Heaven scent

People like my wife and I who have spent years of our lives in pursuit of higher education have through the years been indoctrinated to believe that things, events or phenomena which cannot be explained logically, rationally and scientifically are simply figments of weak, unstable or wildly imaginative minds. It has only been in the past month that what we’ve always believed has been turned on its head, and we’ve come to feel that there are things which we cannot easily, logically, or rationally explain, but are as real as anything we’ve ever known.

Knowing that we lost our only child in recent months, many people will think us so overcome by grief that we are willing to grasp at hope’s last straws by embracing emotional and irrational beliefs to help us cope with the devastation of our loss. While we have always considered ourselves to be Muslims, we never considered ourselves to be the least religious. With all due respect those who may think we’re losing our minds, let me say we are satisfied that what we’ve experienced, yet cannot rationally explain or prove, is as real as any tangible experience in life we’ve had and it is not because we’ve suddenly found religion. Before I share with you what has happened to us and opened our minds to a new and unfamiliar way of thinking about life and death, I ought to give you a little background information that will help you to see things through our eyes.

My wife and I grew up on opposite sides of the globe: she in Iran and me in Appalachia. Until I went to university thirty something years ago, I can’t say for sure that I’d even heard of Iran. It shames me now to think that there was a time in my life that I knew so little of the ancient customs and traditions of my precious wife’s country. Of course, back then, I had heard of Persia, but I only thought that it was an exotic adjective of some kind that pertained to certain cats and carpets. She, I’m sure, knew much more of my country than I did of hers. However, I feel confident in saying that she probably had never heard of Appalachia, nor did she know of the ancient and deep traditions that prevailed amongst the mountain people of which I am, and forever shall remain, a part. Even most Americans, both in my childhood and still today, know very little about Appalachian people. They simply call us hillbillies, a moniker we are proud to wear.

From these two very different cultures and very distant places, each of our characters was molded by the people we grew up around, the traditions and customs which filled our childhood lives and the unique and beautiful cultures from which we came. Neither my wife nor I have ever felt anything, but pride in our people and our cultures, and we now have a measure of happiness knowing that we were able to pass on to our only child many of those components of our characters that we developed as children in Iran and in Kentucky, which made us who we would eventually become as adults.

I grew up in the mountains of northeast Kentucky in the 1950s. Most of the role models I had as a child were coal miners. These were a rough and rugged breed of men whose bloodlines could be traced back hundreds of years and through many generations of men who dug black gold from deep within the earth. Unfortunately for the people of Appalachia, it was only the mine owners that ever saw the riches reaped from the blood, sweat and tears of the coal miners’ labor. My childhood was one spent in abject poverty; however, I never noticed it because every other family was like mine. We were simply too simple, or ignorant to know exactly how poor we really were.

During my early childhood, I knew a life of no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and new shoes about once a year, but I didn’t feel deprived because no one had these things. I was a teenager before the conveniences of modern life began to slowly seep their way into our impoverished part of the country. Many, if not most, of my childhood friends are probably still living in the same place we all were born, and sometimes, I think back to how simple life was then and wish that I could go back, but then I realize that if I were still there I’d probably still be just as poor and ignorant as those that I left behind. Someone once said, “You can never go back home,” and as far as I’m concerned, he’s absolutely right. I am not the person today that I was fifty years ago. Certainly, that little hillbilly boy is still a part of me, but he is not everything. I am grateful to God for giving me the chance to go beyond what Appalachia had to offer in life because had I remained there I would never have met and married my wife, and I would never have been the father of the best real Iranian I have ever known, my son. I was able to escape that life only because I was a gifted and talented student when I was young and I had a few adults in my life that cared enough about me to help me get a good education. One of those people was my dear departed granny who was an uneducated, but fiercely proud Appalachian woman.

The people of Appalachia have always been a deeply superstitious and religious people. My grandmother was one such person. She had an unshakeable faith in God, and she was known by all her family, friends and neighbors to possess a special ability throughout her life that no one could explain, except to attribute it to God Almighty. She and one of her sisters, among her seven sisters and brothers, were known throughout the region to have the ability to interpret people’s dreams, to see into the future, and to commune with those who had already departed this life. Family elders said that they got this gift from their mother who got it in turn from hers. I never really gave it much thought growing up. All I knew was how deeply religious she was and I was not. She prayed a lot and when she wasn’t praying she was talking about Jesus, Heaven or the Bible.

