By Charles Towne           

The Scent of a Woman

I can’t tell you exactly how the accident happened.  I wasn’t there.  I was lecturing in the public school system at the time and on the day it happened a buddy of mine was helping with the driving.

We stopped at another friend’s home that day to pick up their youngest daughter.  The girl’s mother was going into the hospital for an operation and my wife had agreed to take care of the little girl while her mama was recuperating.

We were sitting in their living room visiting when the phone rang.  The lady of the house came into the room to tell my friend he had to take the call. A short time later he walked into the room and told me that our plans had changed, “We have to leave, now!”

When he spoke those words I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.  As we drove away he told me that my wife, Delpha, had been in an accident and was not expected to live.  He told me that our 11-year-old son, Russell, had also been involved.

Russ had been taken to Saint Mary’s Catholic Hospital in Saginaw, Michigan so we decided to stop there first due to the fact that it was on our way home.

At the hospital, I was asked to go to the admitting room to sign some papers and then I was taken to see my son.  As you can imagine I was thrilled to see that all he had suffered was a small cut between his eyes that took two stitches to close up.   My little seven-year-old boy was sitting on a gurney flirting with a pretty nurse when I walked into the room.

My spirits were soaring with optimism.  If my son wasn’t hurt any worse than this then certainly it stood to reason that my wife was also going to be okay.

After leaving my son I met a Catholic nun in the hallway. She looked into my eyes and for a moment I thought I could detect the glint of tears as she said, “God bless you, Mr. Towne.”  She obviously knew something that I didn’t at that time because I just thanked her and continued on to where my friend was waiting to drive me to the other hospital.

As we were driving away from the hospital I was saying something about my wife being all right when my friend pulled to the curb and turned off the motor.  We sat there in silence for a few moments before he spoke.  While I had been visiting with my son another phone call had come for my friend.  It was probably this news that had moved the nun in the hospital corridor to greet me as she had.

As I had seen the hint of tears in the eyes of the nun I saw the same in my friend’s eyes.  He turned to me, “Charlie, there are some things you just don’t know how to tell a friend.”

I am sure the question I had for him was written on my face.  He looked away for a moment and then turned back to me.  His voice cracked as he spoke, “Chuck, my dear friend, Del is dead.  She was killed immediately in the accident.”

I knew that I was going to throw up.  I couldn’t breathe.  I opened the car door and vomit gushed from my mouth.  Rather than step out of the car, I fell out and lay there on the cool grass and with people walking past I wept and pounded the ground with my fists, and I screamed my frustration at God.

At that time, and for days afterward, I felt nothing but stunned disbelief.  I was in a state of shock.  In retrospect perhaps that dull, drifting sense was merciful.  It wasn’t until many days later, when I had time to think about it, that the wound in my soul began to bleed a combination of anger, loneliness and loss unparalleled by anything I had ever experienced before in my life.

One day my wife was there and the next she was gone.  One morning my wife and I woke up, talked about who knows what, hugged each other, kissed and sat down to breakfast together.  And then the next thing I knew, she was gone.

The morning of the accident she roused the children, made sure they looked their best for school as she always did, talked to them, solved some little child problems, kissed them and held them as only a mother can hold her children, Said a last “I love you!” Then sent them off to school.

And she was gone.

Have you ever had to gather your children around you and tell them that their mama wasn’t coming home?

Have you ever seen the looks of confusion, and gazed into those questioning, fear-filled eyes?  I hope you never have to.  Those days and weeks following the funeral were strange. There were so many memories.

And then there was her presence.

I am not speaking of some ethereal thing, not that sort of presence. No, what I am speaking of is her presence: her scent among the many other things she left behind.  Those constant reminders of a human being were there, but that human being, that someone dear, would never again on this earth whisper my name, never again caress me, never again hold me or love me.

Going to bed at night was difficult.  I would lay in the darkness of the night when all was still, close my eyes and she would be there.  I could smell her perfume.  In the morning I would wake up embracing her pillow, holding it close as if somehow I could derive some comfort therein, but it didn’t work.  I would walk into the bathroom in the morning to shave and her scent would be lingering there, and tears would come unbidden.

I remember the time three or four years after her death when I was standing on a high overlook in Northern Michigan. There was a waterfall with forest all around, and the sun was setting.  It was beautiful.  I spoke, “‘Del, honey, isn’t it beautiful?”   And then I was again reminded that she was gone.  I was lonely and I wept there.

It took time for me to accept the fact that I would never see her again, not on this earth.  It took time for me to accept the fact that I would never again hear her voice, feel the touch of her hand, or look into her eyes.  Yes, she was gone.

