The day that Sarah was stung, everyone was calling them bees. Over the phone, as friends mobilized forces to start praying, as we tried to figure out exactly what was happening and what to do next, the term “swarm of bees” was used. Bees were the villians, and I felt like I had been sleeping with the enemy. Deep down I knew though, I knew it wasn’t bees. It’s not that bees don’t sting, and it’s not that there aren’t people who have a serious allergy to honeybee venom, it’s just that they don’t behave the way that the insects that attacked Sarah were described as having behaved.
They were yellow jackets. Last week, Jonny and Gabe put on their bee suits, dug up the nest, and destroyed it along with the queen.
But despite the fact that it wasn’t bees, and despite the fact that Sarah has been my raw honey “hook up,” as we’ve waited the past couple years to harvest our own honey, I wasn’t sure that I could face my bees. We neglected to check on them the week before, and of course the week after Sarah died, we did the same. Out of our six hives, only one is strong. Neglecting the hives for those two weeks proved to be disastrous for one of them, our Lark Rise hive. When we finally checked on them, we saw immediately that there was trouble. Thousands of dead bees lay in heaps outside the entrance of Lark Rise. Inside, it was clear that the hive had been robbed and pretty nearly destroyed. I have to confess that I was glad. I can’t explain it, but I was glad. Somehow the queen bee survived the attack, one that most likely came from our other bees in addition to yellow jackets. So now we will try to nurse that colony back so that it will survive the winter.
I’m still a beekeeper.
The morning that Sarah was stung, she was emailing back and forth with a group of us who were planning a nature camp for our homeschooling group. Sarah had grabbed the reins and was coordinating the whole thing. She had a definite vision for camp, and it was beautiful. My last phone call with Sarah, just a couple of hours before she was attacked, we were quickly chatting about felted birds’ nests as I tried to get out the door for Mass. I almost didn’t answer the phone when I saw her number. Not because I didn’t want to talk to her, but because we were running late, and I’d made a promise to myself not to answer the phone when we’re on our way to Mass (this wasn’t the first time). Seeing Sarah’s number on my phone, I knew I could call her when we got home, but I couldn’t resist picking up the phone for no other reason than that I love Sarah. We chatted for a couple minutes, me explaining that I had to run, but that I would call her later that afternoon.
When Sarah died, we thought that nature camp died too. I told a friend that there was no way that we could do it, not without Sarah. But the night that a few of us showed up at Sarah’s house to help plan her funeral last week, her oldest son asked Lori if we were there for nature camp. Lori shared this with Eve and me, tears running down her face, barely able to keep her composure. We looked at each other and realized that somehow in the midst of our grief, nature camp must happen.
Sarah had planned for the children to sing the first verse of “All Creatures of Our God and King” each day at the beginning of nature camp. That hymn became the entrance hymn at her funeral. I think all of us who knew and loved Sarah struggled to sing without sobbing, but we did it. We sang for her.
This week we’ve hosted nature camp, only one week later than we originally planned. The camp has been a beautiful way to honor Sarah and I’m so glad that we did it. And though it’s been difficult, we’ve all sung together, leading the children just as Sarah wanted,
“All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
Oh, praise Him
Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam
Oh, praise Him
Oh, praise Him