The art and gardening community lost a really wonderful person recently, Bee Smith. I went to her wake yesterday and saw her beautiful garden again, and listened to young and old people tell their favorite Bee stories and their tributes to her strong and loving personality, her talent for getting people to do things. As one young woman said, Bee was mature in all the good ways, yet in all the other ways—and that was also good—she never grew up. I only knew her for a couple of years, but she welcomed me with a big smile to gatherings where I got to know most of my current closest friends. It was painful to see so many of those friends feeling so deeply the pain of this collective yet very personal loss, and I woke up in the middle of the night crying for them and for myself, reflecting on the longness of life and the shortness of our friendships, and remembering how hard it is, every single time, when you lose someone who's important to you.
I try really hard to be philosophical about death, trying to see it as just a part of the Big Picture, and trying to have the knowledge that I will one day die make my life even more rich and purposeful. But that doesn't make the sorrow any less real, or any less important. My logic compels me to believe that if anything in life is important, then everything is. That means that loss and sorrow are in themselves two of the things that we simply must experience in order to become human. I don't feel like I can explain that, or justify it, even to myself, at this point in my life, but I believe that someday—in some lifetime—I will understand enough to be able to.
Late this afternoon something dawned on me about Bee. She was so strong and fearless that you just wanted to lean on her. But what you didn't realize is that all that time you're spending with her, that fierce energy and hunger for life is rubbing off on you. You don't feel it happening—the only thing you know is that being around her, you gradually go from being completely intimidated and at times mildly horrified by her bold decisiveness, to thinking, "Oh yeah, of course we can do that, what a great idea." And now that she's gone on to her next job, you find that she woke up something in you, that you're resonating with a bit of that boldness and independence, with trust in your own ideas. You feel your kinship with all life, including rocks, and feel like everything is going to work out just the way it's supposed to. Bee was the kind of person who could do anything, and everyone who knew her is stronger for it. Everybody needs a Bee in their life at some point. I'm really glad she was in mine.