This next post is a little sentimental, but no less “grr-worthy.” A little over a year ago I lost my mother to her 26-year battle with alcoholism and since then I’ve slowly climbed away from a number of strange neurological side effects. Until today, I thought roses were ruined for me forever.
For the first time in over a year I smelled roses and didn’t gag. Everything about the situation was wrong: the 80-degree November morning and the roses themselves, sluggishly in bloom despite the season, and visibly waiting to be spared. And as I walked past the front yard that housed this odd scene, I caught a whiff. It was faint at first, but the farther I walked past, the more the fragrance grew. And as it rose, I admired the scent more and more until suddenly I realized there was something especially unusual, almost troubling, about this otherwise unusual scene.
I paused to consider the missing ingredient. It was the unmistakable odor of formaldehyde. This atrocious smelling chemical is used to treat bodies of the deceased between their autopsy and their burial, if in fact the family has chosen a viewing or open casket funeral. This odor, almost like a ghost limb, has been neurologically attached to the scent of roses since my mom’s funeral.
The lift, or disappearance of formaldehyde, is amazing. On some deeper level I’m sure it represents some part of my grieving process, a kind of letting go perhaps. The hardest thing I’ve ever done has been letting go of my mother who was dead the whole time she was alive, or at least the whole time I was alive.
It made me think about how comfortable people get in the recovery process. Like a bad breakup, it’s less frightening at times to hang onto bitterness and resentment than it is to drop those feelings and emerge into a new emotional place. At some point during my grief and recovery, I defined myself by it, so naturally I never wanted to let it go.
But I had a pumpkin pie to bake.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine explained the word “enjoy” to her 3-year-old daughter. She defined the word as “something you do for pleasure.” I hoped the little girl would say she enjoyed life, or enjoyed being happy, which is what I would have said if her mother asked me what I enjoy.
The roses, they don’t smell like embalming ingredients anymore. The war is over. I kept walking to the store; prouder and even happier than I’d been when I left the house initially. It’s 80-degrees in November and honestly, almost too hot to spend the afternoon in the kitchen baking a pumpkin pie. But the show goes on. And it’s better than ever.