featured image

Elizabeth Reardon recalls a gift from God: an answered prayer, signaled by a long-remembered fragrance.

An awareness of smells can illuminate our present. It can help us live more mindfully and gracefully. It can help us recognize that God’s goodness saturates the world, in scents that are both obvious and subtle. (Ginny Kubitz Moyer, Taste and See)


Early morning dew, the scent of grateful peonies and roses greet me. 

The aroma of homemade strawberry rhubarb and blackberry pies cooling midday meet me. 

Nighttime breezes carrying a day well spent at play, leave me the promise of yet another summer day in the South. 

My grandmother’s house was my favorite place to be as a child, particularly in the summertime. What might appear lacking in structure or activity, each day was abundant in hidden treasures that could only be discovered by a slower pace and ready spirit. All this I too might have missed had I not been seeking—albeit anticipating—God’s respondent grace and presence. Grandma’s hard work in the garden wafted through her small home as she baked and canned the fruits of each day’s gifts. Receiving the present, she also prepared for the future, when these would not be as easily gathered, mindful also that nothing given should ever be wasted. 

Indeed, there are so many indelible memories forever tied to the smells of my childhood spent with my grandma. Sunday mornings brought an even more unique scent as my grandma readied herself for church service. Not accustomed to wearing makeup or perfume during the week, grandma was on this day a delightful combination of Ivory soap, Jergens lotion, Cover Girl makeup and Emeraude perfume. How I loved this smell, so much so that I would take it all in as I cuddled close before church. Infused with the understanding that Sundays were intended to be special, she put forth her best for God. 




Many years later I would smell that fragrance once again, though we were more than 1,400 miles apart. Then 33 and in my third trimester, I could not travel to see her when she fell seriously ill. My heart was nonetheless with her, and almost without pause I found myself praying for her throughout the day. 

“Lord let her know how very much I love her, let her know that though I cannot be there in person that I am truly beside her. If I could carry her as she carried me all these years, I would.”  

God heard my prayer and knew the close bond He had established between us would not end in death. Only moments before the phone rang, God gave me an otherwise inexplicable gift: a keen awareness of my grandmother and of the sacred.

Suddenly and overwhelmingly, I experienced the all-enveloping scent and presence of my grandmother. It was all around me, permeating every space with love and memories. As tears of joy and grief streamed down my face, I said my goodbyes—for now, fully embracing the gift of being with her again, profoundly aware that God was allowing me to experience this sacred moment of my grandmother’s passing from this world to the next. 


Click to tweet:
God heard my prayer and knew the close bond He had established between us would not end in death. #CatholicMom


Then just as suddenly as she had come, she was gone. Though I tried to recover the scent for an instant, I knew that she was no longer there. As the phone rang, with my cousin who had been sitting with her in these last few moments on the line, I knew her words before they were spoken. 

“Liz, Grandma just left us.” 
“I know ... she was here ... and just left too.” 

I then shared with her how I knew and the unbelievable love that I had felt in these last moments. Together, we cried tears of joy for the gifts given to be with our grandmother all these years. Though fifteen years have now passed, the fond memories of growing up through every season infused with the scent of her presence will forever remain, evidence of the world unseen. 



Copyright 2023 Elizabeth Reardon
Images: Canva