Any Other Rose Could Never Smell As Sweet

The titillating scent of roses is potent enough to stifle me as I stand waiting for the ceremony to begin. The sun shines through the colored glass depicting Christ at the crest of the window facing the beautiful sunset, tinted soft oranges and bright yellows, as if someone had painted it uniquely for this day. I squint through the sunlight streaming through and stand facing the room. After hours and hours of work, the preparations are complete, a picturesque black and white formal wedding, with fresh roses draped across banisters, pillars and the pews of the church, spraying a flash of color across the room, blinding crimson with glimpses of green shining through the petals.
I turn my attention to the people slowly filtering into the room, one step at a time, as if they aren’t sure whether they should sit down or not. A variety of people, friends and family, here at the church to support my sister as she pledges herself to her fiancé. I smile to myself as I notice my sister’s soon-to-be nephews, each dressed in a smart tuxedo, approach the guests and politely ask if they could be of any assistance escorting the women to their seats. Grinning shyly, a small redhead girl nods, and is taken with celerity by one of the boys to her seat, while the parents walk behind. Over on the other side of the sanctuary, both my grandfathers are deep in conversation, discussing the best way to position the presents on the gift table, so that each one is visible. My younger sister, as the maid of honor, stands holding her bouquet, slightly wobbling in her high heels, impatient for the proceedings to begin. My mother is sitting with her soon-to-be son-in-law’s family, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, and clutching a worn photo album of my sister’s baby pictures, with my dad sitting stiffly next to her. Turning away from the crowd, I glance out the window again.
The sun had continued without delay across the sky, the oranges and yellows fading into more subtle purples and blues that seemed to run down the sky in streams of color. A tree, across the parking lot, stood buried in the ground, silhouetted against the sky. I notice a couple of birds fly out from under the branches, quickly disappearing from view as they fly away. As my gaze follows the bird’s movement across the sky, I catch a glimpse of red under the tree. I look closer, and realize that it’s a rose, a rose that had been dropped as they had been carried into the church for the preparations. It was as fresh as could be, with no obvious wilting or discoloration in the petals; just sitting there nestled in a basket of soft grass. The last vestiges of the sun’s light catch on the petals, reflecting its beauty into the surrounding darkness.
Tearing my gaze away, I make my way back to the sanctuary. In my absence, most of the guests have arrived, and the groomsmen and bridesmaids are gathering on the sides of the altar. Adjusting my tuxedo, I straighten up and walk forward to take my place besides the best man. We stand quietly, respectfully, as the parents of the bride and groom are finally escorted into the room to their seats, my mom now weeping uncontrollably into her tissue. Then the groom makes his way up the aisle, where he stands at the head of the congregation waiting with the pastor. This was it.
Suddenly the room fell silent. The door had cracked open. As my sister slowly glides into the room, ‘Hey There Delilah’ fills the silence, instead of the traditional music. Smiles form on everyone’s faces as they see my beautiful sister in her wedding dress, escorted by my father up the aisle. A fresh rose is pinned up in her hair, framing her face. She positively glows as she smiles up at her soon-to be husband. My father, as he reaches the front, leans in and kisses her cheek, with tears flooding his eyes, and hands her off to the man who would tend to her till death do them part.
You had no doubt of the love that they shared. No doubt at all. As she steps up to take her place, they never break eye contact, never look away. Not looking where she’s going, my sister trips on the stairs, but before anybody notices, her fiancé’s hand catches hers and brings it to his lips. She sheepishly grins up at him, and makes it the rest of the way swiftly. The reverend starts the ceremony.
But the rest of the words are lost on me. I’m already far away.

I was in kindergarten, a lowly six year old, and I had just fallen and skinned my knee on the steps of the elementary school. The bell rang. As the fifth graders made their way through the playground to the school, they stomped past me, sneering at the little kid who was in their way. Spitting, pushing, they fought against each other to get back into the school, paying no attention to the little boy sitting there. But as I sat there feeling hopelessly alone, I heard a voice call out my name. My sister, a fourth grader, came up to me and helped me up, escorting me to the nurse. I eventually made it back to class. She was there.

I was in seventh grade… a young adolescent, trying to make it in junior high. My sister was a junior in high school. I needed help with homework, girls, a ride to the movies, and cooking oatmeal drop biscuits (a special family favorite). She was always there, lending me money to waste on Dippin’ Dots, making sure I was happy. She was there.

I was an eighth grader, king of the school. As I sat in the living room, she came in and announced that she knew where she wanted to go to college, and that she’d be leaving right after her senior year was over. Months later, I pushed the last box of clothing into the trunk of the car, as we stood around waiting to say goodbye. Although she was leaving to go to college, it wasn’t like she would really be gone. She was my sister. She would always be there.

But now, less than a year later, she’s really gone. Out of our life, ready to start her own. “What will life bring?” she asks us. None of us have an answer.
“Do you, Lauren Anderson, take this man….?”
“Do you, Robbie Becker, take this woman….?”
The reverend pauses as he reaches the climax of the ceremony. He wipes his brow, faces the crowd, and then glances down.
“You may now kiss the bride.”
Everyone explodes into applause as they embrace, as a new marriage is formed, as my sister leaves our family, and gains a new name. Flower petals are thrown into the air as the little flower girls lose control in the tumultuous crowd. They exit through the back, and we get ready to attend the reception.
As we make our way to the car in the darkness, with only one streetlight to guide us, I notice that the light is positioned behind that rose that I had seen earlier. My eyes are drawn to the bottom of the tree, where once again I gaze upon the rose.
While hours earlier the rose had been lit with the sunset, now it’s lit with the artificial light of the streetlamp. But what is interesting about it is that it looks as fresh as if it has been just picked. The crisp petals have no bruising or mark on them, and still are an intense scarlet. It has been sitting for hours, and yet it looks as if it had been placed there on the bed of grass moments ago. Confused, I leave it sitting there.
I get in the car, and we start to head to the reception. My stomach growls, reminding me that there will be cake and my spirits lift slightly. We pull into the parking lot of the reception house, and walk up to the front door, I can hear the music playing inside. We dance for hours.
“What will life bring?” she asks us. Nobody has the answer to that question, but whatever happens, she’ll still be fresh in our minds. She’s my sister.





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