I have an egg that sits on my desk at home; it's not your everyday bacon and eggs kind of egg. It's a beautifully hand-painted wooden egg. It's painted blue, with a pig flying with wings. It reminds me of many reasons why I became a nurse.
I received this art egg after Sr. Mary* passed away. She was a Nun; a very lovely, full of life Nun. She lived life with zest. She had a smile that you knew she was up to something. She saw my transition from new c.n.a. to graduated LPN. I had worked in that Convent for over 12 years and to this day, I smile at the life of Sr. Mary.
The first time I ever gave Sr. Mary a whirlpool, she asked me to go into her bathroom and grab her ducks. My first impression was a rather raised up eyebrow. Yes, she definitely asked me to grab her rubber ducks; mama duck and her three babies. I took her in her wheelchair, ducks in hand. I talked to her, filled the whirlpool with warm water, and she asked me for the soap. I lowered her in, left the room for privacy (she was a quite capable independent Nun).... and about 20 minutes later, I returned. She had bubbles....everywhere. All over the floor. She had a grin of pure satisfaction. She loved the expression that the new CNA's received when they went back into the whirlpool room and saw the room full of bubbles, her head barely sticking out from behind the bubbles. To this day, I can still hear her giggles.
This wasn't your typical Nun; she had a quirky way about her. She absolutely loved pigs. You name it, she had it. She had pig blankets, windchimes, pez dispensers.... and this candy dispenser that had M&M's come out of it's rear... "you want a pig poop?" she'd asked. She pulled it's curly tail and popped a peanut m&m in her mouth and winked.
The first time I heard that she had cancer, my heart dropped. No one wants cancer, no one wants to know that someone they love has cancer. I was in nursing school, and she was always asking me how my studies were. I was working midnights, and often she'd be up late. If I brought in some pizza for a late night snack, I knew she'd want a piece. Her cancer was terminal, but you'd never know it. The Nuns live a very reserved life; they do not ask for much. Her last wish was to go to the Bahamas before her cancer got the best of her. She ended up going with two of her friends. She returned, wanting everyone to see the pictures of her time in the Bahamas. The first picture of the album was the three of them basking in the sun with their swimsuits on, with the title "Three Beached Whales" ....you couldn't help but laugh. I couldn't even imagine how much fun they had, and how much this meant to her. Her bucket list was complete.
Her cancer had gotten worse; it was spreading quickly. She was starting to become delirious on her medication, but she was comfortable. She laid in bed, nestled up next to her stuffed pig. She was at ease. I had graduated lpn school a few months before this and was taking care of her one night. She had her days where she was awake and talking. One of the cna's had asked Sr. Mary if she wanted help with anything. "Yes. I would like my toenails to be painted." So the c.n.a. went to get some supplies, asked her what color she wanted. I had left the room and a little while later, I returned. I had walked in the room, by this time she had on her fuzzy pig house slippers. She slipped them off and showed me her toes....bright pink. She picked out this neon pink, and she had the biggest grin on her face. I know that some people would be appalled at such a thing...allowing a cna to paint a residents toes with such an odd color, but I knew this was what Sr. had requested.
A week later, the cancer was getting the best of her. She was now totally bedridden, with oxygen, unable to speak, on every 2 hour turns. She was comfortable, quiet and was annointed. Many of her fellow Sisters had already been in the room, sitting with her, holding her hand, talking to her. She was as "snug as a bug in a rug"...as she would say. She had taken her last breath that night. She ended her journey of life very peacefully. I had to make the phone calls, get the funeral home set up. As the funeral home director came in to put Sr. Mary's body on the gurney, she had seen Sr's neon pink toes. She looked up at me and I smiled and told her this isn't your average ordinary Nun. Take great care of her for me, please.
A little while after the funeral, I went to look in my mailbox at work; usually there are just papers of when the next meeting is, insurance information, etc. This time I had a little wrapped gift in there... I opened it up and there was a blue egg with a pig with wings. There was a note that said, "Here is a gift from Sr. Mary. May her memory live on." She had so many things with pigs in her room, that each of us caregivers had received a token of gratitude that Sr. had left each of us.
When I sit at my desk at home, sometimes after a bad night of falls, doctor orders, running non-stop; I stop for a moment and look at that blue egg with the pig that does fly and remember to laugh. Sister Mary sure is laughing and giggling now, "When Pigs fly..." ...well, I sure hope that she is where Pigs Fly. She taught me many things, she was part of God's humor. She had a way of teaching many of us nurses that sometimes you have to laugh in the face of death, you have to make life worth living. There are too many people of this world that are too sad, too angry.... and the only thing that brings out the best in us is a smile. Even if those certain people won't even laugh until "Pigs Fly...."
Her act of kindness and quirkiness will never be forgotten. I'll miss the nights that we sat down and talked for hours, and how she had chosen her "real" Sister name (which I will leave as confidential), but the name was so absurd and she delighted in this name and loved to tell people that she had gotten this name from some queen of the forest.
When I give my own daughter a bubble bath, I always remember all the bubbles this Sister had, that grin on her face and the memories that will live on. It may of been insignificant at that time, but that was a legacy that will live on in the stories that I put in my memory box at home when I have a bad day.