When you are extraordinarily lucky, you meet someone who supports, encourages and lights up your life like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. They change everything. There will always be your life before and your life after your time with them. You are never the same.
I strongly believe that while the body dies, the soul inside of it lives on. The deepest part of who we are is immortal, and it’s this essence that connects us all together. It is always there, taking different forms, showing up exactly when we need it, in a way we can recognize, even if our minds have trouble understanding. I wish I had a logical, scientific explanation for this. I do not. But it’s something that is as real to me as the air I breathe, which I know keeps me alive, though I cannot see it.
I met Marylee when I was 13 years old. I was in awe of her sense of joy, love, generosity, passion and fun. She never held back, on anything – ever. She was the definition of living life to the fullest. I think she lived three lifetimes in her brief 56 years.
To me she was a mother, friend, confidant, and mentor. In short, I adored her. We had 16 amazing years together. Soul mates come in all forms, and she was definitely one of them.
Together we loved food, gardening, art – basically anything that was delicious, beautiful, tactile or fun. We loved to spend all day in the garden, sometimes visiting three plant nurseries in a single day. Then we’d get dressed up for tea or a yummy meal. She was all about pleasure and enjoyment, something she helped me explore and discover for myself.
When Marylee died I was four months pregnant. I could not mourn; I had new life inside of me. Connecting with a loss that great would have destroyed me. In a sense, my unborn son protected me from that. His tiny body growing in mine kept me insulated. As I watched her body and face become unrecognizable in her final days, I sensed that some part of her soul was imparted into my belly.
Life moves on and I was now a busy new mom. In 2007 I timidly decided to take a meditation class. I had never meditated before. But a hectic home life with a crazy toddler prompted me to give it a try. I needed to do something. Since running away to Tahiti in search of calm was not an option, I knew I needed to find some inner peace without having to actually travel anywhere.
The class was intense, powerful and extremely helpful. We were taught many exercises, one of which was called the “Rose Exchange.” Our teacher asked us to imagine our heart as a rose which we exchanged silently with a partner in class. It was a beautiful way to practice the transfer of loving energy.
The next day I decided to try it again alone at home, this time imagining that the person sitting across from me was Marylee. It the three years since she had died, I hadn’t really tried to connect with her. I didn’t know how, I didn’t think it was possible.
But the class was opening me up, and though it felt awkward at first, I pushed forward. During this ‘exchange,’ I was surprised to find I got a very strong sense that Marylee was actually there, and that her heart’s rose was a vibrant yellow color.
It was her birthday the next day, so I decided to take a bouquet of yellow roses with me to her garden plot at the cemetery. I left the flowers beside her name, and for some reason, even with the heavy storm, I decided to take a drive around the large cemetery, which dates back to the late 1800s.
A large free-standing crypt far on the other side of the property caught my eye. I felt this strong sense that I was meant to get out of my car, in the pouring rain, and look inside the glass windows. As I approached the little building, which was clearly a family crypt, I found myself immobilized when I got close enough to read the name on top: Lee.
Lee was a nick name that Marylee occasionally went by, and it’s also the middle name we gave our son to tie us together. I slowly approached the leaded glass windows, soaked by rain at this point. I didn’t care. I looked inside, a bit scared at what I might find, and though I knew I was crying, I could not discern the tears from rain: the entire interior – or heart – of the tomb was covered with hundreds of bright yellow silk roses. They covered nearly every surface of the walls.
Ever since the first yellow rose, which I now know symbolizes friendship and love, it has re-appeared many times: when I need to feel a connection to Marylee but especially when I’m doubting it. The same year I gave Marylee a yellow rose on her birthday, I had a special visit with the bloom on my own. As a treat, I signed up for a session with a personal trainer named….Lee. He arrived holding a single, bright yellow rose and said, simply, “I know today is your birthday and when I saw this in my garden, for some reason I felt it was meant for you.”
The rose kept appearing but I still had trouble believing. My heart and mind were at odds. Was all of this a coincidence? Always a skeptic, I still needed more ‘proof.’
So I sat down around that same time and tried to contact Marylee again to ask if all of this was real. As a very logical person, this was way out of my comfort zone. But I did it anyway.
I sat down on the floor with no script, instruction or plan. I basically ‘imagined’ myself connecting with her. I asked her for a sign that she was with me and sat there, eyes closed, waiting. Would I ‘see’ her or feel her brush my shoulder like in the movies?
