The Nose Knows
"Do you smell that?" a friend asked me as she sniffed a fresh peach. "Peaches always remind me of Grandma and Grandpa G. They had a peach orchard. We grandkids helped pick peaches for the market each year. I can still hear Uncle Ray as he drove the tractor while pulling the wooden trailer: 'Mama's gonna bake her special peach cobbler for supper, y'all!' I can almost taste it now!" Both of my friend's grandparents had passed away, yet she still thought of them when she smelled fresh peaches.
Years ago, a mother asked her young son what he remembered about her own mom, who died when the boy was about four years of age. The response he gave took his mother by surprise. He said, "I don't remember much about what she did or how she looked, but I remember how she smelled when I sat in her lap."
Those comments triggered my memories of certain scents that can very quickly bring a deceased loved one to the present. A pile of fallen leaves, freshly-mown hay, and tobacco curing in a log barn are all associated with my dad. Wind Song perfume and Oil of Olay face cream belong to Granny Y. Scrambled eggs, fried bacon, and hot pound cake from the oven remind me of Grandma T. Suntan lotion and salty ocean air bring back Cousin B. I enjoy this delicious sense of smell we are given. It provides a connection I often need.
Following a loved one's death, our senses s-t-r-e-t-c-h to hold onto that person—to keep him or her close in many different ways. The sense of smell is the one that I hear mentioned most often when I work with support groups. People have said: "I sleep with my husband's shirt on his pillow so I can smell his cologne. Am I crazy?" "Every so often, I open my wife's closet just to smell her perfume. Is that okay?" "I have kept Dad's pipe that still smells like him. I don't know if I should." "The waitress brought hot homemade biscuits to our table and I thought of Mom's. I started to cry, and I had to leave the table for a few minutes. Am I all right?"
The reply is, "Yes—you are absolutely normal!"
Sights, sounds, and smells that we associate with people are parts of everyday life. Many times, we don't pay much attention to them until a family member or friend is no longer with us. It is during our grieving that certain senses are heightened and come to the forefront, and we feel as though we are not normal. We are. We simply want to be close to our dads, moms, sons, daughters, spouses, or friends, and that is okay.
As time passes, those scents that bring tears now can transform into sweet fragrances of love shared and memories made. Embrace them.
―Fonda Younger, Bereavement Assistant/Choir Director (Mount Airy Office)
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
Tags: Grief Support