Sunday, July 1, 2012

The White-Faced Bumblebee

The White-Faced Bumblebee

The white-faced bumblebee does not sting.  I know this is true because Nancy told me so.  To prove her statement she took a bee out of the jar and, gently restraining it from flying away, let it crawl around her fingers.  

After this demonstration I questioned, “If it doesn’t sting, does it bite?”

“Yes, it does bite a little, but it can’t hurt you, see”, she said as she placed a finger tip against it‘s mouth and it nibbled with no ill effects.

I took the bee into my cupped hands and felt it crawl around inside.  Not an unpleasant sensation, but somewhat disconcerting for a very squeamish little boy.  With the continuing irritation and a desire to see the bee in my own hands, I attempted to make the transition from the hollow of my hands to holding it in my fingers as she had done.  Needless to say, in the process, it escaped and returned to feeding on the many flowering shrubs that surrounded our log house, but no harm was done.

There were several more white-faced bees in the jar.  She promptly extracted another one and offered it to me, reminding me that it was the white-faced ones that did not sting.  I do not remember how many bees I let escape or how many my unpracticed fingers injured, but soon I could take a bee from her and let it move about my fingers without losing or injuring it.  I even became brave enough to offer it the tip of my finger for a few nibbles. 

Obtaining the jar of bees had been simple enough.  After watching the many bees gathering nectar for a while, we went inside where Nancy asked our mother for a jar with a lid so she could catch some bees.  With the jar we returned to the yard where Nancy quickly caught more than a dozen bees by holding the jar under a feeding bee and coaxing it into the jar with the lid.

[NOTE:  A bumblebee, if dropped into an open jar, 
will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. 
It never sees the means of escape at the top, but
persists in trying to find some way out through the 
sides near the bottom.]

I never became very adept at capturing bumble bees this way, nor could I capture them directly as Nancy often did by reaching out to lift a feeding bee from a flower with her bare hand.  Sometimes she would hand me a white-faced bee while she would take a black-faced one.  “Remember, you can only play with the white faces, because they don’t sting, but I can play with either.”  From later experience I know that the black faced bees do sting, but I do not remember one stinging her.  

When we tired of playing with the bees, Nancy would remove the lid from the jar and turn it over and let the remaining bees return to their task of gathering nectar.

I assume today that she had learned from experience which bees stung and which did not, but then little brother never questioned where older sister had learned all the things that she was teaching him.  She had a world of knowledge and was always eager to share it with me.

“Don’t climb on the pig pen, the pigs will bit your toes off!” 

“You can climb up and bump your head on the ceiling in the corner of a log house.” (She would demonstrate this for me by backing into a corner, placing her hands and bare feet on the logs on each side of the corner and working her way up the wall.  I was never brave enough to get more that a couple of logs above the floor).  When she started school, she continued to share her newly acquired knowledge with me, but school was a short lived experience for her.

I felt my sister was a very special person, always protective of me, always eager to teach me new things.  But very early, I knew that Nancy was different.  She had seizures.  Within the family we called them “spells.”  Unkind children and even some adults would say she had “fits.”

A grand mal epileptic seizure is not a pleasant thing to watch, but if it has always been a part of your life, you do adjust.  It never becomes common place and it is always heart rending for those who must be on the scene and for those who provide care.  You learn not to react outwardly and to go on with your day, but you never learn not to care.

By all accounts, Nancy was a brilliant child, eager to learn and eager to know life.  But, by age 10 it was apparent that the deprivation of oxygen during seizures and the heavy medications were taking their toll, both physically and mentally.

As she grew older, nerve damage and crippling arthritis caused her to lose the ability to move about on her own.  She lost the ability to put together clear-complete sentences.  She lost the ability to properly chew and swallow her food.  Several years after our father died it became obvious that my mother could no longer care for her at home.  So with heavy hearts we placed her in a nursing home.   There my mother sat with her almost every day and many family members and friends visited her on a regular basis.  

Although she became more and more impaired, she never lost her knowledge of and love of Jesus.  She was sure that one day she would go to heaven where she would be reunited with her Daddy and where Jesus would give her a new body.

She never lost her knowledge of and love of friends and family.  She recognized every one who came to visit and called them by name even if she had not seen them for many years.   With a little questioning, she could always tell me who was kin to whom in our family or community.  

Of course, as I grew up my attitude was not always charitable.  Many times I wondered why my sleep must be disturbed or was concerned about what my friends might think.

Many times I asked God to make a change but accepted it as an unchangeable part of my life, just like the weather and just as unpredictable.  

As the years went by, I often asked God. “WHY?”

“Why must she suffer so?

“Why must she be such a burden on my mother?”

However, I eventually took a cue from my mother and learned that I was asking the wrong question.  

The right question goes more like---”How can I best serve and minister in this situation?”

For many years we all grieved for the NANCY that was trapped inside that disabled body and confused mind.  Then at the age of 63-1/2 and after 22 years in a nursing home, Nancy passed away with aspiration pneumonia.  Like the bumblebees which we had confined in a jar for a little while and then set free, she was set free from the suffering of this earth and went to be with her Daddy and Jesus in heaven.

Copyright 2012© Willie E. Weaver 

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