Those days following her funeral were busy days.  Perhaps that was merciful, too. There were friends and relatives that dropped by and paid their condolences.  There were cards and phone calls and all of the little things that demanded attention.

A drunk driver took my wife from us—murder takes many forms.

Did I consider the loss of my wife as murder at the time?  No, only in retrospect, as I examine it with a somewhat jaundiced eye does it somehow seem so.

Now, these many years later, I am here and I am looking at another form of separation that is not of death, but the separation of dementia, the separation that Alzheimer’s disease brings.  In its own way it is perhaps more frightening, but it is just as much a separation as death.  For today my present wife, my darling Nancy, this dear one that I love so much has gone on a long journey into confusion and it is highly unlikely that she will ever return.


God, you have chosen this unique and blessed path for me, which means you have equipped me with what I need along the long journey.  Although I do not know what my future holds, I thank you for the past and for making your mighty presence known to me.  Keep leading me and guiding me through the journey you have chosen for me.  Do not let me be separated from you here on earth. Call me to You at the destined hour and lead me with your loving and forgiving hand to my final destination. I ask this in Jesus’ Holy and Blessed Name.  Amen.

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. Charlie, I believe you wrote this article for me in my state of grieving now that Shelley has gone to a better place with G-D. Dear friend, I am unable to adequately thank you for your friendship.

  2. Charles…such a touching, passionate tale of grief and loss. Unfortunately, part of the circle of life. Bless you and yours…love you dear friend.

  3. Herb, each of us is here to perform a special task according to that which He calls us. If He calls us TO edify, to build up, to strengthen, to bless, to support, and to befriend, and through His calling we are enabled to fulfill His purpose because He has enabled us the more be to His glory. Thanks to Him we are growing daily to be what He wants us to be. Blessings my friend, Chaz

  4. EJ, Dear friend, there have been those times in my life when I cried out, “UNFAIR, why me Lord?” And then I had to say, “If I can learn from this, then why not me? if I can somehow become a better man through it, Why not me, and if by chance it can bring you glory and honor, then let it be, lord, let it be. Amen. Chaz

  5. Even so, come Lord Jesus! Dear NH, We have a blessed hope don’t we! The messiah is coming with ten thousands and thousands of thousands of angels to gather His own to Him for eternity. Without the grief and loss we would become satisfied with what is, but we look forward with great anticipation to what is soon coming. Glory, glory, glory to our God and our king. Bless you dear friend, Chaz

  6. Dear Chuck, my heart broke for you and your family when I read your story. Loss of a loved one, especially a spouse, is like no other pain!
    I have asked the same question
    of God about the loss of my husband….WHY? Why now?
    All I can say, is God’s ways are
    not our ways and we may not always understand, but He is sovereign and has a master plan.
    His peace is beyond all understanding. I pray for you, I pray for Nancy. I ask God’s love and mercy to flood over both of you.

  7. Dear CSG, I have also arrived at the conclusion that God’s ways are not our ways, and there is definitely a rule of cause and effect. We humans do things, eat things, surround ourselves with things, and build habits that are definitely harmful to our physical, mental, and spiritual well being. We know when we do something that is harmful to our health, and yet we continue on a coarse that is detrimental, and when the results are not to our liking we blame God? There is something wrong with this picture. Yes, death is part of this life but it was not His original plan and the end result when it is fulfilled will be glorious indeed. Blessings dear one, Chaz

  8. It is said that God never give us more than we can handle. Your faith has not only enabled you to accept the challenges He has put before you but I have also seen the compassionate help you continue to give our mutual friend Don. Herb’s comment leads me to believe that I have only witnessed the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to your strength, compassion and faith. God bless you and Nancy.

  9. Oh Mike, I pray that I can be what He wants me to be. We fall so far short of the ideal and yet Papa God loves us with an endless, boundless, unfathomable, and eternal love. More than anything I want my friends to see Him as He really is, the personification and fulfillment of boundless love. In our tainted and weak humanity He asks us to be Christ to a fallen world, and the wonder is that we know that His biddings are our enablings. Thanks pal, Chaz

  10. Touching article about personal tragedy. It is amazing that because of God, we are able to bear the unbearable. Thankfully, you have allowed yourself to be supported and guided in this way. I wish for all humanity that will one day be the case. I really, really, really like your final words in the response to Mike’s post, “… His biddings are our enabling’s.” That is the best way I have ever heard that put.

