A few months ago, while I was clearing out a storage room in a lonely warehouse building, a friend called me on my cell phone in tears. She told me of the overwhelming fear and anxiety she was feeling about a trip she was to embark upon in a few hours, that held many potentially difficult situations.

Standing in a storage room amidst broken cardboard boxes and forgotten stuff, I listened and talked and listened, as my friend’s tears gradually subsided. “But, how will I make it through?” she asked. “What will I do if I start to panic on the long flight, or when I am in another time zone?”

I wondered what I could offer right then and there? What would be totally portable, that she could look at any time she needed to, to remind her of other ways of seeing things, the opposite of fear and sadness?

I found myself saying: “Get a pen. Now draw a heart in the palm of your hand. The heart is all the good things you need reminding of: hope and possibility and solutions that you can’t imagine now, and most of all, love, and all the people that love and care about you. The heart will be hidden in your hand, and when you need it, all you have to do is open your hand and look; it will remind you.”

My friend took the secret heart with her, and told me she looked at it often in the days that followed. As it faded, she drew it anew. No one seemed to notice it. It proved to be the best way possible to use your hand as a notepad.

I’ve often wondered how that bit of Emergency Medicine came to me that day. ‘Heart in hand’…an old folk art image floated up from my memory. I remembered the Shakers used that image a lot, though my meaning was different from their “Put your hands to work, and your hearts to God”.  A ‘heart in hand’ is also the symbol of the Odd Fellows, one of those mysterious fraternal organizations…

…Somewhere, that powerful image had lodged in my mind long ago, waiting to be passed on.

Related post: Hand as Notepad

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14 replies on “emergency medicine

  1. I’m a teacher and I always read my young students a book called The Kissing Hand, based on the same idea. It’s very comforting.

  2. Curiously, the heart in the center of the palm exactly conforms to Chinese acupuncture. That point is the end of the heart meridian.

  3. This is beautiful; thank you for sharing!

    Our local storyteller, Brother Blue, who died not quite a year ago, always had blue butterflies on the palms of his hands. (RIP, Blue)

  4. This was sent to me by a friend and former boss – Thank you Amalyah!

    I worked on a project where everyday for 365 days I found and photographed a heart:

    I love that while the project came to an end in March I continue to receive hearts – This one is super special!

    Thank you!

  5. reminds me of dropping my kids off at school for first few days. I would kiss their palms and tell them to hold the kiss all day. Whenever they needed some love and comfort they could just open up their hand and hold it to their cheek.

  6. I adore this — I wish that I’d had a heart in my hand over the last three weeks, as I spent the worst vacation of my life on the east coast. Thank you for posting!

  7. I totally love this idea. I’m going to do it next time I need reminding of how lucky I am.

  8. When I was a little girl, I would wander into my father’s study and interupt him. He always took time for me and would take my hand and draw a little daisy on it. Then I would wander out again, tresuring my flower.

  9. You are lucky to have had such a dad!

  10. My daughter who is now in first grade do this almost daily. Sometimes we can’t find a pen when in a rush, but whenever we are apart, we usually have a heart drawn on our palms, our “kissing hand”. I want to get mine tattoo’d. I love the idea.

  11. I’m so glad I ran across this post again. The enormity of the Newtown shootings has left me feeling heartbroken. The heart-in-hand seemed a powerful image to me when I first saw it, and it feels very restorative right now.

  12. Yeah, there IS something about that heart-in-hand. And I still wonder where that flash of light came from.

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