Since Mom passed away in 1997, there have been many hummingbirds that have made unexpected and surprising visits. When I received a card on her birthday, August 20, 2008, I thought it was time to gather these hummingbirds together, so everyone can share these tiny miracles that my mother sends. It seems as if they come when I need her or when she is trying to tell me something. It could be good or it could be a warning of sorts. If you believe in coincidences...then that's what they are. But, if you believe there are no coincidences, then you know, like I do, that every so often the veil lifts between our earthly and spiritual life and our loved ones can reach out. Here are my stories...
The first story I wrote took place on December 25, 1997, the Christmas after Mom died...
The Gift of the Hummingbird
Marilyn A. Kinsella
Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures. They whirl around with flashes of iridescent colors. Their elongated beaks swish the air like miniature swords. They maneuver the skies with the ease of stealth bombers. Sometimes they appear out of the corner of one’s eye and then disappear in a radiant arc. No wonder so many people believe in pixies and fairy dust.
My mother believed in believed in pixies and fairy dust. She had an imagination that made shadows dance on the wall at night. During the day she could make petunias twirl around in their ball gowns. Her mother had beautiful gardens around the house and, while not helping with the chores, Mom spent many an hour playing in the gardens. It was her magical place.
Her favorite spot was right underneath the front porch. That’s where she and her brother, Les, used to hide and wait for the hummingbirds. The tiny birds were attracted by the big, bright red flowers her mother planted along the side of the house. She and Les positioned themselves under the porch for a perfect hideaway. They could see out, but the hummingbirds couldn’t see in. A lattice border was all that separated them from the little hummers. Their chubby faces, shone like a checkerboard of diamonds. They looked out anxiously. She and Les became very quiet. About four o’clock, they could hear a faint, distant hum. Then they came - a squadron of green, winged leprechauns dive-bombing out of the sky and into the heart of the red flowers. Invariably, they felt a giggle bubbling up, so they put their hands over their mouths. Now the giggles came out in a series of chortles and chuffs. Curious, one of the hummers might peer inside with its black, beady eyes. Then, in a wink…it was gone
Looking back I guess that’s why my mom always had a fascination with hummingbirds. When they became fashionable as gifts in the early eighties, Mom and I gave each other - hummingbirds. It might be something rather silly like thermometers and potholders or something sublime like sun catchers and delicate crystalline hummingbirds. Candleholders, plates, music boxes, scarves, paintings - if it had a hummingbird, we bought it for each other.
Our birthdays were only four hours apart. So, we often shared our birthday celebrations on the same day. We laughed hysterically when one year we gave each other the very same gold, hummingbird pin. Mom especially liked the “anything” cards with our favorite bird on it. Inside I’d write some trite poetry that made her laugh.
That’s why I asked her to send me a hummingbird after she died. Mom died in October of ’97. I carried a guilty feeling for having to place her in a nursing home. Looking back I still think it was the best solution to a very difficult situation, but that didn’t make my decision any easier especially, when she did NOT want to be there. So, that November, when I was crying alone in my bedroom, I said out loud, “Mom, I want you to send me a hummingbird. It will be a sign of forgiveness and that you are in a much happier place. And, by the way, hummingbirds are hard to find this time of the year, so I’ll know, if I get one, it will be from you.”
Well, days, and weeks went by and no hummingbird. Even on Christmas Eve I remember thinking, “I guess she’s still mad.”
Then on Christmas morning, I must have had twenty gifts at my feet. As per our family tradition, I selected one to open first as did the rest of my family. At the appointed moment we all opened the first gift of Christmas and there it was… a beautiful crystal hummingbird that sat on a flowered stem. At first I was speechless, then I started to cry. My family was a bit puzzled. Why was I getting so emotional over a hummingbird?
Finally I blubbered out, “You don’t understand. It’s from my mom. I asked her send me hummingbird.”
My husband, Larry, actually purchased the gift. He believes that a coincidence is a coincidence is a coincidence. That’s why they coined the word “coincidence.”
But he said, “I don’t mean to lend credence to what you’re thinking, but it was a bit odd. I already bought your toaster and shower - head and thought I should buy you something pretty. Suddenly, I thought of a hummingbird.”
“See, “ I said, “you were listening!”
“No, I was desperate.”
“Well,” I countered, “you may have been desperate, but you were also listening.”
Then he added, “But the really odd thing was, I had a hard time finding a hummingbird. I went to four or five stores before I found one on a kiosk.”
“I know because hummingbirds are hard to find this time of year.” If I needed another sign that the hummingbird was from Mom, that was it.
I’m glad my husband was listening when he heard that faint, distant hum. Listen! The next time you see a hummingbird think of that special woman in your life and the gifts she gave you. That way we can all share in the Gift of the Hummingbird.
I wrote this story in 1998, almost a year after the hummingbird miracle....
