Mom always said she’d ask God about my illness when she got to Heaven. She sure kept her promise…
by- Posted on Apr 7, 2017
Fresh-brewed coffee, a wet dog, a pot of stew on the stove. Those are the kinds of odors that awaken people’s sense of smell. Well, most people—but not me. For 15 years I’d struggled to detect even the strongest scents. The doctors couldn’t confidently explain what my problem was, much less fix it. I’d taken medication for my sinuses, had surgery for polyps. I’d even tried acupuncture. But nothing worked. Sometimes I’d get a few weeks when I could catch a whiff of somebody’s perfume. Then suddenly I’d go nose-blind again.
“I really don’t think there’s anything more we can do,” my latest otolaryngologist told me.
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I thanked him for his help and drove to my mother’s house. There are far worse things you could have to deal with, I told myself. But that didn’t make my condition any less maddening. Worst of all, the ability to smell is closely tied to the ability to taste. Even spicy food tasted bland to me. I was stuck in a tasteless, odorless world, and there was nothing I could do about it. I smelled and tasted in grainy black and white while everyone else was doing it in HD color.
“I give up,” I told my mother. She knew how frustrating this was for me. I visited with her nearly every day and kept her up to date on all my doctors’ appointments. “I just need to accept it,” I said. “I’ll never be able to smell properly again.”
But giving up wasn’t Mom’s style. She didn’t get to be an independent, vibrant 97-year-old without a fighting spirit. “That just isn’t right,” she said. “You should be able to smell and taste like everyone else!”
“What can we do about it?” I said.
“I know what I’m going to do,” Mom said. “When I get to heaven I’m going to ask God about this issue. I’m going to get to the bottom of it!”
That was the other thing that kept Mom going at 97: her total trust in God. She talked about him like an old friend. When I was growing up I went to Mom with all my problems: trouble in school, trouble with boys. She listened without any judgment. “We’ll figure this out,” she’d assure me, no matter how hopeless things seemed. And sure enough, with Mom’s help and a lot of prayer, I found a way to pass the test or get over the boy.
Even now Mom was sure she could work out a solution with God. I didn’t like her talking about sitting down with him in person—as much as she believed in heaven, how could any of us know for sure? Yet I could not deny mortality. Even my invincible mom would not live forever, though it was impossible to imagine the world without her.
Only a few weeks later, on Easter Sunday, Mom’s heart gave out. My husband, Glen, and I were with her at the senior living apartment where she spent her last few days with hospice care. Afterward, Glen went home with some of Mom’s things. I stayed behind to take care of everything with the hospice center. It was evening by the time I called Glen and told him I was on my way home.
“Do you want me to fix dinner?” he asked.
“I’ll stop somewhere,” I said. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I knew I should have something. Mom wouldn’t want me to skip a meal on her account.
I pulled in at the first place I saw—a pizza parlor. I got out of my car, pushed open the door to the restaurant and nearly fell over.
The smell! Freshly baked bread and pungent garlic. It was so strong my eyes watered, to say nothing of my mouth. I ordered a slice and could barely wait for them to heat it up. I was practically trembling.
I sat down with my pizza and took a minute to just breathe in the aroma before I took a bite. What a bite! Warm, yeasty crust, sweet tomato sauce with a touch of basil, and thick, gooey cheese! It was as if I’d never tasted food before. I hadn’t—not like this.
I was afraid to finish, worried that each taste would be my last. How is this possible? I thought. Then I remembered Mom’s promise. “When I get to heave. . . .”
I haven’t had a problem smelling or tasting since.