Until three weeks ago, I hadn’t thought much about my grandmother for many years, except to wonder a time or two if she rolled over in her grave the day I converted to Islam. The most remarkable thing happened recently that not only brought her to back my thoughts, but also brought a flood of beautiful memories of her from my childhood and a torrent of happy tears. Even now, as I sit typing, I feel a shiver of Goosebumps up and down my spine and the hair on my arms is standing straight up as I recall what occurred. Let me continue, for a few moments, however, telling you more background information.

When I was a little boy she had a nickname for me which I never mentioned to anyone as an adult, not even to my wife. The truth is that I’d all but forgotten it over the years. The nickname was Pinecone. She gave me this name one day when I was about three or four years old as I helped her collect pinecones from a forest near her home, which she wanted to use in making some traditional crafts. She never called me this name when others were around, but she never failed to use it when we were alone together all the rest of her life.

My granny died forty years ago when I was only seventeen. In her final few days, she knew that she was going to die and she seemed overjoyed at the prospect. While she was on her deathbed I remember asking her why she was so happy and not scared. She replied that there was nothing to be scared of since she’d soon be seeing my grandpa, whom I had never known, her mother, her father and her sisters and brothers once again. She was absolutely convinced that they would be waiting for her the moment she walked through the door separating this life from the next. The last thing that she said to me was, “Pinecone, I’ll never be far from you and I’ll always be there when you need me to be.” I kissed my grandma’s face and told her that I loved her more than anyone, and then, I went home to sleep, only to find out the next morning that she’d passed away during the wee hours of the morning. I was the only one of her grandsons that was part of the group of men to carry her coffin during her funeral. Her funeral was a very emotional affair where old bluegrass gospel music filled the small church. The only song that I clearly remember from that day was an old gospel song called, “I’ll Fly Away.” After the funeral, I spent the next forty years building a life as far from Appalachia as I could and falling in love with, marrying and building a family with a woman who had come as far from Appalachia as a woman could come, Iran.

When my wife and I had our son, we thought we were the happiest people in the world. We never thought that what God gives, He can take away just as easily. We, both now, know that He can and sometimes does do just that. Our son was an angel, but one which God only loaned to us for a short while. How could we have ever known that God would one day call him home and leave us devastated? Another thing we now understand which we never gave much thought to at the time is something our son used to say to us when he was a little boy. He used to tell his mother and me that someday he would fly away like the birds in the sky. When his mother would ask him where he would fly to, he’d giggle; then, kiss her face and say, “I won’t fly far away, Mommy. I’ll always be close to you. I promise.”

Three weeks ago, which was two days before our son’s birthday; I was sitting at my desk late at night in our study. I had begun to doze off and was in that half-asleep, half-awake, in-between place. From nowhere in particular, I heard a woman’s voice calling my name, “Pinecone, Pinecone. We’re here honey.” I knew that voice. It was soft, soothing and very Appalachian. I wasn’t afraid of it. It was my granny’s sweet voice. Then, I heard another voice saying, “Daddy, Daddy, I’m alright. I’m with Granny.” Then, I felt as if someone kissed my forehead, right between my eyes, just like my son did when he was little.

The next thing I knew my eyes were open. I sat stunned for a moment at the vividness of this dream, sweating profusely and trying to catch my breath. Everything in my soul told me that the voices I had just heard were real, but my mind was screaming that this was only a dream, a figment of my imagination. As I sat there alone, the hairs on the back of my neck and on my arms were standing on end and goosebumps were running up both arms and down my back, I tried to breathe, I think I began to hyperventilate because I began to feel dizzy.

Then, from the radio that was playing in the background a song suddenly came on that I had not heard in forty years. It was the song from my granny’s funeral, “I’ll Fly Away.” As it began to play, a flood of tears exploded out of me and began pouring and pouring and pouring. It’s as if all the heavy sadness I’d been carrying inside my heart for the past months was suddenly swept away and the pain was washed from my heart. I can’t explain it exactly, but I definitely lost control of myself as a sat there all alone in the middle of the night sobbing and sobbing. The strange thing was that I wasn’t sobbing out of sadness, but rather joy.

It took me quite a long time that night to compose myself enough to join my wife who was at the other end of the house already asleep. Although I wanted to tell her what I’d experienced, I did not dare do it then because I was afraid that it would only upset her. She’d been through so much in the past months, and I didn’t want to risk re-opening a fresh wound on her broken heart. That night as I lay next to her, I didn’t sleep a wink. My mind was racing, trying to find some way to logically explain away the incredible dream I’d had and the uncontrollable emotions that that seemed to explode out of me from nowhere, but which had sent my heart, mind and soul racing.

