I am a born skeptic. A Doubting Thomas. A "seeing is believing" kinda gal.
A fitting epitaph for my headstone would be "Prove it".
To some of you, this will come as no surprise. Many of the pieces I have written here have been expressions of skepticism regarding a variety of topics, but mostly religion and theology. Faith is an alien concept for me. I need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm not basing my entire moral ideology upon a fairystory. That is obviously not going to happen; not for me or anybody else. So I have mostly accepted that I will never have the comfort that faith gives to so many.
Sometimes skepticism serves me well. It's difficult to bamboozle me; pull the wool over my eyes. Whether you are one of my offspring or a career con artist, the chances of a successfully perpetrating a scam upon me are pretty nil. I find this pretty useful for everyday life.
But sometimes, skepticism is the proverbial monkey on my back. It keeps me from believing even when I desperately want to believe.
This past Sunday was a beautiful fall morning. Husband and I sat on our front porch sipping coffee, admiring the foliage and savoring the moments we had left together before he had to depart for another week of working out of town. He remarked upon a strong floral scent that wafted over us on tendrils of autumn air.
"What is that I smell? It's not the roses..."
I am not a gardener. Neither of us is. Our yard is rather utilitarian and decidedly unkempt. The only thing flowering in the vicinity are some bedraggled rose bushes at one end of the porch, which now harbor only a few sickly blooms.
"I don't know" I replied. "It smells like Honeysuckle. But there's none around that I know of."
I didn't really give it any more thought.
Later that night, the tricker-or-treaters came and went in a steady stream and each time I opened the door, a part of my brain registered the pervasive smell of honesuckle, though my conscious mind scarcely took notice.
I opened the door to find a man and his daughter, who was dressed as a most convincing rock n' roll "Diva". The man's nose was in the air and his brow was furrowed with concentration.
"What is that smell?" he asked. "It reminds me of my Mother's garden. She loved flowers. I don't know what that is though. Whatever it is, you must have a bunch of it somewhere!"
"It's weird..." I replied. "I think that's Honeysuckle, but as far as I know, there's none in the yard or anywhere nearby."
"Huh." he said, obviously still pondering.
I gave his daughter some candy and a suitably lavish compliment, wished them Happy Halloween and turned to go back into the house. I stopped as realization dawned.
My mother absolutey adored flowers and gardening. Honeysuckle was one of her favorites, along with peonies. When I was a small child, we lived on Honeysuckle Lane. When CB radio was big in the seventies, my Mom used the handle "Honeysuckle Flame", because of her love of Honeysuckle and her red hair. There is a perfume she used to wear...God... I wish I could remember the name of it, I'd go buy a bottle right now...that smelled like honeysuckle and she used to put honeysuckle sachets in her dresser drawers. She wore honeysuckle blossoms in her hair when she and my Dad married in 1966.
I dropped the plastic cauldron on the floor, heedless of the candy that spilled out in a torrent of orange and black. I stepped back through the still open door and stood gulping; breathing in great lungfuls of the fragrant air. I wanted it inside me, filling me up, infusing the alveoli and bronchioles with scent molecules. Her molecules.
It was my Mother. I knew it. I began to bawl, hard and loud, but it was not sadness I was feeling. It was relief. She hasn't left me, she's here. She knows how scared and sad and angry I am and she's telling me....what? What is she telling me???
Almost as soon as the idea materialized, I rejected it. I willed myself to stop sobbing and think rationally.
It's not your mother your fool. There's probably honeysuckle in the neighbor's yard. You can't see a thing since they put up that privacy fence. They could be growing a cash crop of marijuana back there for all you know! You're being silly...people who are grieving make up all kinds of things to make themselves feel better. Now get a hold of yourself!
My relief turned to confusion. It had been so obvious to me, that idea that she was there. There was an instant of absolute clarity and certainty before my inherent skepticism kicked in. How could something that felt so strongly....right...be nothing but a flight of fancy? My heart wanted to believe, but my mind would not be convinced.
I lingered there on the porch for a moment, just breathing. I went back inside, but I couldn't help darting out periodically to see if it was still there. It was. And maybe it was even a little stronger than before.
I thought about it the rest of the night. It made perfect sense to my heartsick soul. She knew how scared I was of death and dying and what comes after. Why wouldn't she try to reach out and reassure me if she could? That's the kind of person my Mom was. Recently, a high school friend of mine died suddenly in her sleep from a coronary aneurysm. She knew I would be completely freaked out by it, so she called me and talked to me until she was sure I wasn't going to have a full blown panic attack.
She would know that her own death had left me reeling and completely unhinged. She would want to comfort me if she could, and my sisters too.
But...still, skepticism remains. If it was really her, and not some superfragrant breed of Honeysuckle lurking in my yard, why didn't the smell manifest inside the house? Why now? Why not last week when I was nearly incoherent with grief? Why, why, why. It's always the "why" that gets me. My need to define, classify, identify, and compartmentalize keeps me from taking comfort in things I can't quantify by conventioinal means.
That really pisses me off.
So here's what I've decided: On this one...I'm choosing to believe. I'm choosing to have faith. I'm choosing to let my heart lead my head. My Mom was here. She wanted me to know that she always will be. And she wanted me to know that it's okay where she is.
Because there's lots and lots of honeysuckle.