I strolled onto my front porch in a light cotton dress, and sensed the pounding hot fists of summer onto my body. Regardless of this heat, my grandfather stood peacefully beside my house dressed in his go-to outfit: a suit and tie. He was a gentleman; poised, yet brittle, and smelt of plants, spices, and smoke. With his hands clasped tightly together behind his back, and his toes as his single source of balance, he bent over to take a peek at our magnificent magenta roses.
He hovered over them and admired their aromas, just like we all do over a freshly baked batch of cookies. Then he pulled away, and with a crooked smile, pointed to a particular rose. I struggled to stretch my body far enough to view this unique flower, but once I recognized what made it oh-so “special,” I instantly folded back to the ground like an accordion.
There was a family of five bees on this one rose, and I thought one was going to go up my nose! My grandfather thought differently. He told me, “If all of these bees are fighting over this single rose, imagine how exceptional its fragrance must be.” He seemed crazy, but after the monsters flew away, we both took a waft, and he was right. This freshly blossomed rose had an aroma that was sweeter and more elegant than any flower I’d ever smelled before; its perfume was as thick and rich as red velvet, and lingered within my senses even after I walked away. I’ll never forget it’s tantalizing fragrance.
My grandfather mastered the art of smelling roses. He shared tips with me like, “The darker a rose’s color or the more petals it has, the more fragrant the scent!” But his appreciation for roses was only a fraction of his overall appreciation for life. He possessed an innate empathetic nature by consistently remaining present and assuring the people surrounding him that they mattered. Even as the sole breadwinner for a household of fifteen, he prioritized the time he spent with family, and noticed that the mundane moments in life are what made it so worthwhile. He emphasized, “Make time to share memorable experiences with others. Savor everything and everyone you’re blessed with. Be present.”
And as I grew older, he told me, “You have to work hard and make things happen, but also, you need to take a step back and let things happen.” Our natural world’s beauty is temporary, our relationships with our friends and family are temporary; therefore, we should intend to enjoy whatever time we have. My grandfather deliberately lived by the expression, “to stop and smell the roses.”
When he died, it felt as though every rose on Earth was ripped out of the ground. My family sensed the flower’s piercing thorns, rather than its smooth petals. It felt as though he took parts of my identity with him. I don’t why I recognized the subtle backgrounds in my life and their positive impacts after they disappeared. During the wintertime, I missed the fragrance of roses welcoming me into my household, and during family get-togethers, I missed the presence of my grandfather. Whenever he was near, he’d radiate warmth, making sure I feel at home. He made my family complete. I hated how our roses continued to bloom even though he was no longer here, but as time rolled by, the endless life cycle of a rose, through its birth and death, brought me relief. I gained reassurance once I realized that as long as the scent of my grandfather’s adored roses carries on, so will he.
It’s been five years since he’s passed, and now every time I see a luscious rose in my front yard, I take a moment to absorb its bittersweet qualities. His scent remains with them. It feels like he’s still here; still in his suit and tie, teaching me about the everyday beauties of the world. I believe that everyone should stop and smell the roses, because their scent is the most comforting scent in the world.