Grief Smells Like Orange Blossoms

Smell invokes memory unlike any other sense. The treacly-sweet aroma of Florida springtime clobbers me with grief every March. Enveloped in the cloying perfume of citrus in bloom, I flash to my senior year of high school when Megan McCabe died. Megan was thoughtful and smart and funny and pretty, and a member of the rowing team with me. A group of us went to the beach on a gorgeous Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day. One of the cars didn’t make it back. Megan died in the accident; others were badly injured.

It was the middle of Crew season. We practiced on Lake Howell, which (back then) was surrounded by orange groves. We rowed and ran for several miles every afternoon. I remember slogging through the blooming citrus trees, overwhelmed with heat and humidity, sand and sun, tears and loss.

Every high school class suffers a similar tragedy. Patricia Auwerda, another kind, adorable, brainy, and witty childhood friend of mine, died in a different accident weeks after Megan’s death.

Devastated families cry, “Will anyone remember my child?” To the McCabe and Auwerda families, know this. Still, after all of these years, I remember Megan and Patty often and fondly, and honor them every spring when I smell orange blossoms.

Leave a Comment