The Sweet Scent of Angels


By Jackie Morfesis

CHARLESTON, SC – As Orthodox Christians, we believe in the afterlife. However, there is no handbook on how we are to travel and process being witness to a loved one’s serious or terminal illness. And yet, the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. He, in fact, is our guidepost and our beacon.

In June, my mother, Lucia Manos Morfesis, was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, among the most aggressive of cancers. I brought the holy icon of the Annunciation that was bequeathed to me from my father to the hospital. Our priest, my cousin, and I were with Mom prior to her brain biopsy operation, and she was communed.

The next step in our journey was a week of rehab at a Nursing Home near my house. After Mom was discharged, she came to live with me and we went under home hospice care. Despite her diagnosis, Mom held her spirits high and her faith was intact. Rarely did she ever complain. What she did say was “There is nothing left to do but wait for the Lord to come for me.” And this is the core intention of why I am writing this testimony.


Sweet Scennt of Angels

My mother lived with me for approximately two months. The whole journey of her illness had God’s hand upon us. First, the love that passed between us was a gift. Every moment we were together was a blessing. Not being a nurse, or in any way medically trained, I found myself completely willing and comfortable to do everything I needed to do out of sheer love. I understood what unconditional love meant, perhaps for the first time. And though I was overwhelmed and the whole experience was trying, our faith kept us going.

In the last day of Mom’s life on earth, she was transferred from my home to a Hospice Center in Charleston. I stayed with her, holding her, singing to her, telling her how much I loved her. She was not on a morphine pump, eyes closed, unable to speak, however, I was told she could still hear me. I asked for a chaplain. He came and prayed over her and then left.

I was probably at that point in the worst emotional pain I have ever felt in my life, and I have had a few life experiences that certainly were painful, including the illness and passing of my father. And yet, in the midst of my pain, I got up with a newfound strength and went to my mother and said to her, right into her ear “You are going to heaven. Its time. Jesus and the angels are coming for you, I love you and one day we will be together in eternity, but now, the angels are coming, and I will return when you have gone to heaven.” And I left because I could not bear to watch my mother take her last breath.

I came home and within hours the phone rang, and it was a nurse from the Hospice Center who said “Your mother passed away, it was very peaceful.” I said “don’t move her, I want to see her.” I walked into her room. She was lying on the bed, so beautiful and peaceful. The pain, the brokenness of her body, the suffering was gone. It was completely obliterated, vanished. And her magnificence was restored.

And the room? The room was filled, with the sweet scent of incense. Myrrh. Yes, the very scent that infuses the Orthodox Church. And the nurses who witnessed her passing, testified to the scent.

I had not walked into room #7 at the Hospice Center in Charleston. I walked into the Lord’s Chapel. The holiness was indescribable and the sweet scent of the angels who came for my mother, who herself, was nothing but sweetness her whole life, filled the room. I just stood there breathing. Praying. I kissed my mother, and when she was taken from the room, the sweetness in the air and overwhelming peace left with her. The angels who stood vigil left with my mother.

God is merciful. And despite what others may say, Mom was a Cancer Survivor. Yes. She survived cancer. In fact, she was victorious, just as we are promised as Orthodox Christians. Cancer did not take my mother’s life. Her life is with the Lord and is grander that anything those of us can even imagine who are still on this earth. I had a small glimpse of heaven. That was a gift that both she and angels gave me. It doesn’t wash away my pain. But, I know with conviction, that indeed as we are told, death is not the end. It is the beginning of our birth into eternal life, as beautiful and miraculous as every single birth on this earth.



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