“Some hands are worn,” says Trish Rogers. “You can tell they’ve been through many things in life. Some hands are smooth because they’re kind of young and innocent.”
She’s talking about the hands of the dying. Trish Rogers has studied hundreds and hundreds of hands of dying people. For years, she’s been making casts of them as a unique and intimate way of memorializing those who have died. Each of Rogers’ models is of a person who recently died, sometimes alone but most often holding hands with a family member. She gives the casts to the person’s loved ones as a gift.
Trish makes the molds at the bedsides of people who are near death or who have recently died. As a loved one holds the person’s hand, Rogers’ guides them into a bucket of gel to create the mold. When the gel sets, she gently removes their hands from the molds and then pours plaster into the mold to form the cast. The casts express the distinctiveness of each hand, capturing scars and wrinkles and veins and all the rest of the features that make each person’s hands unique.
Rogers isn’t an artist. In fact, she’s an administrative assistant in critical care at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. “I wasn’t an art major,” she says. “It’s just a gift I’ve been given, to give these families. It’s just a calling.”
The supplies for each cast cost about $15, and for more than a decade Rogers has paid for them out of her own pocket.
Remembering Her Loss
Rogers’ mother died from ovarian cancer 21 years ago. It’s that memory together with her mother’s absence from her life that drives much of her work.
“When you do things like this, it makes your life not look so bad,” Rogers says. “I wish I had one [of the casts] of my own mother,” she adds.
Recently, a group of volunteers learned of Rogers’ generosity and chipped in to help her buy the supplies she needs to continue providing the casts for free.
Rogers’ casts are powerful gifts, gifts that provide a singularly expressive, tangible reminder of the person who once lived. They help bereaved loved ones remember the person who the hands belonged to…the hands that held and fed and knocked and clenched and played and cooked when they were alive.