There Is Nun Better

There Is Nun Better

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

There Is Nun Better

For health and the constant enjoyment of life, give me a keen and ever-present sense of humor; it is the next best thing to an abiding faith in providence.

George B. Cheever

Sister Catherine Higley, a Benedictine nun, was my colleague, friend, and teammate at the hospice. As a nurse, she was a blessing to many and she and I had wonderful times caring for people at the end of their lives. She had such a balanced view of life and death, and her wisdom was a great support to me.

Sister Catherine had the ability to give it to you straight while showing an extraordinary amount of compassion at the same time. One of her patients referred to her as Attila the Nun! Yet he lovingly followed her every command because he knew that she cared for him and he deeply respected her.

Once she was working with Mr. Johnson who was terminally ill. I was the social worker assigned to the case. I called his wife to schedule my first visit. We set up a time and just before she hung up the phone, she said, “Can you save my husband?”

I didn’t know if she meant save him physically or spiritually, so, in my zealous intent to do the right thing, I said, “How do you mean?” (You must realize that “how do you mean?” comes from two years of intensive graduate study in the art and science of social work culminating with the perfect question to elicit just the right response from the client!)

She said, “Can you save his faith?”

I immediately knew that this was a job for the chaplain, so I explained to Mrs. Johnson that I would have the chaplain follow up with her as soon as possible.

The next day, I was approached by “Attila” in the hallway at the hospice office. She was furious. “I can’t believe you’re sending the chaplain to Mr. Johnson’s house. They said from the very beginning that they wanted nothing to do with chaplains and you know we respect that!”

“That’s odd,” I said, “I just spoke to Mrs. Johnson yesterday and she said she wanted someone to save her husband’s faith.”

“No she didn’t,” Sister Catherine retorted, “She wanted someone to ‘shave his face.’ And she’s very confused as to why the chaplain has to do that!”

Thanks to Attila the Nun, I headed off the chaplain and avoided a very close shave!

Ronald P. Culberson

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