It’s one matter when a single person reports something ephemeral like an apparition.
It’s quite another when there are several witnesses.
That was the case with a woman named A. A. Carpenter, whose nineteen-year-old son, Wallace, died way back after World War One.
Still, the account resonates in our own time.
As told by his sister, Marianna Carpenter Wieck, Wallace was stationed in Iowa City, Iowa, when he fell victim to pneumonia.
Grief-stricken, his parents and Wallace’s fiancée, Letha, decided to go to Iowa City the next day and checked into a hotel for the night. “Overcome with grief, my mother wrestled sleeplessly in her bed that night, tossing and turning, crying and praying,” wrote Marianna for a collection of such accounts called Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters: Real-Life Stories of Supernatural Events.
“Suddenly she looked up and saw Wallace standing at the foot of her bed. He was leaning on Jesus. He looked radiant. ‘Over here everything is love,’ he said reassuringly. ‘Everything is love.’ Then he was gone.”
Easy to chalk up to a delusion caused by emotional trauma, but for the fact that the next morning — before she could tell everyone what had occurred (hesitating because she wasn’t sure what the other two would think) — her husband suddenly cleared his throat and said cautiously but resolutely, “I had the strangest experience last night” — and went on to say he had seen their son and that Wallace had also said to him, “Over here everything is love. Everything is love.'”
When his wife cried out that she’d seen the same thing, Letha echoed them — she also claimed to have seen him in the same radiant visage, and he said the same thing.
“That event catapulted mother into more encounters with the Lord that year and a close, vibrant relationship with Him,” wrote Marianna. “She became a changed woman and felt God calling her to become an evangelist. Shortly afterward, she began traveling around the country, sharing her testimony, helping start churches, and often telling the story of Wallace’s appearance to his loved ones after his death. I was only seven then, but it changed my life as well. Whenever I was tempted to doubt, I remembered this story told by three people I knew and trusted.”
Evidence of the other side even comes with supernatural fragrance.
Call it the perfume of Heaven.
In another recent book, Appointments with Heaven, a doctor named Reggie Anderson of Alabama who has a “gift” for sensing the departure of those dying said of his initial incident, “I experienced the veil parting — the veil that separates this life from the next. As I held the dying woman’s hands, I felt the warmth of her soul pass by my cheek when it left her body, swept up by an inexplicably cool breeze in an otherwise stagnant room. I smelled the familiar fragrance of lilac and citrus, and I knew the veil was parting to allow her soul to pass through. Since that first patient, I’ve walked with countless others to the doorstep of Heaven and watched them enter paradise. On many occasions, as I held hands with the dying, God allowed me to peer into Heaven’s entryway where I watched each patient slip into the next world. I’ve sensed Jesus on the other side, standing in Heaven’s foyer, welcoming the dead who are made whole again. I’ve glimpsed surreal colors and sights and heard sounds more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced in this ordinary world. I’ve inhaled the scents of lilac, citrus, freshly carved cedar, and baking bread — more fragrant than I ever thought possible.”
Where evil smells sulfurous, and the aging body musty, “the smell of Heaven is completely different. Nothing on earth is quite like it. It is both citrus and flowery, yet neither bouquet overpowers the other.
“It’s so light and fresh, with hints of lilac and citrus, like the smell of spring as it teases the senses before bursting into its fullest fragrance.”
Many saints emanated such scents — what we in Catholicism know as the odor or aroma of sanctity.
We encountered it with Maria Esperanza.
It was said to come from Padre Pio’s wounds (or during his bilocations).
Some say: a combination of lilac and roses.
Have you ever encountered it (in prayer moments), as the physical world deliquesces?
“Inhaling the scent of Heaven, I felt the peace and stillness I’d felt as a boy when I would lie on my back and gaze at the Alabama sky,” says Dr. Anderson, who has practiced family medicine for twenty-five years and is chief of staff of Tri-Star Ashland City Medical Center (along with directing three nursing homes). “The warmth in the room [of the dying person] was like being hugged by the sun while the aromatic spring breeze tickled my face. But it wasn’t only the smell. There were other sensations, like the glow that appeared above and to the right of the patient.
“It made the room brighter and warmer before it quickly faded away. These and other signs from Heaven made me long for the time when I would be the one to cross over.”