The Perfume of Zaheen
Letting my eyes adjust to the dim light inside the simple Nubian home, I greeted Zaheen and took my place on the bed between her and my friend. She rested her dark, weathered hand on mine.
“Where have you been?” Zaheen’s granddaughter, Nala asked me.
I turned to answer when I felt a cold spritz on the back of my neck. Shocked I turned toward Zaheen just as she sprayed again. This time the spray reached half my face and neck. I laughed and realized that she was blessing me with the greeting of perfume. My friend who had arrived a short time before me had also received the “blessing.” After a couple more sprays on my hair for good measure, dialog resumed.
“We haven’t seen you! Where have you been?” Zaheen exclaimed.
I told her that I hadn’t been feeling well for a few days and hadn’t been out anywhere.
Clearly flustered Zaheen replied, “No one told me! We would have come to your house to sit with you!”
Patting her hand I thanked her. I knew that her concern and offer were sincere. I assured her that I was doing better which seemed to calm her down a bit.
Zaheen changed the topic and began telling us that she had gone on Hajj twelve times. Twelve times she had gone to Saudi Arabia, walked around the black stone (Kaaba) asking Allah to accept her good deeds and allow her into paradise. I looked at Nala; she nodded her head confirming Zaheen’s words.
Before my friend and I could respond, Zaheen offered a few suggestions of doctors in the area and then offered tea. We thanked our hostesses profusely, but politely declined the tea…once, twice, three times. (They won’t believe you unless you respond in threes.)
We gave hugs and promised to return. Zaheen waved goodbye and said she would pray for me. I smiled. Not that long ago, Zaheen herself had been quite ill. I sat by her bed and prayed to Jesus for her recovery. After that, our friendship deepened. The perfume was a testament to our acceptance.
I couldn’t help but think of the words from my favorite book, “Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God.”
Let it be so.