I remember the first year Charlie was in preschool.  During one of the parent meetings, his teacher reminded us that as teachers, they do not “do art” for the students. It wasn’t until Charlie came home with his first preschool scribbles, that I realized why Ms. Sharon felt she needed to explain how art works.  Charlie’s apple tree, finger painting looked more like a pile of diarrhea, than art and I wasn’t sure whether or not to hang it up or fumigate his bag when I pulled it out.  

Over the years, we have had plenty of art pieces where calling them abstract would be an understatement.  But each one has had a special place (ok, most end up in my trashcan) in watching our children grow and change. 

Truthfully, I love how our preschool never does art for their students. Our children’s doodles, animals with eyes in the wrong place, or people with purple hair are just a few expressions of creativity that have adorned our refrigerator and playroom walls.  I have kept a collection of art for all 3 kids.  And I love looking back at them from year to year, noticing how their scribbles turn into lines, their sticks turn into people and their paint strokes begin to form landscapes. 

But my most favorite creations are ones that include handprints.  The first day of school art, snowmen, animals of all kinds, and flowers, all created using the handprints of our children. Those are the pieces that I cherish most.  I love seeing how each of our children’s hands have changed, grown, and what they have accomplished in just their few short years.  Each handprint is an imprint of their life on ours. 

I have always felt a strong connection with my children when I am holding their hands.  It’s like there is an energy that goes between mother and child and holding hands starts the current to unlock it. Our children are pieces of our hearts, walking outside of ourselves.  To hold each piece is to complete the puzzle, making our heart full.  For me, holding Charlie’s hands was like completing my own heart.  

Since Charlie died, I have missed his hands so much. Sometimes I look at the art hanging in our playroom, created by him and imagine his hand, drawing, cutting, and painting each item, just the way he wanted it.  His perfect hands created these beautiful pieces of art. Then I find myself staring at the pieces that were made with his handprints.  I  look at the lines in his palms and the size of his fingers formed from the paint dried on the paper.  And placing my own hand on his handprint, I imagine the feeling of his tiny fingers interlocking mine. It reminds me of just how full my heart felt when he was alive.

Charlie’s hands are so special to me, and that why I look at them every day.  They are in his artwork around our house, in the mural he created in our basement, and in the logo of the foundation we started to fulfill his legacy.  Charlie’s Heart Foundation was created with Charlie’s two hands.  Each hand in the CHF logo is a handprint from one of Charlie’s art pieces.  We overlapped his handprints, creating a heart in the middle, reminding me that Charlie’s heart is at the center of work we do. 

Charlie’s hands are everything to me and I yearn to hold them again.  But until I am able, I know he is with us – in the heart of Charlie’s Heart Foundation – spreading his unconditional love to others.