For a long time nothing happened. Then I heard a loud buzzing sound and decided to open my eyes, figuring that nothing was going to happen that day. I went looking for what I thought sounded like a large fly. What I found was a bee buzzing around my family photos on a table in the corner of the room. In the nearly six years I’d lived there, I’d never seen a bee in my house. There had been flies, moths, mosquitoes and even birds, but never a bee. I opened the window to let the bee out. Then I sat back down, one last time, asking for a sign. Three more bees immediately came through the back door and once again hovered around my family photos.
What was happening? I knew nothing about bees, or animal symbolism or ways in which souls can communicate. Marylee would have known that I was a skeptic, and that I’d need some sort of ‘proof.’
So I did the next logical thing we do in our modern world and Googled ‘bee symbolism.’ I read in awe:
“Bees are considered to be messengers between worlds. They symbolize rebirth, immortality and mother.”
I was stunned.
I also learned that bees symbolize achieving your dreams, doing what seems impossible (based on their body weight, bees technically should not be able to fly) and enjoying the sweetness of life that is the reward of hard work (honey). Bees live in the garden (as I often do) and transform the heart of flowers into a golden, sweet elixir. What could be more perfect?
Even though the bee (and the yellow rose) kept visiting me at exactly the right moment, my mind was still holding me back (I am a hard sell). I could write ten chapters on all of the magical synchronicities that have occurred between Marylee and I (since her passing) but one thing in particular finally made me a believer. I’ve never looked back since.
It was April; almost a year to the date of when the yellow rose (and the bees) first appeared. I was on Rose Avenue, down the street from Marylee’s old house. I was walking to my car after a yoga class, past a café where she and I had spent many fun afternoons. I was running late and needed to pick up my son.
But for some reason, I felt compelled to walk into the café. I was not hungry. I did not need to use the restroom. Something pulled me in – by then I had learned to trust the inner voice calling me.
I walked into the café and looked around, still not sure why I was there. And then there it was, pinned high on the wall: a nearly seven foot tall watercolor depicting a redhead in a garden…dancing with a bee. I was in shock, as I had spent innumerable times meditating as a way to connect with Marylee – always picturing myself in the garden with her as the bee. I caught the artist’s faint signature. It read, simply, “JT.” My name is Jill Tracy – I was looking at a mirror of myself.
Stunned, I spoke to someone at the café and inquired about the work. I was told it was installed the previous weekend, on April 20 – Marylee’s birthday.
It was also explained to me that the artist’s intention for the painting was to symbolize a relationship or communication between the redhead and the bee, something that took place in the garden.
I knew I needed to purchase this painting, which was far more expensive than anything I had ever imagined giving myself permission to own.
I had a personal savings account that I’d held onto for a long time. The cost of the painting was within 100 dollars of what I had left in my account. Fears of being too lavish or irresponsible almost crippled my decision. But I studied art, I love art and I knew this painting was meant for me. It really did symbolize believing in all that is possible, and I knew Marylee was telling me that directly, and wanted me to live with that reminder every day, never giving up on my dreams.
This felt like a once in a lifetime experience – I decided to go for it. I made an appointment for the sale of the artwork. When the time came to go to the café and pick up my precious item, I could not find my checkbook anywhere. With no way of paying for the artwork, and now running late for my appointment, I needed to stop at the bank.
And the whole time I knew intuitively that all of this – each and every last part – was happening for a perfect reason, even if that reason was not initially clear.
I put on one of my nicest dresses and adorned myself as if attending some sort of ceremony. For me, this purchase was ceremonial. The painting symbolized my crossing over to recognizing, believing in and experiencing a world that had previously seemed impenetrable. It also symbolized believing in my dreams which was something Marylee hugely supported. She had always encouraged me to push far beyond what I thought I was capable of, “You have to look for a path you cannot see,” she’d tell me.
I could feel Marylee around me as I entered the bank and walked towards the teller to obtain a temporary check. I knew I could have quickly filled out the slip of paper at the counter, but something made me want to take my time with it. If this entire experience was really a ceremony, I wanted to honor each step.
I saw an empty desk and chair on the other side of the bank. Whoever worked there must have been at lunch or out that day. I sat down and watched my hand slowly write out the letters and numbers. Then I signed my name – something I’d done thousands of time before, but rarely with as much care.
With the completed check in my hand, I wanted to get to the café as soon as possible – I was excited and didn’t want to be late. But then I remembered to slow down and savor each part.
Right then something on the far end of the cubicle, on a table behind the desk, caught my eye. It looked like a greeting card, but I wasn’t sure. I don’t usually make it a habit of being nosy in people’s personal space, but I couldn’t help myself – it was out in the open, after all.
I got up and walked over to the card so I could see the image up close.
This is what was on the cover:
A painting of a redheaded fairy dancing in a lush, green garden, surrounded by bees.
Under the image, it said, simply: