I got the call on February 15, 2008, that Rhonda had lost her battle with cancer.
I was numb when I arrived for the funeral. I wasn’t expecting to be included with all of the family events, so when I was, I stepped out of my body and stoically made my way through the day.
At the viewing, I stood over her, hand-in-hand with Jeff. She was a blue-jeans girl (and the reason I wore jeans to her funeral) but today she was wearing a dress and her nails were painted. I joked that if she could, she would sit up and smack Jeff for putting her in that. We giggled. Then we both felt as if she were very, very near. It was overwhelming.
There was a break between the viewing and the funeral. I made my way to the church. Doofenshmirtz and Rhonda’s daughter “K” were the same age. They were friends…cousins. They were roaming the church, so I had a moment to step out back and breathe.
The stupid sky was blue, and the desert air was dry. A perfect February day. What right did this day have to be so beautiful? I leaned against the brick wall, jammed my hands deep into my pockets and watched as the motorcycles lined up for the funeral procession. It was suddenly all to real, and I couldn’t breathe. The breakdown that had been waiting for me took over, and I began to cry. Ugly, blotchy-faced, snot-ball sobbing.
I have no idea how long I was crying, but at some point I became aware of an object in my left pocket. It felt like a tiny ball of lint, or a piece of gravel. I played with it for a moment or two, jiggling it in my hand, before grabbing it and bringing it out to see what it was.
I opened my hand and there, perched in the middle of my palm, was a bee. Alive and well, and quietly sitting there. That second of time divided into a million pieces, and for one-millionth of a second, I knew without a shadow of doubt that it was Rhonda in my hand. I watched, transfixed, as she flew away. I felt a calm wash over me, and suddenly the beautiful day made sense.
I never planned on telling anyone this story. But as Doofenshmirtz and I sat in our car, waiting for the funeral procession to begin, she told me about her time in the church. K had taken her to see all the beautiful flowers that had been sent, and were now surrounding Rhonda’s casket. As they walked up the aisle, a bee had followed them closely. She had always been terrified of bees, but this one hadn’t bothered her. I smiled and told her about the bee in my pocket.
I had always been afraid of bees, but since that day, I’ve had no more fear. In fact, a phenomenon began to occur. At random times (and particularly during times of crises), a bee would appear. One time, I opened the door of my truck to go home at the end of the day, and one was sitting on my steering wheel. Often, a bee would appear in my office and sit on a window until I would come over and talk. Always just one bee, and always just sitting still, waiting for me. Other people began to witness it as well. The bee in the picture showed up on the day my grandson was born. I was sitting on a lawn chair, when my husband pointed next to me and said, “Look, Rhonda came by!”
I waited years before I told K. I didn’t want to freak her out. She literally squealed and told me that it made perfect sense. She was constantly seeing bees all around her, but could never find a hive.
Now, when friends and family are around, and a bee flies over, we all just casually say, “Hello Rhonda!”