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Monday, January 16, 2012

The Perfume of Hope

I sniff my kids a lot.  I'm hoping some of you parents out there relate and I'm not just a freak.  When they were in diapers, of course, there is the mandatory booty sniff to see if they need to be changed before nap/car seat/etc or, in the case of multiples or Irish twins like mine, I like to call it the "who stinks?" sniff.  But I'm not talking about diaper issues.  I just, usually, like how my kids smell.

I have always been an olfactory person.  I used to like the smell of the back of my dachshund's ear or the pad of his foot and, yes, it irritates your dog when you smell his feet.  Once I had a kid to torture with my bloodhound-like tendencies, Eddie found it no less irritating when I'd plant my schonz behind his ear and take a good long sniff, but I couldn't help myself.  He just smelled delicious.

Last Friday night my kids were having a hard time sleeping.  I hosted a Pampered Chef party at our home and many of their little friends came along with their mommies.  So they had a late play date and were having a hard time winding down afterward.  That was therefore how I found myself squeezed into a twin bed sandwiched between two squirmy wormies watching "Dora's Pirate Adventure" rather than on the couch with my husband watching "True Grit" as planned.  Choosing not to be irritated, I took the opportunity to give those little heads lots of kisses and spend some quality time with my nose buried in their hair, breathing them in in turns.

Baby Boy is virtually odorless, which I am sure will change in time.  When he is sixteen and fresh in from football practice, I am fairly certain I will not be wanting to get close enough for a good whiff.  For now, though, he just has this crisp, clean "drying linen in spring sunshine" kind of smell.  It's lovely.  Baby Girl is earthier, like freshly turned soil and growing grass.  No less lovely.  I wish I could bottle them up and use them as aromatherapy.

Eddie smelled like brine.  Like salty sea air.  I couldn't get enough of it, in part because I did not know how long I would have to enjoy it.  As he sat in my lap, I would kiss the back of his precious little neck and give a prayer of thanksgiving for that precious sand and sea smell that was uniquely his.  It was better than any perfume, better than any essential oil.  It was essential Eddie and it was beautiful.

After he died, his scent lingered.  After the funeral van had taken his empty little body away, I sat in a chair in his room, next to his crib and just breathed.  Filling my lungs, again and again, with that sacred scent of one who I had loved more than life and who had so recently left me, wishing I could somehow hang on to it.  Somehow make it last forever, that a part of him at least would never fade.

Of course, it did.  Not right away, but slowly, over time, all vestiges of his wonderful, unique Eddie smell faded away.  The little red shirt from the laundry basket, the one I didn't wash for over a year after he was gone, even lost all trace of him save a stain or two.  I packed it away with the other things that represent him but by no means contain him.  I pull it out from time to time and smell it, hoping for a trace, but none remains.

I don't know how those who don't know Christ do it.  My heart aches for them.  I don't know how they go on, day to day, breathing this empty air, when the one they loved so much is gone.  Because time and earth are cruel.  They leave nothing behind.  If I did not know Christ, all of Eddie would be gone from me, nothing left behind but the things he used to wear, the toys he used to play with, empty shells and worthless representations of one who was once so loved, so alive, so vital.  Life without hope must be so... hopeless.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, "Brothers we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope."  I do not grieve like the rest of men.  I miss my baby, miss every soft brown curl of hair, every smile and tear, breathing his wonderful sea salt smell, kissing the ends of his long, elegant fingers.  When I close my eyes, I can see, hear, smell and feel him as if I held him yesterday but I know my arms are empty.  That is the truth and it would be a hard, cruel truth but for Christ.  But for the One one upon whose feet I pour out the perfume of my life, its fragrance a bittersweet blend of pain and joy, the sandalwood of loss, the bergamot of yearning, but always, always the rose-sweet smell of adoration.

For I will be reunited with my Eddie.  I will hold him in these arms again and breathe him in.  He is not gone.  His spirit, the essence of him, that which was the most vital, the most pure, is more alive than ever and ever with me.  He is safe and happy in the care of the One who created him, who loved him enough to make him unique down to every last detail, who gave him that lovely salty smell and knew the number of hairs on his head.  I look forward to an eternity with him and I think eternity smells sweet.

So I am going to enjoy my life here on earth.  I'm going to breathe in my lovely little air and earth children every chance I get while looking forward to the day when I will be reunited with their saltwater brother.  Because life is a rich, fine wine and has a beautiful bouquet, the bitter notes only serving to enrich the sweet.  I'm going to take a good long sniff and then drink it up, savoring every moment, every nuance of the cup that I've been given.

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