There’s no way around it, we all smell. Our sense of smell is like nature’s built in time machine. One whiff of a particular smell can take us right back to a specific time or place. Or remind us of specific people. The smell of a woodburning stove or campfire reminds me of my Pepere. The smell of sawdust takes me right back to my childhood, hanging out with him in his woodworking shop while he tinkered away.
On May 30th at 4:49am, not quite a month ago, I was blessed to hold the hand of my Memere as she took her last breath and left this world to go to the next.
In my kitchen is a cabinet in the corner. It was a present from Memere’s kids (my Mom and Aunt) on their 35th wedding anniversary. When we moved into our house, she gave it to us. It was the first piece of furniture to be moved in. For the longest time, you could open the cabinet, or one of the drawers, and you could smell Memere. At that time, it was a combination of good perfume and cigarette smoke. It was a pleasant smell actually, and I used to smile when I went in to get my good dishes caught a whiff.
Memere quit smoking a few years ago. At this point, I never really noticed it, but her scent changed. It was there, when you walked into her apartment, when you hugged her or got close to her, when I sniffed something she had given me (a handbag, a scarf, etc.) but it wasn’t anything that I really paid attention to.
Now she’s gone. And I miss her so much. She was 90 years old, and I know that she lived a long, good life, but I still selfishly wish she was still here. I’m not going to stomp my feet and say it’s not fair when there are children dying all over the world, and innocent people dying in acts of war or terror. But it still sucks. Sometimes I think that the longer a person is in this world, the more we miss them when they’re gone, because they have been a part of our lives for so long, that the void they leave is un-fillable.
After she passed, the scent that I unconsciously associated with her lingered in her apartment. I don’t even know how to explain it. She rarely wore perfume anymore, it’s not an “old-lady” scent, it’s just a pleasant scent that is her. Sometimes on my lunch in the last few weeks when I knew there wasn’t going to be anyone there, I would go to her apartment on my own. As soon as I walked in the door, the scent was there. I would sit on the couch and cry for a while, but it was almost a soothing feeling. Like she was around me. Even though she wasn’t physically there in the apartment, being there with all her things, with the familiar smells, comforted me and calmed me down.
Today I walked into her apartment again. Almost all of her things are gone. All of the furniture has been moved out and there are just a few things left behind. My mom has been in there cleaning, and when I walked through the door, the first smell to hit my nose was cleaning supplies. Lysol, VIM. Her scent is almost gone from the apartment completely. This made me so sad. Not that the apartment was empty, that her belongings have been handed out to those she loved, but that the scent of her, that had been so prominent in there before – was gone. It was like it hit me (again) that she truly is gone and isn’t coming back.
I have some of her things. A handbag, a couple of scarfs, a chair. All of these things still smell like her, but after today I’m terrified that the scent will fade from these things too. It already has slightly – it’s not as prominent as it was a few weeks ago. I’m so scared that once the scent fades from these things, that it will be gone forever, and that I’ll never ever smell it again. That the one thing that was unique to her will be gone and I’ll never get it back. It’s not like it’s a scent that they bottle and sell, though I wish they did.
Losing someone you love hurts really badly. The more you love someone, the more it hurts. It’s the price you pay for love. But it’s worth it. Every single memory that I cherish tells me – it’s worth it.