Rainy Days and Mondays

Rainy Days and Mondays

I feel I should explain why there was no Perfume Chat Room post last Friday, as I try to make sure I set up that weekly space for community chit-chat. My father-in-law, whom I loved dearly, died last Monday and his funeral was yesterday. So yes, the last couple of Mondays have been sad ones.

But, as the Carpenters’ lyrics say,

Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me (the one who loves me)

My father-in-law knew how much he was loved, and my husband knows how much I loved his father. He always made me feel that I belonged, right from the start, although I was the first non-Catholic to marry into the family. My FIL, a decorated career military officer, was totally open and direct about his affection for people he loved — he proposed to my MIL on their first date, and he proposed to me on behalf of my then-boyfriend, now husband, the first night I met my future in-laws. He was a dear, dear man, who taught his sons also to be loving, kind men. And while we’re sad to lose him and will miss him, he was in his 90s and had lost his beloved wife of 60 years five years ago. He was clear of mind and loyal of heart until the very end, and he chose not to go back to the hospital when his heart issues worsened. He wanted to be reunited with his beloved, and had the faith that he would be.

It’s funny, because I don’t actually know whether my FIL ever wore Old Spice, but to me he was the quintessential “dad” who would have worn it. Old-fashioned in a nice way. Warm, cozy, and fatherly. Deceptively simple and straightforward, with hidden depths that weren’t demons — just more layers of warmth and sweetness, together with complexities. His funeral Mass was beautiful, and it included the traditional incense, which I found very comforting.

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ”

— William Shakespeare

Pope Francis and statue of Virgin Mary, with incense
Pope Francis uses incense during Mass in Verano cemetery, Rome (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Fragrance Friday: Incense

Fragrance Friday: Incense

A little over a week ago, I had started writing a post about fragrance gifts, in particular how to give someone a fragrance when you’re not sure what that person might like, or whether the recipient might want to try something new. Then on Friday, December 15, we found out that my beloved mother-in-law had died early that morning. My post about holiday gifts suddenly seemed frivolous, and I didn’t have the heart to post anything that day or in the week since; we scrambled to get to her funeral, which was held in another state on Tuesday.

We have just returned home, and I’m trying to resume normal routines, as I know she would want us to do. So for this Fragrance Friday, I’ll write about the beautiful service that celebrated her life a few days ago. My mother-in-law was a devout Roman Catholic; church, faith, and family were central to her life. She and my father-in-law were married for 60 years. He knew exactly what she wanted for her memorial service: a mass, attended mostly by her large extended family and close friends. It was perfect. My mother-in-law loved Christmas and was one of those enthusiasts who decorated every surface with Christmas-themed items starting in mid-November. She often left them up until late January, which we loved, and she made us all many Christmas-themed items, like a handknit Christmas stocking for every grandchild, which are hanging right now from our mantel, and beautiful pieces of needlework like the birth samplers she also made for all her grandchildren. The church where her funeral service was held was filled with evergreens, including several simple trees, bare of all decoration except a few pine cones on their branches and bouquets of scented white flowers — lilies, roses, delphiniums — at their base. She would have loved that, as well as the snow that had fallen the day before, leaving a soft white blanket over the ground.

The priest led this traditional service very capably, including his use of a thurible to cense her casket. This is an ancient tradition in the Roman Catholic church; the fragrant smoke of the incense symbolizes the prayers of the faithful rising up to heaven, as in Psalm 141 (140), verse 2: “Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight: the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice.”  It can also symbolize the soul rising to God. The priest swings the thurible, which is a type of censer used to contain burning incense, always in multiples of three times to stand for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The incense is often made with frankincensebenzoinmyrrhstyraxcopal or other aromatics. These are associated in many cultures with sacrifices, gifts to divinities, and purification, leading to the tradition that the Magi who came to find the newborn Jesus brought him those as gifts, recognizing that he was divine and also that he came to sacrifice himself to save and purify us.

The sadness of the funeral service was gentled by the music and beautiful surroundings, by the loving family gathered to honor my husband’s mother, and by traditions like the use of incense. Its fragrant smoke lingered in the air, sweet and aromatic, as we bade her goodbye. It seems impossible to understand that we won’t see her again in this life; but we are glad she is released from illness and suffering, and we pray we will see her in the next.

Pope Francis, incense, Mary, and Christ Child

Pope Francis, incense, Mary, and Christ Child