Question: What is it that causes us to mourn the loss of a loved one, and not that of a stranger? It cannot be the sanctity of life itself, for that is shared by all. No, it is more likely related to the loss of times shared, times that will be no longer. The memory of those times is not strong enough to hold in the grief.
I write this note at this time because I lost a friend today. It is true that we did not know each other for very long, and that my friend had six legs and a pair of wings, but she was a friend nonetheless. You see, this friend was a honey bee. Now, it is quite likely that thousands or millions of honey bees meet their fate daily, but most them I did not have an opportunity to meet. They are as those people in distant lands that one hears about during the news on the radio, tv, newspaper, etc. An earthquake, a plane crash kill hundreds or thousands of people, and yet we steel ourselves to this because these people are unknown to us. But, as I stated above, this bee was a friend of mine.
We met quite by chance as I was winding my way down the highway. I’m not exactly sure how she came to find my truck, but when I looked over, she was clinging to the glass of my window. Despite the force of the wind rushing by, she stuck fast to her position. My first inclination was to brush her off so that she might return to her hive, but she would have none of it. Finally, I reached out and pulled her into my hand. She was certainly quite capable of stinging me at that point, but didn’t. I wonder, what would a human reaction have been? Once inside the relative solitude of the cab, she settled to preening her antennae and setting everything right. A lady must look right, after all.
We shared the road for the rest of my journey, although I wasn’t really sure what to do with her. We were already far from her hive, and an intruder to a foreign hive is quickly killed by the guards. Not that she wasn’t a diligent bee – the full pollen sacs on her legs attested to that – but one must live by the laws of society. In addition, she seemed unable to fly. She was quite able to walk, however, and made her journey up and down my arm, around the steering wheel, and over the dashboard. We listened to the same music (bees lack ears, but I’m sure she could feel the vibrations), watched the same scenery, and were jostled by the same bumps. She wasn’t much for conversation, but she was a good listener. This is how we came to be friends.
After a time she seemed to tire, and I realized that her nutritional demands were not being met. Flying and collecting food is hard work, and bees must eat frequently. Unfortunately, I had no provisions to feed her. (Why is it that although this Earth provides more than enough food to feed her entire population, there are still those without? How is it that we have no provisions to care for them?) I was therefore forced to watch my friend get weaker and weaker. When she could no longer walk, I lifted her onto my hand and held her for the remainder of the trip.
She was still alive when I settled her on that leaf, but just barely. I could have ended it quickly and probably more humanely with just the weight of my hand, but couldn’t bring myself to kill without need. I thought of those in hospitals, in mortal pain, and if they should be allowed to pass on quickly. The doctors’ Hippocratic Oath says no, that life must be preserved at all costs. There are no easy answers to some questions.
And so my friend is gone from this realm, and yet she lives on in this story. It is dedicated to her and those I have met along this path we call life – some of those are likely gone as well. I miss my friend, and yet I shall not mourn her. The memory of our time together still lives, and it is enough for me.