Today is the anniversary of my beloved Mother’s passing. It’s not an easy day for me… and this could very easily be a real downer for the topic of this article. But the truth is I see it a day to celebrate her life, and mine. I have also come to realize that by sharing my (our) grief, by telling the story of my (our) grief, I can come to understand it’s power of transformation. This, too, is something to celebrate.
My mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. While her struggle with the disease and the attending pain was devastating, the drawn out nature of her passing offered the unexpected gift of time to make sure all had been said, shared, and tenderly held. When I received a call from my father giving me the news that mother had been given a prognosis of “3-6 months”, the inevitable screeched into my mind, and all fantasies of dramatic recoveries were over. I was sitting on the back porch of a friends’ home. At the precise minute that I hung up the phone with my father, frozen with disbelief, poised to explode into tears, a hummingbird arrived, buzzing right up next to me, mere inches from my face.
Native American wisdom, which is a part of my personal spiritual practice, speaks of the “medicine” of animals. According to this belief, each animal has great wisdom, or medicine, to impart. It is said that Hummingbird conjures love as no other medicine does, and that Hummingbird feathers can open the heart. Without an open and loving heart, you can’t drink deeply of the ‘nectar of the flower’, the great joys of life.
My mother loved life. Like a Hummingbird darting from one beautiful flower to another, she tasted the many joys of life. She brought people together and brought out the very best in them. Harmony and beauty were her gifts to all of us. She had loads of Hummingbird medicine to share.
In that split second when I received the call and the hummingbird came, I had this strange glimmer of recognition that there was going to be a gift of beauty and joy for me. And somewhere inside me, I could have clearly articulated that, even in that moment.
My mother did not see 6 months, or even 3. She died 24 days later. I was with her in that tremendously painful and overwhelmingly beautiful moment. A precious gift. The grief that engulfed me after her death became my great teacher. Wise, unyielding, paradisiacal. She was my best friend in life and her death broke my heart. But a broken heart is an open heart. I descended into grief, but slowly, ever so slowly, I ascended, with a deeper appreciation for the joys of life, for the gifts she gave me, in life, through her illness, and in her death.
In honor of my Mother, and the Hummingbird medicine that we now both have, I’ve hung a hummingbird feeder on my back porch. As I write, there is a beautiful Hummingbird feeding.