Beve has spent many hours in our garden this week. He finished siding the compost bins, we added a section to our lattice for our wisteria on the Plexes' timbered fence, and he tackled lots of new spring weeds around the perimeter of our slate patio in front. Our front flower beds have already begun sprouting, so he dug out all the pesky dandelion sprouts, cut down the trailing rosemary and two heavenly bamboo plants that froze in our unnaturally frigid winter. I collected the dead rosemary branches as he cut them, and was quite intoxicated by the fragrance of dead gray brambles. It's an odd thing, I think that even dead, they are so pungent. And it made me think about the fragrance of dying.
I remember having a conversation with my dad many years ago, when he was complaining about his mother and her mean-spiritedness. He worried that as he aged he might become like her, petty, judgmental, manipulative. But I told him I didn't believe that was possible. I think that the older we get the more we become like ourselves. When we are old and probably hurting physically, we don't have the capacity for masks we have when we're young. So whatever we really are, whatever our essential self is ( our ousia, I might say, which means the essence of being!), that is what we'll be. My dad didn't live long enough to be old, but I know who He was: sweet and kind and giving. He could no more have become like his mother than a leopard could become a zebra. Rosemary, even dead, can only smell like rosemary. There is no other option.
The fragrance of our lives when we're dying will be whatever it most was all along. That's my point. If we're walking toward holiness, living with our countenances turned toward God, and Good and all that is lovely, so will our aromas be in the end. As I said, rosemary smells like rosemary. And, I think, only God can make us smell the way we're really meant to smell. As pleasing to Him as rosemary is to me..
So what will your aroma be? Will you stink of heaven, or only--regrettably--stink to high heaven?