53: Heaven Scent

53: Heaven Scent

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Heaven Scent

Two things make the women unforgettable, their tears and their perfume.

~Sacha Guitry

Mom has been gone more than seven years, but it still feels like she left me just yesterday. The ache in my heart has dulled, but nonetheless is ever-present. I miss her most when I am ill or troubled. Who doesn’t long for their mother in times of sickness or distress?

Throughout the first year that followed Mom’s death I experienced both grief over losing her and burnout in my career. Bordering on a breakdown, I decided to step down from a management post and accept a secretarial position at the company where I already had nine years tenure.

Taking this step meant surrendering a significant amount of salary and several perks. With all of that at stake one of the things that bothered me most was whether people would think I was crazy. Would they look down on me as if I had been demoted?

Mom had cheered me on throughout my career and once I made manager, no one was prouder than she was. Not even me. Now all of that was about to change. I wondered if she was aware of what was going on in my life. And if she knew, would she approve?

Getting through those last two weeks of tying up loose ends before I started my new position was exhausting, mostly because I stayed awake every night wondering if I’d made a mistake. I wondered if I’d be happy and satisfied without the responsibility of being in charge and managing a staff.

Maybe I should have just resigned. Maybe I should have just kept going in my old job. The “maybe” factor robbed me of both sleep and sanity. Oh, how I ached to talk with Mom. She always knew the perfect words to sooth my frazzled nerves.

At last came the day when I closed my office door one final time and left the building, knowing that I’d return on Monday as secretary to the vice president, and in charge of no one but myself.

As I muddled through the weekend I continued to fret over how things would turn out. By Sunday night I collapsed into bed bushed from worrying. I’d be starting my new job with bags under my eyes the size of poker chips. I laid my head on the pillow and pictured Mom telling me to take a deep breath and ask God to guide me, and then I drifted off to sleep.

A few hours later I woke up to a very familiar scent in the room, though at first I couldn’t place it. I breathed in deeply and realized it was “Colleen,” my mother’s favorite perfume, which she used to purchase at the local Irish shop. As it wafted through the air, I remembered picking up the bottle from her bureau and spritzing it on while sorting through her things one day. Then I inhaled even deeper, comforted by the little mist of all that was left of her — the delicate scent of “Colleen.” And now in the deep dark stillness of the night the scent of my mother wrapped around me as soft and cozy as her favorite angora shawl.

In that moment my worries ceased. I knew for certain that Mom was with me, and even better, that she approved of my career decision. Whatever the consequences of this radical change in my life, I now had the courage to sally forth with my head held high. As I laid my head back on the pillow the scent of “Colleen” slowly departed, leaving me calm and confident.

The next morning I started my new job undaunted by the water cooler whispers of “career suicide” I heard when nobody thought I was paying attention. I took that giant leap forward and I’ve never looked back. I work hard, am well paid, and enjoy every minute of what I do. At the end of the day I go home feeling appreciated and wake up every morning wanting to get started with the new day. If there’s a way to improve my situation, I’m at a loss to know what it is.

I am not favored frequently with the delicate bouquet of “Colleen.” Perhaps in the last seven years I’ve encountered it a half dozen times. Over the years I’ve noticed that Mom chooses her moments with great care — just as she tended her family with great care.

This past year when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, I awoke the night before her surgery and caught a whiff of “Colleen” passing through the room. And with it once again went my fear. I knew it would be difficult, even miserable at times, for my sister. But after that night I had confidence that she would overcome this disease, and she did. Her passage from sickness back to good health was a journey peppered with debilitating side effects and emotional stress, but she navigated through every storm and came out on the other side a stronger person for having survived the challenge. Twice more throughout her treatment the scent of “Colleen” roused me from my sleep. Each time my confidence grew.

Even though I don’t need the sweet smell of “Colleen” any longer to assure me that Mom is close at hand in spirit, I still welcome its soothing effect on me. Mom had five children. Why she chose me for this very special gift I’ll never know, but I’m awfully glad she did.

Mothers are awesome beings in life as well as in that which comes after. We are tethered to our mothers by invisible bonds as strong as steel, and occasionally if we are so blessed, as soft and sweet as the gentle scent of “Colleen.”

~Annmarie B. Tait

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