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Experience presence through scent

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Some years ago, my young sons were preparing to go to church on Sunday morning when my youngest son looked up and asked my husband, “Daddy, can I smell like you?”

My husband was sitting on the sofa brushing my son’s hair as Joshua sat between his legs somewhat leaned back against his father’s chest. In that position, I suppose he was able to smell his father’s cologne and decided that he liked it.

His dad thought the question was a bit comical and asked Joshua why he wanted to smell like him. Joshua simply replied, “because you smell good.” My older son, Judah, was sitting in the living room nearby and overheard the request of his younger brother. When he heard that his Daddy was willing to oblige his younger brother, he quickly chimed in and requested to have some cologne also. My husband was tickled but delighted to spray a bit of his Cool Water fragrance on the boys. It was a heartwarming moment for me to witness.

I can’t tell you the number of times that my children have mistaken that their father was in the house simply because the trace of his scent lingered long after he had left for work. Sometimes, their noses fool them. However, it must be quite comforting to have a scent as a reminder of the presence of a loved one.

To me, fragrances are metaphorical.

One of my favorite songs by Bill and Gloria Gaither titled “There is something about that name” relates our Savior, Jesus, to a fragrance after the rain. You have not known such beauty as waking up on a Sunday morning after a good night’s rain in the country. The transition from walking inside the house that is smothered with the smell of Grandma’s biscuits to walking outside the house to smell the hint of red Georgia clay is a little piece of heaven. I think fragrances help us to hold on to meaningful things.

Recently, I was on the hunt for a special herb to purchase. I love herbs. I have grown herbs in my backyard garden since I first began gardening simply because I absolutely adore their smell. I first became acquainted with lemongrass last Christmas when my Jamaican mother-in-law boiled some to make me a cup of tea. I also love herbal teas. I had forgotten the smell of this moment with my mother-in-law until some research I was doing regarding the care of peach trees revealed that lemongrass is a companion plant of peach trees. I had to have some. I searched our local garden stores until I found lemongrass at Kelly’s Nursery on Godwin Boulevard.

When I was preparing to plant the lemongrass in the backyard, I discovered that lemongrass carries much of its fragrance within its roots. It caused me to think how different fragrances represent events, people and pleasantries in our lives that are in many ways rooted within our memory.

I did not grow up with my father in my home. But I absolutely love that my children have this memory planted within them of the scent of their father’s presence. It says something to me that they desired to have that same smell with them and that they recognize it even when my husband is not physically within their reach. But his fragrance lingers.

As children of God, I believe we also have occasions when we experience the presence of our Heavenly Father surrounding us by the distinct hint of a pleasant odor that fills our places of worship, our prayer closet or just wakes us up in the morning. Right now, we need the hint of His fragrance. For some, it may be found in mint leaves. For others, it may be the smell of burning wood in the embers of a fire pit. At times of crisis like these when peace is being challenged, I think we all wish to be like my son Joshua, pressed against the bosom of our Heavenly Father and smelling His presence and wanting to smell like Him. He smells good because He is good.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via QNikki_Notes or iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net.