Thursday, April 8, 2010

30 Days, 30 Stories: "Death Smells Like Vanilla"

Death Smells Like Vanilla
Brooke Wilson

2010 copyright. Author retains all rights to the story; please do not use this story without author's permission. Based on author’s personal experience.

Death smells like vanilla.

At first, when Death came unexpectedly into our lives, he looked like crowded hospital rooms, brain tumor growth charts, flowers that filled the counter, and shadows growing under tired eyes. He sounded like groaning, home-delivered hospice beds that move up and down with a remote. But most of all, he smelled like the vanilla air freshener, meant for cars, we attached to the fan.

Death didn’t leave, although he did benevolently bestow his time. He stood patiently in the corner for seven and a half weeks while our hearts shattered again and again. But everybody must surrender to Death eventually, and when it was time, he stepped from the corner gently but firmly to claim what was his.

When Death advanced from the corner, tendrils of vanilla wove through the room. He sounded like emptiness. He looked like white roses on dark mahogany. He felt like frozen high heels sinking into a snow-covered graveyard. But most of all, Death smelled like vanilla.

That was 116 days ago. I know; I’m counting. The vanilla smell still clings to that empty room. I avoid it even though it has the best reading chair in the whole house. I’m afraid that if I look, I will see Death’s austere figure waiting patiently in the corner again.

That was in the bleakest part of winter. Now, flowers and trees dare to defy Death as they burst into bloom. The sun and the birds both come back from their vacations in the south. Time passes and heals me in its inexplicable way.

Today, I make cookies. I stop completely as the smell of vanilla takes me away. But it’s not the smell of Death’s cheap car-freshener vanilla. It’s the smell of real, rich, warm vanilla that transports me to better times. It swirls me through memories of former days; a poignant montage of Band-aids and kisses on a skinned knee, warm cookies on a rainy day, and enveloping hugs that make everything okay. It’s the first time vanilla enfolds me with happiness, not sadness.

Death smells like vanilla. But maybe, just maybe, hope smells like vanilla too.


Cathy said...

I'll never think of vanilla the same way again.
It's saying something when a story changes you.

Julie Daines said...

Amazing. You've done a wonderful job. If I never get famous for myself as a writer, maybe I can get some credit when you make it big. And thanks for making me cry...again!

Scribs said...

Incredible. I can't help being absolutely amazed by your strength and perspective. Keep writing!

mom2girls said...

Brooke-that is beautiful. I don't know what else to say :)
-Colleen Torgerson

Anonymous said...

Quite a touching and inspiring story, Brooke. I'm sorry for your loss but thankful for your insights.

Katie O. said...

Brooke you are such a beautiful person, and I love your story!

Brooke @ Silver Lining said...

Thanks so much everyone! All this support is really encouraging. I know my story is completely different from the other posts, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to post it on here.

Taffy said...

Amazing story!

Scott said...

That's seriously powerful piece of writing. I wish the situation that inspired it had never happened to you, but you expressed it in such a beautiful way that it would truly be a loss if this had never been written. Thanks for sharing.