In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Smell You Later.”
Feelings rising to the surface over a familiar scent is a remarkable thing. I have a better than average sense of smell, (I know this because I am often heard saying… “Did you smell that “?….and almost as often my query is followed by “Smell what” ?)….The experience of being propelled back in time, riding a whiff of a remnant that is lodged somewhere in the oral factory is a rare occurrence for me. It has happened and when it does, it is like having a memory in full regalia. Feelings and sights, a complete recall, similar to a deja vu experience reels back to me and I am transported to the event in question.
I will never forget the most poignant experience I have had through the power of scent.
My father was a remarkable man who endured much in his 76 years. He had never learned how to be gentle with himself, and, well, those were not gentle times. It was how he knew to be a man. A man who was born in the Ukraine in 1921, the last surviving child of 13… in fact he always said that 13 was his lucky number. He was just 17 when the second world war broke out and he survived the front line, a Russian Prison and saved the life of a wounded friend by carrying him to safety during an ambush. He was a hero.
It was just after Christmas in 1998 and we knew he was ailing for some time. He did it in his own way, like he did most things, and we respected that. On January 5th, he decided to admit himself to hospital. He was experiencing heart failure, and renal difficulties, his lungs were filling up with water and he had difficulty breathing. Every day my mother and myself would visit him and after a couple of weeks of no improvement it appeared as though we would loose him. He put up a valiant fight, and managed to maintain a sense of humor throughout his decline.
It matters not what the mind knows, I could never prepare myself for his passing. On February 11th, at 1 AM my phone rang. Who could be calling at this hour ? I answered to hear the Doctor introduce himself; he was calling to inform me that my father had died. My mother and myself had seen him just a few hours ago. Strange sensations were occurring in my body. Shock, although I should not have been surprised, I was in disbelief. I put the phone down, sat, I could not be alone. I was requested to go to the hospital and would see if my mother would join me.
We arrived at the hospital and stood at the door of my father’s room. I wanted to see him and at the same time was afraid of what the next few moments would bring. A sheet covered my father’s face. I turned it down and looked down at a man I did not know. He did not resemble himself. Oddly I felt joy and exhilaration; my father had gone. That which animated the man I loved and called Daddy was not present. He had freed himself and for that I was happy. We were asked to remove his personal items. We said our final goodbyes and left the hospital. We had 5 weeks to prepare for this day, and it had come. My father was now with friends and family that had predeceased him. I spent the night at my mother’s house and it wasn’t until the next day that I realized my perception of the world had changed dramatically. I did not yet know who I was in this new universe. Arriving home, I placed the key in the key hole and swung the door open. My father’s presence was unmistakable. He had a unique and distinct smell that was not at all unpleasant. I walked from room to room welcoming him as tears flooded my eyes. I was completely overwhelmed by emotion. He had come to say a final goodbye, or perhaps to affirm that what he left behind in the hospital room was in no part him and that his consciousness was liberated, alive and well.