Yesterday, I found a bumble bee, dead, on the laundry room floor. I actually left it smack in the middle of the floor for over an hour before I touched it. I am highly allergic to bees. The venom from the sting of one of several stinging insects is sufficient to kill me. Others cause hives and swelling. In any event, even armed with my Epipen, and fifteen years of allergy injections, I am cautious. To be otherwise would be to play Russian Roulette with my safety. Having confirmed the bee was not moving, I picked it up and placed it on the kitchen counter. I looked up bumble bees on Wikipedia to learn more about their method of disseminating venom. I used my magnifying glass to look for the barb tucked under its abdomen. I took note of the velvet like texture on its thorax. I appreciated the translucent nature of its wings. This bee was a marvel.
When my eighteen-year old son, his friend and my niece joined me for breakfast, evidence of my curiosity was on the granite counter....my computer, the magnifier, the bee. I gave an impromptu lecture. I was able to answer most of their questions satisfactorily until my son posed this question, “Can we bury it, Mom?”
How does one go about burying a bee? As I was sorting through possibilities, he said, “We need an itsy-bitsy box.”
“I know,” I said, “Can you still make an origami box?”
“Yes!” I slid him some paper. “Here you go.”
By the time I folded a load of laundry, the three of them had used equal parts creativity, origami techniques and tape to make a box.
My friend’s son said, “Now what?” -- as if I were the world’s leading authority of burying bees.
Using a well-honed practice that is a carry-over from twenty-two years of experience as a mother, I faked it.
“Wait, there is no lid,” said my son.
“No problem. First, we have to each say goodbye.” My ability to extemporize impressed even me.
“I’ll start. Goodbye and thank you bee for sharing your gifts with us -- for making us honey and for bringing us our vegetables, fruits, grains and flowers.” Pretty good, right?
My son said, “Yeah, what she said.”
His friend said, “Bye.”
My niece added, “Thank you, little bee.”
“Now what do we do?” my son asked.
“We burn him, “ I stated confidently.
Three excited voices chorused, “We do? Where?”
“In the fireplace.”
With a firestarter in my outstretched hand, I led the procession to the fireplace. My son set the burial box on the log holder in the fireplace. I handed him the starter. He lit two corners of the box. We stepped back in unison, all standing in a semi-circle watching the flames engulf first the paper, then the bee. A strange, unfamiliar scent wafted into the room.
I said, “Thank you for attending this bee cremation.” I believe it was my son, but it could have been his friend, who coined the only word possible to describe our little ceremony.
“You mean our bemation.”