Chris Stepien’s father Ludwik died of COPD nine years ago. Most of the time he was sick, he was home with his family. For the last ten days, he resided in a dementia care wing of a skilled nursing center. Chris and his younger brother Mark took turns visiting their dad every night at dinner to help him eat.
To further comfort his father, Chris decided to say 10 Hail Mary’s each night. (In college, Chris worked part time as an emergency room control clerk. Doctors told staffers that hearing was the last sense to go; they should make positive remarks around critical patients, encouraging them to live.) Chris thought hearing a repeated blessing might soothe and encourage his father.
On January 2, 2004, Chris arrived home late. He had been out celebrating Mark’s 40th birthday. Wife Ellen and younger son Michael were awake. The artificial Christmas tree was still up. Suddenly Chris smelled a sweet fragrance. “It was as if someone shoved a bouquet of roses under my nose.” The aroma lasted about seven seconds. No one else smelled it. Chris roamed the house sniffing poinsettia plants, but the fragrance did not recur. This TV/video producer and author has a sensitive nose. As a single man, he’d found the ability to guess a woman’s perfume a great pick up line.
The next morning his sister Barbara Stranyak called. She said the night before their dad had spiked a fever so high he was packed in ice. Chris realized the time of his Dad’s fever coincided with his olfactory sensation. He didn’t understand the significance. Later he learned there’s a Catholic tradition that the blessed mother reveals herself through the scent of roses.
Three days later, Chris was again at his father’s bedside with most of his family. He held his father’s hand and repeated Hail Mary’s. “My father taught us how to live,” Chris says. “Now he was teaching us how to die. Witnessing his calm gave me a certain peace.”
Chris’ father died soon after with most of his family at his bedside. Chris says, “Dad was in hospice. I knew he would die soon. I was praying to comfort him. . But I was comforted as well. Remembering how I smelled roses, I think my prayers were heard.
“If you believe God manages your life, why not accept all the good things He brings? Even some of the bad things turn out to be good things when you’re open.”
Read Three Days: The Search for the Boy Messiah, a biblical novel by Chris Stepien.
(I love hearing your Godsigns stories, whatever senses they involve.)