
Hands that couldn't mend the scars
Of secret places in the heart
memories of harrowing experiences
The inhumanity of it all --
invading the quality of life.
Tight-fisted, angry hands
Enclosed in boxing gloves
trying to punch away the pain
Striking out at the world.
Hands of a hard-working vet
joined in matrimony to a lovely country girl
Hands that soon nervously held
A firstborn baby girl.
Hands that work, help, support, give
Hands that bring little surprises
As well as, hands that dole out spankings,
Hands of a hard-working family man.
Sometimes, hands that are skillfully wrapped
Around the trigger of a hunting rifle.
A ritual of bonding with his brother and mentor
There is tranquility in the forest
There is music in the songs of birds
Healing in the running waters of the stream.
Hands still empowered with an iron grip
Playfully engaging the younger hands of his sons
Testing their strength -- testing his own.
The sands of time sift through these hands
so quickly, so quickly into
the hands of a hard-headed Octagenarian.
Hands now gnarled and racked with arthritis
Still keeping busy, still struggling
Hands that now fashion lighthouse creations
Colorful blue ocean scenes
Evoking New England memories of
Happier days gone by
Hands still always outstretched
Not to receive but to give.
Not for support for himself
but to support others.
A father's hands clasped together in prayer
to the Father of All
Hands bearing the cross
fashioned with love so great
from the One whose pierced hands
forged the way for us all.
May the Good Lord always bless
my father's hands.