Occasionally, I have memories associated with scent but I also experience what is known as phantosmia, or the olfactory hallucination. To my knowledge, I have no medical problems that would account for detecting smells that are not present in my environment.
Last November, I was startled by the sudden appearance of the scent of bayberry in my house. My mind brought me back to memories of Christmas holidays with Richard. Richard was the number one fan of the Christmas holiday. He usually began talking about decorating the house for Christmas in July and August. I made him wait until at least Thanksgiving before taking the boxes of house decorations out of storage. Richard didn’t only deck the halls, he decked every room in the house, except the bathroom. One of the last steps in decorating was setting up the 9-foot real Christmas tree decorated with antique Noma bubble lights and hundreds of tree ornaments. No Christmas tree would be complete without the Lionel train chugging along the track under the tree. The cats enjoyed the decorations as well as they sat transfixed by the moving train, the shiny ornaments and the bubbling tree lights. Each day Richard ceremoniously and religiously lit the bayberry candles in the holders that had been used for this purpose in his family for more than 50 years.
It was a nice memory but then I was brought back to the present. Why did I smell bayberry? I walked through the house trying to find the source of the scent that was quite strong. I had given away most of the Christmas items to relatives after Richard died. I could never celebrate the Christmas holiday in the same way so I didn’t want the reminders in the house to make me feel melancholy during the holidays. There was nothing in the house that could be associated with the scent of bayberry.
I enjoyed the presence of bayberry scent for a few hours and then it suddenly disappeared. The disappearance of the scent made me sad. I went out to the Yankee Candle store that evening and bought a box of bayberry candles.
A relative told me that the scent of bayberry may have represented a visit from Richard as he likely knew that I was sad about losing Stephen. I don’t know what I believe anymore about life after death, but it made me happy to think that Richard may have visited me.
As a matter of fact, Richard and Stephen are both welcome to visit anytime they like.