More Than a Manicure

By Beth Duering

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My friend’s unusual gift of service was just what I needed.

I winced as the telephone on the bedside table rang; it was much too loud. I was so sensitive to any movement or sound that a cricket’s song would have been offensive.

I pulled the pillow over my ear but to no avail. To silence the telephone, I had to answer it. “Hello,” I grunted.

A familiar, quietly solicitous voice came through the phone to me. “Hi, are you any better today?”

“Well,” I replied, “right now the pain has eased a little, but I can’t be sure how long it will last.”

She continued: “I’ve had you on my mind. I need to spend a few minutes with you to see if I can cheer you up a little. Do you think you could sit up and tolerate company for about 45 minutes?”

I mentally sighed. “Of course I could,” I managed to say. “I’d love to see you!” Inside, however, I was thinking anxiously, I haven’t been up for more than 10 minutes at a time for several days—I’m not sure I can handle this. But the caring and concern in my friend’s voice assured me that she would be a welcome guest.

It had been a long winter, fraught with pain and illness that I couldn’t seem to shake. It started with a bad fall that left serious complications, followed by a frustrating assortment of sicknesses that had kept me bedridden for several months. To aggravate the situation, an infection plagued me, causing chills and fever and debilitating cramps. For five weeks I had fought the infection, coming to the brink of threatened surgery if the last round of antibiotics didn’t work.

I now roused myself, splashed cold water on my face, pulled a brush through my unkempt hair, and slipped into a housecoat just in time to greet my friend. As I opened the door, a gush of fresh spring air came in with her. She greeted me with a warm, one-armed hug, the other arm full of some sort of paraphernalia—a plastic box and several towels. “What on earth?” I muttered.

“Let’s go to the kitchen,” she said, busily leading the way. We settled ourselves at the small kitchen table in front of a window, with the April sunshine streaming in and falling across our laps. I couldn’t help but notice how fresh and clean she seemed. Her face had a healthy glow, and her eyes bespoke of her radiant inner spirit.

With a sly grin, she announced, “I’ve come to give you a manicure!” Methodically she arranged the towels on the table and carefully removed the contents of the box—all manner of cotton balls, sticks, files, and scissors and more than a dozen bottles of fluids in assorted colors. The plastic box was then quickly filled with water from the sink and placed in front of me.

“Give me your hands,” she said as she poured nail polish remover onto a soft puff of cotton. She began removing the bits of long-neglected polish on my fingernails, and once they were clean, she plopped both hands into the box of warm, sudsy water. I found myself starting to relax, realizing how good the water felt on my hands. In a soft, bubbly voice she was speaking of pleasant things: how bright the day was and how breathtakingly lovely the giant red tulips were that she had seen on the way to my house. She caught me up on the activities of mutual friends and her grandchildren, and she particularly inquired about and patiently listened to my report of my grandchildren’s accomplishments.

As we chatted it slowly occurred to me that I was thoroughly enjoying and savoring the experience. I noticed too that the pain in my side seemed more of an annoying inconvenience than the acute problem it had been an hour before.

In my 62 years I had never been treated to a “professional” manicure. I was being pampered. “Now you can help me,” my friend said. “Let’s choose a color.” Her collection of nail polish was astonishing. There were wild neon colors of red and orange, fluorescent purples, and soft pinks. We looked at frosteds and pearls, glitters, sparkles, and iridescents before settling on a pale, pearly pink that looked natural and made my fingertips glow. And there we sat, two old ladies basking in the afternoon sunshine, completely absorbed with the feminine trappings spread out in front of us.

When the last brush stroke was applied, my friend moved quickly, packing the bottles and tools back into the plastic box, neatly folding the towels on top, and promptly moving to the door to leave. I followed her with outstretched fingers, still drying. She gave me another one-armed hug, told me she knew I would get well soon, and was gone.

A little light-headed and shaky, I made a hasty retreat to the bedroom. Being careful to guard the fresh paint on my nails, I slipped out of my housecoat and eased into bed, breathing a sigh of gratitude for the support the bed offered my ailing body. Somehow it seemed more comfortable, and I felt more rested than I had just 45 minutes before.

In the next few days of recuperation I couldn’t help but think about the manicure I had experienced. Every time I turned over in bed and tugged the covers up to my chin, I was aware that there were no uncomfortable hangnails or rough cuticles catching on the sheets. I would catch a glimpse of my pretty pink fingernails and smile.

If my friend had called and asked me if there was “anything she could do” for me, I would have told her no. If she had asked if she could come and give me a manicure, I surely would have refused, thinking it was the last thing I needed or wanted. She said only that she cared and wanted to cheer me up—and she fulfilled that promise by physically touching my hands and spiritually touching my heart.

Let’s Talk about It

Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:

  1. How can we effectively show love to those around us who are struggling?

  2. In what ways are we blessed when we serve?

  3. How are we benefited by accepting service from others?

Photography by John Luke; posed by models

Show References

  • Beth Duering is a member of the Parleys Second Ward, Salt Lake Parleys Stake.