A fragrance of roses
The scent of summer wakes me, drifting on the cool night air, and brings me to consciousness again. Roses in fullest bloom, warmed by June sunshine, great old fashioned cabbage-headed flowers that drop petals and trail their heavenly scent throughout the house. But it is late December and amid the scents of pine and baking, this scent is surprising and welcome, reminding me of sunnier days and long-lost memories of courtship and romance.
Every year at this time the fragrance of roses seeps into my awareness, a dim lovely thread of happy associations and a feeling of such intense love that my eyes prickle with tears of joy. I weep tears of sadness and broken-hearted sorrow almost every day, but this day, the scent of roses brings me the sweeter tears of purest delight and I know that I am loved for myself alone and not for what I may do for another soul.
Other times, a touch on my cheek as soft as brushing through cobwebs brings me that sense of being loved by someone who is not here. A phantom hand will stroke my hand or my face and I smile and shiver, grateful for the loving gesture and wishing I could know who it is who makes these gestures of gentleness and loving respect. I gaze into infinity and send my visitor the best I can do: my prayers and my thanks.
The old man eased himself off his aching knees and got to his feet, letting the folds of his battered cassock fall straight. It really needed replacing, it was getting so worn and faded, but every time he thought to buy a new one, he decided it probably wasn’t worth it. His had already been a long life, and each year from now on was a surprising bonus for someone who’d expected to die at eighteen, a terrified conscript soldier cowering in a foreign church waiting to be shot by his enemies.
The tiny candle flame flickered at the feet of the statue, and cast a rosy glow on her bare toes. The roses were already wilting, their smooth petals starting to crumple at the edges. A single petal had already fallen, and he lifted it and held it to his cheek as he gazed at the wise and serene face. It cost far too much to buy these roses every year; the florists only stocked the sterile, scentless red roses that might as well be paper or plastic, and he had to order these specially. But the sensuous perfume and the exuberance of colour and form and imperfections were what he wanted, not the uniform perfection of the bouquets of lovers’ roses. The Rosa Mystica was perfection that defied definition.
The impassive face seemed as thoughtful and inward-looking as ever but he sensed that beyond the plaster and paint was a real smile of benediction. She had saved his life once, long ago and for that, each year he brought the flowers that might remind her that saint she might be, but she was surely a woman first.