Jesus said, “The Father’s kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys.”
— Gospel of Thomas 76
It’s bee season, and like all seasons this one has its beauty — and it’s meaning.
Like seasons seem to, this one starts before I’ve quite realized the weather has changed.
In May, I start to notice the roses — the ones I’m thinking of I call Chloe* roses. They are small, pink things that smell sweetly spicy, like a baby. The bees, too, come out in May and many die in June. I see them, from perfectly preserved to broken or crushed, on the sidewalks and in the dust as I make my way.
In bee season, things start to worry me; I sometimes feel sad or irritable and I don’t know why. Physical and emotional signs like these, along with Mother’s Day and my own birthday, make me aware that bee season has arrived. I say to myself, Oh, yes. It’s bee season. Take care. Remember what is important.
This bee season I found out that Alison’s son was born on the anniversary of my daughter’s death. She is my roommate, and naturally she will celebrate. My first thought was that I should go away so that my grief and longing would not intrude upon her family’s celebration. But where would I go?
This morning I stopped for a coffee with a French woman I know. We were talking about dating. I said, “I’ve had three babies and I’m almost 47 years old. How can I let a man see me naked?”
It was meant to be funny, but looking at her face, I saw that I had never told her about my first child, a little girl named Chloe, who was born in the first bee season. After all this time she has become a dream I keep in my own heart, carefully swaddled, and mostly alone. And so I explained. The girl was born. And then she died.
My friend cried.
When someone cries over my painful loss, I feel a bond of love and gratitude. It’s as if they are willing to carry some of my sorrow for me, yes, but it is also that they understand she was more than a dream. She was a real girl, and she really did die, and it really did change everything — at least for me.
And so we talked about my little girl, which is something I rarely do. I described how meeting her was for me a spiritual awakening in which I learned how infinitely large love is. Talking about my little girl reminded me of the promise I made to myself after she died, which was to live a loving life despite her death.
It’s been 17 years and I do not view my world through the eyes of love as often as I would like. I do not worry myself about this: The lesson that life is love and love is large is hard to remember and easy to forget — especially when the house is a mess and the bills aren’t paid or you’ve just heard that flight 103 from Heathrow to JFK exploded over Lockerbie.
At times, I feel I am the luckiest woman in the world. I know that I have been given a rare opportunity and a rare gift. What I got instead of a daughter was a chance to understand that life is love. No matter how many times I forget my promise and the meaning of life, miracles come in the form of conversations over coffee or dead bees, to remind me of what is important. I do not have to absent myself on my roommate’s son’s birthday. I just need to remember the things that are easy to forget.
Bee season is about holding love and connection on the palm of my open hand and letting its radiance light myself and everyone.
*They are actually called Cécile Brünner roses and grow all around our beautiful city.