Stuck on a to-do-list treadmill, she received a painful reminder to reorder her priorities.
Secretaries have to be organized. At my job at the University of Georgia, I answered phones, typed up letters, fielded job applications, made travel plans for professors, arranged meetings, organized the purchasing and maintenance of large lab equipment, and made sure all deadlines were met.
After 30 years as a secretary, long to-do lists had become a habit. I came home from work one afternoon and quickly scribbled out a new one: vacuum, empty the dishwasher, start the laundry...
“Come out on the porch and sit with me,” my husband, Donald, called from the back of the house. We had a lake on our property and a backyard full of trees, squirrels and birds. Watching the sunset was one of my favorite things to do.
But it hardly ever made my to-do list these days. “I’ll be out later,” I called to Donald. “As soon as I finish some chores.”
“But the sunset will be done later,” Donald called.
I left my list on a chair in the living room and changed out of my work clothes. I grabbed the vacuum cleaner from the closet and plugged it into the wall socket. I didn’t enjoy dragging the machine up and down the carpet—I would much rather sit on the porch with Donald.
Just get through the list, I thought. Then you can reward yourself with the fun stuff. That’s what I always told myself. Though the list never seemed to end, and the “fun stuff ” never seemed to begin.
I’d just made the first sweep of the carpet when a sharp sting pierced my shoulder. “Ow!” I cried, dropping the vacuum. “What...?” A wave of dizziness hit me. My heart raced.
“Honey!” I called to Donald. “Something bit me. I think I’m going to pass out!” I swayed back and forth, and then collapsed on a chair.
When I woke up EMTs were in the house. They got me onto a gurney. Another prick—this time an IV. Oxygen tubes scratched my nostrils. I blacked out again and woke up in the emergency room. People rushed around, shouting medical jargon.
Hours later, when I was stabilized, a doctor came to see me. “You were stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock,” he said.
He prescribed some medicine that I could take in case I was ever stung again, medicine that my family could administer if I passed out. It would buy me time until I could get to the emergency room.
“Stay alert when you’re outdoors,” he said. “Follow up tomorrow with your doctor and he can give you some literature to read.”
He started to leave, then turned back to me. “It’s a good thing you got here fast,” he said. “If you hadn’t we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Donald took me home. The vacuum cleaner lay on the floor where I’d dropped it. If I hadn’t gotten help I’d be lying here too, I thought. That made me think of something. “What happened to my to-do list?”
List?” said Donald. “That crumpled piece of paper I found on the chair? I threw it in the trash. Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I said. “That’s exactly where it belongs.”
Everything changed for me after that. I still keep a to-do list at home, but the items on it are very different: Tell Donald you love him, spend time with your grandchildren, help others in need, teach Sunday school.
And of course, watch the sunsets. Donald built a screen around our porch so I can watch them safely.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call that bee an angel. But the Lord definitely used its sting to get his message across.