“What’s That Scent?” 11×14, oil on canvas, $150 Buy Now SOLD
This painting is about Mary, whom I’ve never met, and that marks a first for this thirty day project. Every story thus far has been about someone I know. Mary is a friend of Donna’s (Day 1 post) and asked me to do a mockingbird painting for her as they, like my pelicans do for me, have come to symbolize God’s presence in her life.
I delivered two little mockingbird paintings to her doorstep a month or so ago, but she wasn’t home. I know what her front door looks like but not her face. I have a strong feeling that might change one of these days.
Mary wrote to me about her mother who died two years ago at ninety three. Mary describes her as a sweet, humble person who taught her how to pray, particularly in times of trouble. Her mother wrote down her prayers, unable somehow to address God otherwise. She stored those prayers in a couple of photo booklets, a treasure passed on to Mary. Mary’s dad died of lung cancer when she was just thirteen. She writes:
“Mom was only fifty-one, and I know she was scared. I watched her after dad’s death every Sunday at mass come back from communion and weep silently. But she kept going and got through it, all the while putting away the little bit of money she received from Social Security and the Veteran’s Administration so that I had money to go off to college, join a sorority and have a great four years growing up away from home…”
Mary says her mom prayed often about her own death often, knew it was coming.
“She was healthy and very mentally fit up until about four months before her death. She was edging closer to the end of her time and my sisters and I knew it. I prayed that she wouldn’t die alone as she still lived by herself in her home of 60+ years. Finally, about two weeks before she died, she was in and out of the hospital with heart issues. They sent us home the last time with hospice care in place. As it got closer to the very end, medications kept her unconscious, but the day before she died, I walked into her room to sit with her. One of my sisters was there sitting on one side of the bed; my husband was there as well. I walked over to sit on the other side of the bed next to mom and found myself looking around because, as I sat down, I noticed the scent of some very sweet flowers. My thought was, “Mom is dying…who is sending her flowers?!”
I looked around the room, didn’t see anyone, and turned back to mom. I didn’t give it a second thought until later.
Mom passed away the next night. None of us were with her. Although we knew she was nearing the end, we thought we had a couple more days and were planning on meeting with the hospice nurse the next day to talk to her about it. We were upset that she died with none of us there.
And then I realized, she hadn’t been alone.
I really don’t know what that floral scent signified, but there was a spiritual being with her, of that I am positive. She wasn’t alone. I know that. That moment has stuck with me as one of the most beautiful moments of my life.”
Unlike some of the others, after reading Mary’s story, I knew exactly what I was going to paint. But I was fresh out of flowers. I usually have some because a really handsome man keeps bringing them to me. I threw out some roses just yesterday. Ezra said they were “sad,” and I marveled at his ability to attach emotional significance to an inanimate object. They were drooping, losing their shine. Indeed, they looked sad.
Today’s flowers are a little bit sad too. I bought the reference flowers at the grocery store from a woman who said she wasn’t suppose to sell the ones they were about to throw away even though she thought it was ridiculous. I got three bundles of still-okay-but-not-great-looking flowers for three dollars. I think it’s fitting to Mary’s story that my own mother lovingly salvaged and arranged them into a vase for me.
And I think it’s also fitting that these beautiful flowers are, in fact, dying.
Mary, I hope to meet you. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.