February 21, 2017
Mother kept a hummingbird feeder outside her kitchen window. Hummingbirds are colorful, feisty, and industrious; all words that describe Mom as well.
She was quick, and I was slow. She was practical; and I’m a dreamer. We had our differences, but the love we shared was never in question!
One day, I called her to tell her that I had received a commission to paint a memorial painting for a dear woman with this touching story; shortly after she and her husband adopted infant, twin boys, one died in his crib of SIDS, (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)After the funeral, overwhelmed with grief, and wondering if perhaps she could have prevented her baby’s death, she sat alone on her patio, weeping. As tears streamed down her cheeks, she prayed for peace, and for faith to believe that her baby was safe with God.Suddenly, she saw a hummingbird hovering in front of her face. Gently, it took a tear from her cheek, and flew away, leaving her with a profound sense of peace. She believed that her prayers were answered. Now, four years later, she wanted to memorialize this experience with a painting of her two sons; one son in the arms of an angel, the other walking alongside holding the angel’s hand. I would paint the hummingbird overhead, in a bower of wisteria.
I was actually a little worried about what Mom would think of this mystical story. But she embraced it with all her heart. And she wanted this painting to be the most beautiful one I had ever done!
That year, when we got together for our annual two-week family vacation in Maui, I brought my “work in progress.” I set up my easel outside on the lanai overlooking the beach. Over my shoulder, Mom watched me paint with a critical eye. “Can’t you make that angel a little thinner?” she said. “I don’t like that tree.” “Please use a different shade of blue there!” I found her criticism hard to take, even though I knew she only wanted me to succeed.I gave the painting my best effort, and it was well received by my client. (Mom was moderately pleased -- as was I.)
Three years later, Mom was on vacation in Maui again. But that year I was unable to go. Instead, I was in California looking out my ocean view window at a rainy day, and wishing that I were in Maui with Mom instead. I was talking to a friend on the phone when suddenly there was a commotion at my window. I gasped! I had the impression that an enormous seagull was throwing itself against the glass.“What is it?” my friend asked on the other end of the line.I looked again. “It’s a hummingbird!” I said with surprise.“What’s it doing?” my friend asked.“It’s hovering in front of my window, just looking at me!” I said with astonishment.
The hummingbird was five feet from where I stood on the other side of the glass, and I was amazed when it did not fly away. Except for its wings, it didn’t move at all, and it was clearly looking me right in the eye!
“Is it gone?” my friend asked.“No,”“What’s it doing?”“It’s just looking at me!”“Well, hello there!” I said, through the glass. And then, I felt alarmed. It seemed too abnormal. For almost two minutes I stood with the phone to my ear, not saying a word, staring at the hummingbird as it looked back at me. Finally, the hummingbird flew away, and I took a deep breath.
“That was unusual,” my friend agreed.
I looked at the clock. It was 2:40. “I gotta go,” I said, and hung up the phone. I had just enough time to get to the library and back before my 4:00 appointment arrived.
I returned from the library shortly before 4:00 and picked up the mail on my way into the house. I smiled when I saw a letter from Mom—and a postcard as well! I would save the letter to read later. The postcard had a bright red Hawaiian hibiscus on the front. “It’s not the same here without you. I dreamed about you last night. I love you!” Mom wrote.
I was still thinking about Mom’s note when I saw the blinking light on my answering machine; a message from my brother. Terrible news. Mom had died suddenly in Maui of a heart attack. She had been making lunch for my Dad and brother when she said she wanted to lie down for a minute. And then she was gone. It happened at about 2:40 PM, California time.I heard the doorbell ring. It was my friend arriving for our 4:00 appointment. With tears streaming down my face I opened the door and rushed into her arms.
She stayed and prayed with me for the next few hours. There were calls from my family. I lit candles. I listened to Handel’s Messiah, and wept.
Later that night, the memory of the hummingbird penetrated through my sadness, and jolted me from my tears. Slowly, it dawned on me that I had received a gift. The poetry of the hummingbird’s visit overwhelmed me. Everything seemed connected and every loose end tied up in a bow. Life had meaning, and the meaning was love! Mom had sent me one more message! I could just see her mischievous grin.
Could all this have simply been a coincidence? If I had seen that hummingbird on any other day, I would still remember it. But on that day, at that time…The hummingbird touched my heart in a profound way and gave me a strength that sustained me through those terribly sad days. Through it all, I had an overwhelming, abiding sense of Love, and the feeling that the veil between heaven and earth is very thin, indeed.I love you, Mom!
September 26, 1918 - February 21, 1998 - Remembering Mother
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