76: Perfect Purple Nails

76: Perfect Purple Nails

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

Perfect Purple Nails

Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty—they merely move it from their faces into their hearts.

~Martin Buxbaum

“Mom, I’ve made the best nail kit ever,” my ten-year-old daughter Brooke exclaimed. “I think the ladies at the nursing home will really love my new nail polish colors, don’t you?”

My eyes grew wide as I viewed the hot pink, tomato red and neon purple bottles of polish. Not wanting to squelch Brooke’s joy, I said, “I am so proud of you for caring about the residents and taking the time to make your wonderful kit.”

Brooke beamed with pride and ran to get her sweater before we left for church. My husband was minister of children and youth at our church, and he had chosen the local nursing home as the mission project for the year. Our group of kids chose to read, sing and do nails for the residents that chose to participate.

Brooke always looked forward to her visits with “her” ladies, and they never minded if the nail job was less than perfect. She ended every visit with a big hug and a short prayer.

At the church we gathered hymnals and got everyone settled in the van for the short ride to the nursing home. I held on to the residents’ much-anticipated chocolate cupcakes and the juice we were taking to the facility as treats.

The nurses’ aide for our wing met us at the door and ushered us toward the large activities room. The halls were lined with men and women in wheelchairs and the distinct smell of disinfectant hung heavy in the air. My heart broke as I saw the distant stares in some of the residents’ eyes. Many of them had the soft lap robes we had given them the month before folded over their legs.

Wheelchairs and walkers were pulled up to the tables in the activity room. The residents jokingly called it “the wheelchair train.” Some of our boys had brought fishing and sports magazines to read to the men. By far, the most anticipated moment was Brooke’s nail polishing event.

Millie, eighty-eight years young, was always first in line. The aide had told us she did not have family or friends come to visit and this was the highlight of her month.

Brooke greeted Millie with a hug and sat her polishes out for Millie to choose a color. I saw her shock at Brooke’s color choices quickly cross her face.

“Why, Brooke, I think I will pick that purple shade for my nails,” she said kindly.

I gave Millie a secret look of thanks and watched as Brooke carefully painted each nail.

“Yep,” Millie said, “I have perfect purple nails.”

Brooke painted each of the ladies’ nails with the same enthusiasm.

That was twenty-four years ago, and now Brooke was at home under hospice care with end-stage breast cancer. I was Brooke’s primary caregiver along with her husband and the hospice nurses.

Volunteers came and sang to Brooke, something that soothed her and seemed to help lessen her pain. One day I answered a knock at the door and there stood a mother and young girl. The mother introduced herself saying she was a nail technician and explained that her daughter loved to accompany her on her visits.

The young girl, Allison, asked Brooke if she would like her nails painted. Brooke nodded yes, I am sure more for Allison’s sake than hers. To our amazement, Allison pulled out a bright shade of metallic purple polish.

Things had come full circle. Brooke’s loving acts of volunteerism had come back to bless her.

After Brooke’s nails were done, she and I smiled, sharing a precious memory.

I choose to believe angels welcomed Brooke to heaven, perhaps smiling when they spotted her perfect purple nails.

~Dee Dee Parker

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