The Longing of a Swan:
It was exquisite, unlike anything she had heard before, especially from her time at the Order. She thought nothing would compare to daily plainsong of her fellow Sisters or the rare moments when they traveled to the Mother House in Chichester. Traveling to the Mother House rarely took place, but each time it happened, Sister Bernadette was allowed the opportunity to listen and participant in their orchestra of worship.
She then remembered a time in her childhood, when music was played in its entirety, but never again after the death of her mother. Her family didn’t have much in possessions back in the green fields of Aberdeen, but there was something cherished equally amongst her family. All three of them could agree on the importance of music. They had owned a portable, wind-up gramophone which was played all throughout the house.
Her mother had taught her many songs from it, had witnessed the dances shared between her parents, and its final wind-up before it was destroyed by her father. On the eve of her mother’s funeral, when the days of musical notes had vanished, only to be replaced with sorrow and longing.
It was some time before Sister Bernadette found music in her life again, a life in the service of the Lord and surrounded by the voices of her fellow Sisters. But here she was, absorbed in the lows and highs of the combined instruments of the cello and piano. The vibrant tones and movements expressed through their well-played strings and chords. As if one would find themselves floating along a river, lost in one’s feelings.
Toward the concluding note, however, Sister Bernadette felt something wet run down her face. It seemed that the music not only allowed her to reminisce about her past, but present as well. The musical piece coming from Nurse Miller’s room had unconsciously set into motion the production of tears. At first she was startled by the cause of her tears, staring down at her fingertips in confusion, which glistened in her attempt to wipe her tears away. Then in no moment at all, she hurried back to her cell.
There she stayed for the remainder of the day, laying blame on not feeling well, which was partly true. Sister Bernadette found herself on her knees, hands clasped in prayer for her misguided thoughts and actions of recent days. Never in her time at the Order had she wished or sought after anything more than her present vocation. She had finally realized the cause of her tears, which were not only due to the beautiful melody, but by her week filled with yearning.
She longed to ask what the song was called, longed to be party to the nurses’ private conversations, and beyond the limitation of her vows. Sister Bernadette found herself filled with joy when she unknowingly spied on Nurse Lee in the company of the other nurses. Excitement when all five of them discussed Nurse Browne’s potential courtship to Constable Noakes and when she broke the vow of chastity, if only for a moment.
She looked up from her joined hands, her eyes finding their way to item of vanity, the ordinary mirror hanging from the cell’s wall. She had avoided the mirror in recent days, as if it was the plague, which all started the day she allowed her wistful thinking to get the better of her. Sister Bernadette was not one to behave in such manner, yet she couldn’t help herself. A moment of weakness had planted its seed and she couldn’t help but wonder.
“I can’t,” spoke Sister Bernadette, speaking to no one but herself. In the privacy of her cell, she allowed the last bit of longing to pass before she stood up from her kneeled position. She walked the short distance to the hanging mirror and faced it again, as she did that day and every day before, cloaked in her nun’s attire. This time she did not reach to undo her wimple nor to discard her spectacles, instead she stood there, taking in what she was. A brief moment to analyze who she had chosen to be, which was a nurse, a midwife, and more importantly a nun within the Order of St. Raymond Nonnatus.