Monday, June 15, 2009

The Scent of Grief

"Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

After helping James prepare for work on top of getting both myself and Grover ready for church, we are late. I hurry Grover to his Sunday school classroom and find a seat in near the back of the sanctuary. The first song is over by the time I am settled; the music ends and immediately the guitar changes key and the introduction to the next song begins. I take a few deep, calming breaths to prepare to sing to God; not two minutes earlier I was cursing under my breath for being late to church... again.

I take a breath in and open my mouth to join the song; a wave of grief swirls around me in an invisible shroud of vanilla. The sweet, musky scent of "Vanilla Fields" fills my senses for a moment then fades. The words of the song halt in the back of my throat, and for a moment, they block my breath from leaving my lungs. I swallow quickly against the words, the lump they form in my throat, choking me, the familiar scent of my mother's perfume pressing into me.

I close my eyes tightly and wait for the scent of grief to fade, and for a moment, it does, but then returns warm and sweet, yet acrid; it burns in my eyes, in my chest. This time, I cannot stop the stinging tear from escaping my eyelid; it runs down my left cheek, hot and painful, it burns a path to my chin and lingers there.

I don't know whether or not to wipe it away. I am about to, and lift my hand to do so when I feel a hand on my shoulder. The women next to me holds a tissue out to me, on the woman's face is a knowing smile, she assumes my emotion to be religious. I am, at the same moment both touched and frustrated by her kindness; I want to be alone in my struggle. I receive the tissue with what I hope to be a grateful look. She turns back toward the front, singing in a sweet, clear voice.

I touch the tissue to my cheek, to the corner of my eye. Grief once again swirls in on a wave of vanilla and takes its' permission from the arrival of the tissue to rise again. Anger, confusion, hurt... Pain. Grief sits on my shoulder and beckons me to embrace it. I can't breathe; my stomach seizes and I excuse myself to the ladies room. I am grateful for the small miracle of an empty lavatory. I slip into an empty stall and slide the latch into place. Grief, tired of waiting for me to invite it in, punches its' way into my stomach and I vomit into the lidless toilet.

Spent, heaving with sobs, I sit down and give into grief as it grabs on to me in a suffocating embrace releasing tendrils of sadness that wrap like cold fingers around my neck. I sit down on the toilet and finally succumb gulping for air, the tears flow as my breath is stolen from me.

Why does Grief take liberties where Peace, Love, and Joy are afraid to? How long will I be blindsided by the ugly beast of Grief, or perhaps it is as I fear: There is no end to the pranks Grief is allowed to pull at its' own cruel timing.


September will mark four years since my foster-mom, my mom, was taken from us by cancer.
Jan Schmitt 1944-2005