The Fragrance

The Fragrance

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

The Fragrance

Lydia sat on the edge of her bed in her nightgown. As I entered, her large brown eyes sparkled with “life” while death lingered around her. A physical therapist, I had come into her home to help her remain functional as long as possible while she dealt with end-stage cancer. I had been told that her husband suffered dysfunction due to grief over her illness, and only her children could help her.

The expression in Lydia’s eyes reminded me of my mother’s. Though my mother’s eyes were blue, they also had shone with “life” even as life ebbed away. When Mom saw me approach down the nursing home corridor, her eyes spoke that she wanted to jump out of her wheelchair and run to me.

Just as Mom had passed away, soon Lydia would, too, and I wondered if, like Mom, something of Lydia’s true inner self behind those gleaming eyes would linger for her children. Such things remained a mystery to me, but still, I hoped.

I sat down on the bed beside Lydia and got acquainted. Due to her condition, very soon she had to use the commode.

“My son, John, will help me.” In a twinkling, her teenage son appeared at her side and adroitly pivoted her onto the commode.

Drawn to her eyes, I noticed a flicker of embarrassment as she made the painful transfer and clung helplessly to her son. In the past, she had been the gracious lady of the house, and this change of destiny, loss of hair and all, cheated her of a portion of her dignity.

I stepped out of the room to give her privacy. Again, she seemed so like my mom. I remembered the times after her slight stroke when Mom looked a bit frustrated because she couldn’t speak easily anymore.

“John, you did a masterful job,” I said, as he seated Lydia back on the side of the bed as if she were a china doll that might break.

“My brother, Paul, is just as careful,” John responded in a quiet tone. “One of us desires to be with Mom at all times.”

Desires, I pondered to myself. What a lovely word for a young man to say regarding his mother.

Lydia’s brown velvet eyes flickered with a touch of self-consciousness about such a fuss being made over her. She had obviously been the kind of mother that fussed over everyone else, saw her boys off for the day with a hearty breakfast, washed their clothes, ironed their shirts, and baked their favorite foods for when they got home after school.

I thought again of my own mother who pampered me. She did not require me to make my bed on school days. She ironed my endless supply of cotton skirts and blouses, and laid out cookies and milk when I got home.

When I returned to Lydia’s house on the next visit, her condition had deteriorated, and she stayed in bed. While her eyes glistened like deep pools, she remained quiet, as did John and Paul. Out of their devotion for her, they had already figured out how to care for her every need, the very things I came to teach. Not needed, I slipped out of their little sanctuary.

I knocked a few days later to check up on things . . . no response . . . opened the door, “Hello,” and tiptoed to her bedside. Much to my surprise she lay, eyes ever bright, under the covers between her two grown sons—both cuddled up against her as if they would never let her go. Even my presence did not disturb them but caused them to hold on a little tighter—their teenage pride thrown out the window just to be able to cling to their mother one last time.

A tear trickled down my cheek, and I turned away to wipe it off. As an adult, I had cuddled with my mom in her bed at the nursing home before she died, not caring who should come in and see us.

So soft, so warm—one last time.

Lydia passed away just hours before my final visit. Her small home, like the family within, remained quiet, yet the home did not feel empty. A mystifying sweet something— was it an aroma?—lingered in the house.

At first it puzzled me. It reminded me of how my own mother’s light perfume would linger even when she had left my room and gone out with Dad. How comforting the aroma made me feel when I was young, like she was still present. And years later, when Mom died, a certain fragrant something about her remained in the atmosphere of my life.

Could it be that when a sainted mother departs this earth, she leaves a fragrance of her love for the children she leaves behind? I believe so. Mother-love, like God’s love, is forever.

Margaret Lang

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