In the movie American Beauty, Kevin Spacey’s character dies a death that is strangely violent and peaceful all at once. Shot in the head by an enraged neighbor, he experiences the last seconds of his life as stretched into an extended sequence of epiphanies and clarity about what was most beautiful and important, though prior to life slipping away those moments had seemed mundane.
I’ve only seen the movie once, and that was in the theater. I found it so powerful and emotionally overwhelming that I’m not sure I could see it again; but I’ve never forgotten it, and key scenes and lines linger as if I’d just experienced the film.
As his life drains, Spacey’s character reflects on “my grandmother’s hands, and how they were like paper.” There is a close up of a very old woman’s hands, and then the next realization comes. I connected with that image and revelation. Both of my grandmothers were incredible women, as different as night and day and yet fierce in their love for their family and endlessly gentle, patient and kind with their grandchildren.
I miss them every day. And when I think of them, I see their hands.