The next morning, I remained silent about my “dream”. I didn’t want to hurt my wife and I didn’t want her to think that I was going crazy. Knowing that our son’s birthday was only a day away, one of her closest Iranian girlfriends came by the house and invited her to go to an arts and crafts exhibition that was taking place in town. At first she didn’t want to go, but we both insisted knowing that it would do her good to keep her mind occupied. I didn’t join them because when the two of them go out, I have always known that I am like a fifth wheel. They want be able to speak Farsi together and to talk girl-talk. If I were there, they’d have to speak English for my benefit which would defeat the purpose of them going out together in the first place. Finally, my wife agreed to join her friend and off they went.

Several hours later, she returned home with a bag. She’d bought something while she was at the crafts exhibition. When she opened the bag and showed me what she’d bought, I could feel my throat drop to my feet. I felt those same shivers up and down my spine and the hairs on my neck and arms stood straight up again as if being pulled by static electricity. She had bought a small desk ornament made of varnished, shiny pinecones! My wife didn’t even know the English word for pinecones. I had to tell her what they were called when she asked me what they were called; she most certainly did not know that in my childhood, my granny had called me by the same name.

The next day was our son’s birthday. We tried to make the day as normal as we could, but we both felt the crushing weight of his absence. It was the first time in years that we’d spent the day without him. By two-o’clock in the afternoon, my wife asked me if we could go to the cemetery to visit his grave. Of course, I took her and we sat by his grave and talked to him. We told him how much we loved him and how much we missed him. We both wept as my wife softly sang, “Tahvalo, tahvalo, tahvalodet mobarak. Mobarak, mobarak, tahvalodet mobarak,” to him. We went home that night and tried as best we could to be cheerful, but it is really difficult to fake cheerfulness when one’s heart is broken.

That night, I woke up in the middle of the night to find my wife gone from our bed. Concerned, I got up and began looking for her. I found her sitting on our son’s bed weeping. I sat beside her and tried to comfort her, but she stopped me. She began to tell me of a dream that woke her from her sleep. She said that in her dream, she saw our son standing beside her grandmother who died in Iran many years earlier. She said in the dream that they were both standing beside our bed smiling at her, but not saying a word, but still she knew that they were well, happy and always nearby. She said that the next thing that happened in the dream was that both her maman borzorg and our beautiful son turned and walked out from our room and straight into his bedroom room. She said the dream was strange because her grandmother was not old, but young, beautiful and full of life as she tenderly held our son’s hand as they stood by the bed and then as they walked out of the room together.

Suddenly she woke up. Momentarily, she wasn’t sure if she’d been dreaming or if it was real because it all so vivid. With me still soundly asleep, she quietly got out of bed and walked down the hall to our son’s room, only to find it empty. As she sat on his bed, trying to make sense of this vivid dream, she reached down a picked up his pillow and began to hold it tight against her chest. Then, a sweet-smelling fragrance from Heaven hit her like a bolt of lightning. She put her face on the pillow and tears of joy began to pour out of her. This is where I found her. When I entered the room and sat beside her, thinking she was emotional because of our son’s birthday, I naturally began to try to console her. That is when she put his pillow up against my face and I could smell my son. It was real and it was strong. It was the scent of the shampoo that she’d used on him as a baby. It was unmistakeable and I began sobbing with her. We sat up most of the night and I told her what had happened two nights before when I sat alone at my desk drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness. She told me that the very same night she’d had a dream of her grandmother with our son whispering her name, but that she didn’t want to tell me about it then for fear of upsetting me.

There are many who will think that we’ve lost our minds, but the day our son passed away, our housekeeper had removed all his bed linen to launder it. There was no trace of him left on that pillow before that night. We know in our hearts now that our boy is okay. He sent us a sign from Heaven by putting his baby scent on his pillow for us to discover. Now, the scent is gone. It’s as if it were only a dream to us both, but we know with an absolute certainty which we cannot prove that our precious boy is alive and in Heaven with my granny and my wife’s maman borzorg and he is waiting to see us again, just as we are waiting to see him.

We will never convince those who want hard proof that this really happened. Our belief is one that is built on faith and faith alone….not faith in religion, but faith that there is something beyond this life and that it is good. Our tears now are not of sadness, but of great joy. For all of those who, like us, have lost someone dear and have never had the blessing of what we’ve experienced, be of great cheer, for those that you weep for are not dead and you will see them again. We know this is as true for us as it is for you.

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Iranian Singles

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Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!