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GriefSPEAK:  A nice long whiff of memory- Mari Nardolillo Dias

By Mari Nardolillo Dias

She was the seventh person in line at the local Walgreens, burdened with an armful of purchases. Her intention was to run in and grab a few items – dog treats, a tweezer, some Vitamin D gummies, and a box of protein bars, so no need for a basket or carriage. However, like many of us, she got carried away. She was tempted to put all her wares on the nearest shelf and walk out. Patience is not one of her virtues. As she was contemplating this thought, the one cashier called for back-up and the line began to move. For the longest time Caroline’s place in line was next to the fragrance aisle. She glanced at the shelves, then looked around her. She noticed four more people behind her in line. She was now fifth in line. She was both bored and anxious and returned her gaze to the fragrance shelf. At her eye level were bath salts, body creams, and a few tubes that claimed to erase acne. Her planned purchases were getting heavier, and the line had stopped moving. Her balancing act failed, and she dropped the dog treats. As she bent down to pick up the treats without dropping another item she noticed, out of the corner of her eye the very bottom shelf of fragrances. She observed a large, familiar bottle, covered in dust and standing alone. Only one.  

It was Jean Naté.

She inhaled and held that breath as she added the Jean Naté to her already heavy load. She had to purchase it. For the scent. For the logo. For the familiarity. She no longer cared about waiting. She was transported back in time to her childhood. Jean Nate was a staple of her now deceased mother and grandmother. It lived in a permanent place in their respective bathrooms; for her mother it was next to the sink, along with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and hairbrush. The fragrance reminded Caroline of Saturday evenings, when Mom and Dad would go out on double dates, leaving Caroline and her siblings with a sitter. She would watch in awe as Mom readied herself – removing the hair curlers, puckering up her lips for her preferred color of lipstick (flaming rose) , a bit of matching rouge, a hint of blue eyeliner and the piece de resistance – Jean Naté.

Caroline’s memory changed focus to grandma. In her case, the Jean Naté sat in the corner shower stall – proud and ready. For grandma, the scent was daily and pervasive. Unlike her mother’s use of the fragrance for special occasions, grandma’s scent was in perpetuity. A sustainable form of her presence and energy.

Caroline was lost in reverie and startled when she heard the cashier ask, “May I help you?” She remained caught between the past and the present, yet knew enough to go through the machinations. The cashier bagged her items as she swiped her debit card. She walked out of Walgreens – satiated and joyful, reveling in her purchase of the past.

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Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief. Dias is a Certified death doula, and has a Certificate in Psychological Autopsy.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to: http://gracepointegrief.com/ .

Dias is the author of GriefSPEAK, Vol. 1: Stories of Loss

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