She showed up in the spring. I noticed her spinning her translucent masterpiece outside my laundry-room window. I paused from my folding to watch her work, the beautiful yellow zig-zag on her back, bright against the black as her meticulous handiwork came together.
Phoebe had just completed 15 months of high-dose chemotherapy, preceded by brain surgery and recovery. Finally our girl was home. We were a family again and life was full of possibility. We set to work on our garden; building the fence, prepping the soil, pulling weeds. Phoebe sat in her little camping chair and held the spade and kept me company, her little green sun-hat shielding that sweet bald head from the hot sun. The farm was abuzz with activity. Beloved friends came to offer their help as we built a chicken coop and put up fencing and tilled the soil.
Sweet fellowship over dirt and seed and shared work.
We were brimming with hope, intoxicated by the mundane. Life was moving forward and I can still hear her shout “No more chemo!” with joy. These were blessed days. A meticulous handiwork underway.
I watched the spider through the spring. Each time I turned the garden hose on, I looked at her up close. By now her beautiful web was complete and full of unlucky flies who’d fallen for her trap. She was so big and magnificent it was hard to miss her in my small window in each day. She just made me happy and her arrival signaled the beginning of my own personal spring. A time to build.
As the days became more vibrant, the garden followed suit. Squash amidst towering sunflowers, tangles of tomatoes intertwined with Zinnias, zucchini vines covered the ground and okra sprang up tall and pointy. We feasted. On life, just the living of it, and on sustenance from the work of our hands. The kids would run to the garden empty handed and return with their proud bounty. Phoebe loved that squash and the tiny tomato varieties and Deacon was my weeding buddy. These days were precious and we understood what it meant to be thankful way down deep, for each moment.
On some afternoons I would show Phoebe the spider. I would lift her to the window so she could see up close. We all loved that this creature had made her home in our window, and now she was creating egg-sacks to hold her babies. We watched as she so carefully twirled the gauzy balls of web with her graceful legs as she worked. Before too long, there were several egg sacks tucked safely around the edges of the window.
Spring gave way to the dog days of summer and in July our hope was crushed. The tumor was back.
And it had spread.
And two to eight weeks.
Soon the garden had given it’s best and the vegetables became less. We lacked motivation now to go on and so it went to seed. I half expected the spider to die, as if somehow our devastating news would have an impact on everything around us. I found myself surprised that the world could go on, but it did, and does.
And then she was gone. My Phoebe. The days were a blur and the funeral and the activity and all the busy-ness. Until at last, we were alone, the five of us, without her.
And the spider was still there. And how could this little spider still be here against the elements and my Phoebe not? But she made me happy still, because Phoebe had marveled at her. We had enjoyed her together and watched her weave her beautiful egg sacks in preparation for the future.
This morning I went to start the laundry. It’s been cold, really cold, and rainy. And I saw her. Not the striking star shape she usually positions herself as, but crumpled.
I am sad to see her gone. But it seems fitting. She had a beautiful spring, she worked hard, she displayed the magnificence of her Creator. She reminds me of Phoebe like that. I will keep watch on those egg sacks, and maybe this spring one of those little spiders will take up residence in my window.
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.