  11. My friend, I read this days ago and it so affected me I could not bring myself to comment until now. I also experenced the seperation you speak of, my mom passed at 92 years, she also suffered from dementia, so every day we got to see the seperation grow a bit further away! Then in the last few years I experenced the loss of two friends who I called brothers, family chosen, not given at birth! One much like yours, a traffic accident that should not have occured, the other also unexpected,a simple hospital visit that went horribly wrong and ended as I held his hand and watched as he was unhooked from the machines. I can not say if any of these were easier to experience, more shocking, more sudden, yes but each with a devistation all its own. It takes a long time to realize there may be a lesson to be learned and even longer to learn what that lesson may be.
    I have come to think it is something like ” trust in God always and not my understanding” Someday I will ask him if I got it right but till then I guess I’ll just wait!

  12. Richard my dear friend there will come a time when we will honestly be able to say, “It is all right Lord, and I thank you for all of it!” Yes, being human we are all apt to walk similar, if not identical paths. There is something at work here that is a strange phenomenon in the sense that it is through the difficult times that we grow, not the easy paths of life. Yes, you are right, every shock, every sting, every bit if pain we experience may be similar, they all hurt. Thanks my friend, thanks so very much. Chaz

  13. There are so many ways to loose one you love. My wife was taken and then given back. What pain and what joy. My heart breaks for all who experience this great loss.

  14. Dear sweet Kristin, As I said in my answer to Richard, it is through the hard times that we grow. I can say with great sincerity, I am a better man today than I was yesterday or a thousand yesterdays ago. Your character, that which defines you as the sweet christian that you are, really is made manifest through the life that you live and continue to live day by day. Stay strong dear one, stay strong. Bless you my friend, Chaz

  15. My brother George, doesn’t the word tell us that, “To lose is to gain?” When I was young I couldn’t understand such a ridiculous principle, but I am learning, praise God I am learning. Thanx Papa God, for in you do I find peace and reason to rejoice. Blessings to you and your sweet wife Jorge. Keep looking up, Chaz

  16. I was wondering and hoping that might have been dad that drove you to the hospitals. I am glad it was. I know you and dad were close friends before Delpha was killed so suddenly but understand now why your friendship with him was so strong! Death is so final! At least with my mom, dad and husband,Larry, it was more gradual and you could get used to them dying. Although, i don’t think that ever happens. At least with me it didn’t. When Larry passed away i knew that God could heal him up to his last breath but he chose not to. He is sovereign. I do know that Larry was very tired because of all the chemo, radiation and all the other things he was subjected to that just sapped the life out of him.i also know he was positive influence on the doctors and nurses. They were there to make him feel better but most times he had them laughing or at least smiling. In fact, one of our good evangelist friends was speaking about 4 hours away and came ” to cheer Larry up” and went away encouraged himself. I just, as I write this reply, told my eldest about dad being there for you. He said his dad got it from my dad. I suppose that is so.
    I guess in all my ramblings i am trying to relate but realize it’s unique for everyone as to how they relate to such tragedies. I guess it all depends on what you understand about death. If you understand that it is just a dreamless sleep and we will see our loved ones again in that blessed morning when Jesus comes to take us home to be with Him as He promised, it does deaden the sting some what. Anyway, as you said, we will all meet again in that glad reunion.
    With deepest regards unka Chuck!

  17. Ahh, dear little girl, yes you are right, death is final… but, at the same time it is temporary! “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, o what a foretaste of glory divine…” Your daddy was a faithful christian, and he was a good friend, thank you Father for friends like Russ Booth. And one more thing, your daddy loves you so very very much! That is a type of love that never fails, it is eternal. Blessings on you sweetie, Unka Chuck

  18. Chuck, I fully understand the pain of your loss! Some times it seems we are called upon to endure more than we can bear! As I read your story it brought tears to my eyes, and I had to stop for a little while. I am still trying to adjust to my Precious Betty’s passing in March of this year. Life has ways of changing in ways that is difficult to understand. But through it all we have a loving God that can be our strength when we need it! One of these days we will again be reunited with our loved ones, and that is a comfort! God bless you!!

  19. Don, my good friend, what you say is so true and well taken. I realize we are told that we will never be tempted beyond that which we can endure, that tells me that Papa God has made us stronger than we think we are. I am going to start looking for some gardenia bushes, that has to be a heavenly smell. God bless you pal, Chaz

  20. We live on a planet governed by the laws of physics (two solids can’t occupy the same space) and possess bodies that are susceptible to illness. However, we also inhabit a spiritual kingdom of Divine love. Death is temporary. Loved ones will be reunited. I think about how Chuck, Faith, Russell, and Ted coped with the death of their mother . . . resilience grounded in the belief of being reunited with their mother has sustained them as it sustains you. They are blessed and you are blessed.


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