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“You’re doing so well, Mary Elizabeth. Just two more stitches,” the emergency room surgeon said as mother gripped my hand, diverting my attention to the ice skaters on the wall calendar hanging next to me. “I know this hurts but there’s no way I could give you an anesthetic for that cut on your shin—a nasty one.” Ten years old then, screaming heaved my entrails. In no way could I break free from the hungry alligators chewing on me, then spitting blood parts on the grass.

Such was my first experience with surgeons and harrowing pain. With each recurring insult over the years, the wounds and bones eventually healed and I resumed my life, but my body remembered and still does. A subsequent wariness seemed to harness my senses to skirt additional injury, and a growing compassion for others, so wounded, adhered to my spirit.

Through heart-prayer I also learned to reframe such experiences.The third Beatitude of Jesus of Nazareth was critical in this process: Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Its inclusion in the psalms and the prophets reiterates God’s critical interest in our lives, expecially when brought to our needs. In my perception, Jesus’s own satiation with loss informs this beatitude, a satiation far more horrific than ours. He, too, experienced the comforting, but not in the usual sense of the word: a comforting that opens the psyche to the ultimate of mysteries, the redemption itself. Within his suffering, ours makes sense.

Within this beatitude, Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted, I take solace with each day’s incremental loss advancing me toward my transition. When rough spots occur, I pray, “He knows.” This is working out …

My reread of The Secret Lives of Bees (2002) disclosed the healing power of the Sacred Feminine. Its author Sue Monk Kidd displayed unusual artistry in fashioning this riveting story, its worldwide appeal galvanizing hearts.

Secrets abound, not only within the darkness of the beehives, but also within the inner worlds of the characters, given to dreams, musings, writing, and spirited imaginations. Multi-layered symbols also abound—orphan, mother, bees, death—their auras intermingling with shuddery feelings, with breathlessness. The ensuing images, enfleshed in precise words, fired the imagination of this reader.

Note: Above each chapter, headings of honeybee behaviors mirrored the story as it unfolded.

Enter the droll narrator, fourteen-year-old Lily Owens, with black hair that flies in many directions, living on a peach farm with her widower father in a bigoted South Carolina town. It was summer, 1964, hot with racism. Attuned to hunches, Lily sought resolution of her secret and found her way to a bee-keeping farm in the next town.

There, Lily met the Boatwright sisters whose large-bosomed blackness mothered her through grief. Their eclectic devotions to Our Lady of Chains, the ancient figurehead from a ship’s mast honored in their living room, also opened Lily to the Sacred Feminine “… hidden everywhere. Her heart a red cup of fierceness tucked among ordinary things.” From her, Lily drew courage, “not just to love, but to persist in love” for her orphaned psyche and those around her.

The Secret Lives of Bees continues enriching imaginations with Eros, sorely needed today, to heal poisonous fissures sickening planet Earth as well as those in our own hearts. We but need to ask, humbly…

Exam rooms, an image, found in Stories of Hope – Living in Serenity with Chronic Pain and Illness (2012), jarred awareness of my bleak past. Decades of autoimmune disease had led me to frequent them, whether in hospitals, clinics or medical buildings. As I relocated from city to city, I sought out the best internists, rheumatologists, and surgeons, their names and institutions stitched above the pockets of their starched medical coats.

Within the narrow confines of exam rooms, I waited partially disrobed, my list of questions curling in perspiring hands. To distract myself, I studied lurid charts of diseases on the walls, peeked through blind-covered windows to the streets below, thumbed through dog-eared trade magazines, listened for footfalls in the corridor. I also prayed. And then the door would click open, my doctor, followed by fellows and medical students filling the space between us.

The routine was much the same: the narration of raw symptoms and ineffective drugs prescribed from the previous visit, the doctors’ touch upon inflamed joints, orders for x-rays and lab work ups, and then, the plan: surgery or return in one month. Little helped. I still hobbled, over-smiling the grimacing.

Now that I’m under the care of the hospice medical director, there are no more exam rooms—Only my dining room with fresh tulips, frequented by sensitive and caring nurses and the chaplain. It is from this room that I’m preparing for my transition, one day at a time. Deep is my joy and gratitude.

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