Her name is Barbara, but she prefers to be called Bee. I see her at the gym, always with a smile on her face and a glow in her round chestnut eyes. She wears beige orthopedic shoes, black weight-lifting gloves, and matching polyester outfits in bright solid colors. When she sees someone working out on a machine or with weights, she ambles over, raises a tiny fist and says, “Stay strong!”
Bee is a cheerleader for anyone who needs cheering, including me. Most people she greets smile back and say thank you. A very few look embarrassed or annoyed. Who is this old lady smiling and talking as if she knew them? Is she crazy or senile?
No, Bee is neither crazy nor senile. More likely, she’s an angel of some sort, put on this earth to bring joy to others. I talk to her whenever I can, just to feel her goodness streaming toward me. Maybe it will penetrate somehow, and raise my own positive energy. Maybe I can absorb some of her simple essence and become a kinder person.
I believe in miracles.
Bee has translucent rosy skin with nary a wrinkle, and white hair in flat waves circling her small round head. She may not have a halo, but she looks like an angel to me.
When I haven’t seen her for a while, I get panicky. Angels can’t die! I need my angels! I have my dream angels, my mom, my dad, my brother, my grandparents, but Bee is right in front of me, alive with love. My spirits lift and my heart warms when I see her. She is like a happy pill, a gratitude pill, a determination pill, an excitement pill, and she doesn’t even know it. If I told her, she would laugh.
“Oh,” she’ll remark. “I’m glad you’re wearing blue today. You look so lovely in colors.” Suddenly, I feel pretty again. My angel has touched me.
If I don’t feel like working out, which is often these days, I will sometimes go to the gym just in case Bee is there. I need her like a dose of sugary optimism, especially during the holidays. My father died right after Christmas two years ago; my mother died in January almost fourteen years ago; and my first marriage crumbled during a last holiday hurrah . Succumbing to the tension of loss and longing, of expectation and disappointment, I sometimes feel I haven’t done enough, given enough, pleased enough, accomplished enough. My life can seem like a long series of failures.
Then I see Bee, smiling and waving from across the room. Floating on her tiny feet, she approaches and says, “This gym is the best playground in town!” For me, right then, it is the best playground in the world. With her sweet joyous smile, Bee has banished doubt and despair and restored my gratitude for life, just by being her kind self.
Around her neck hangs a long chain with a fat gold ring, a ring she sometimes rubs gently as if summoning a genie. I finally got the nerve to ask her about it. It was her husband’s wedding ring, she told me, her husband who died a long time ago.
“Was he a good husband?”
She tilts her head and looks so directly into my eyes that I feel a beam of light entering me. “He was the very best husband in the world,” she says. “The very best man.” The love in those words makes everything around us seem to pulsate.
Perhaps if we looked more closely, spoke more warmly, opened our hearts more easily, we would see living angels all around us, angels who might wake us from our dull sleep and show us the love that is always present for the giving and taking. I’m lucky I have had Bee to remind me that it is how we leave others feeling that matters most. Maybe some day that knowledge will become my constant star even without her shining example.
Soon the days will get longer and spring will revive us with its sudden bounty of life and beauty. But for now, with the holidays upon us and the world in seeming chaos, I can only borrow Bee’s words and hope their blessing works for you.