Dear Friends and Family, I traveled in my dreams last night. For a brief moment I connected with my mom who died in October of 1997. For anyone who longs for a mother’s touch this Christmas read on…
A Touch of Christmas
Some of you know about the miracle I tell about the Christmas after my mom died. For those of you who haven’t heard the story, here it is: Mom and I shared a special bond that started when I was born just four hours before her birthday. She was the writer of stories; I was the teller. For many special occasions throughout the years we gave each other hummingbirds. After she died I asked her to send me a hummingbird. It was to be a sign that she forgave me for placing her in a nursing home and that she was in that beautiful home she often talked about when I came to visit. No one knew of this request. Weeks went by. On Christmas Eve I remember thinking…I guess she hasn’t forgiven me. Then on Christmas morning my family sat around in a circle to open “the first gift of Christmas.” My first gift was a beautiful, crystal hummingbird. Through the tears, I told everyone how it was a sign from my mom. In a sense Mom wrote that story that now I tell, “The Gift of the Hummingbird.”
After the grieving process, I noticed that I couldn’t hear my mom’s voice. I could hear other voices - dad, grandpa, my best friend, Jane…but not my mom’s voice. Then one night I had a very realistic dream. I was at my desk at the library and the phone rang. It was my mom’s voice. She said “Hi, Honey!” Just the way she always did when I came to visit her in the nursing home. Each time I thought…oh, she’s back! But then, that’s all there was…”Hi, Honey,” and nothing else. But, in my phone-dream she said that she missed me. I told her I missed her too. She also told me she was living in that beautiful house she told me about. I said that I knew that. Then, I said that I would be seeing her shortly. Even in my dream I thought…what is “shortly” in eternity…perhaps today; perhaps 50 years. I was just so overjoyed to hear her. It still seems so special that she called me. All I heard was her voice – the thing I missed about my mother.
I’ve had other dreams about Mom since she passed, but nothing like the one I had last night. There is a Christmas song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear that last words of the song….”if only in my dreams.” Last night I got to spend a brief moment with my Mom. All I remember is reaching out and touching her cheek. I had forgotten how soft it was. That’s it! I don’t remember anything else. I consciously don’t think I ever missed touching her soft, pillow-like cheek. It took a dream to remind me what a privilege it was to visit her while she was in the nursing home. She couldn’t speak, but, when I reached out and touched that warm, satiny cheek, she always smiled that sweet smile of hers.
This morning my family gave me some lovely gifts, but Chrissie, my oldest, gave me a set of crystal hummingbirds to put in the window. Even in the waking hours of Christmas she is sending little reminders. And when I go to sleep tonight, as I do every night, I’ll wait for her to visit, if only in my dreams
After this, many hummingbird came my way. Sometimes they appeared, "in person" at our front window, but more often friends and family gave me hummingbirds. I now have a hummingbird shrine...a teapot, plates, vases, a snow globe, pins, an etched egg, jewelry boxes, stationery, and, yes, even more crystal hummingbirds. At first, when I received these gifts, I was a little perplexed. The first hummingbird was so special. I felt as if the people who gave them to me did not understand. Then, it came to me...every time I received a hummingbird, it was Mom's way of saying "Hi, Honey!". She just wants me to know that she's there thinking of me. I treasure each and every hummingbird. Each one bears a message from my mother. Sometimes those messages are miracles themselves...
October 19, 2007 - Ten years after Mom died, I was standing at the back door. Most hummingbirds were long gone by this time, and that's why I was so surprised to see one staring at me through the plate glass. Never has a hummingbird done this. It stayed there a good 20 seconds furiously flapping its wings looking right at me. Finally, I said, "Hi Mom! I hope the message is a good one!" And it flew away.
In the next couple of days I was checking my junk mail, when I noticed a box that had something about a story in it. Hmmm, maybe this wasn't spam, so I opened it. It was from an editor at Guideposts Magazine and they wanted permission to print my story "The Gift of the Hummingbird" in their Book of Christmas Miracles in 2007. I was stunned. The editor was trolling the net to find Christmas miracle stories when she "lit" on my site and read my story. It seemed to me that, out of the blue, they were contacting me, when I remembered the hummingbird. You see, Mom was a writer, too. She wrote many poems, short stories, and news articles. She would have been so pleased to see her daughter published. At first I thought, "Gee I wish Mom were here to share this news," but then I realized...she knows. In fact, she probably had a hand in guiding the editor to the story.
August 20, 2008 - My thoughts as I passed "the hummingbird shrine".
..Mom would have been 97 today. Hmm, she died in 1997 and would have been 97. All these hummingbirds over the past eleven years, a whole bevy of hummingbirds. Oh, I wish I'd get a hummingbird today. Mom seems so distant.
I didn't think much about it after that. I went along doing my daily chores. Later that afternoon I picked up the mail. To my delight I opened a letter from my friend Marcia. She knew I was working on a story with some Spanish words in it and sent me the phonetic spellings. But the truly amazing things was...the card had three hummingbirds on it. It reminded me of the "anything" cards I found for mom on her birthday.
I usually wrote some trite poetry on them. She always laughed. Marcia did not know about the hummingbird story, she did not know it was my mother's birthday, she did not know about the cards... now, tell me that this was a coincidence...I think not.
Later that day I wrote to my Storytell Listserve and told them what happened. Here is my post:
Hi All, I just have to share a tiny miracle today.
Today was my mother's birthday. Mine was yesterday, and wouldn't you know, I couldn't wait for another 3 hours to be born on her birthday...I was a month late and a 10 pound baby as it was! So, you can see that my mom and I shared our birthdays since they were so close.
Many of you know the story "The Gift of the Hummingbird" where I asked my mom for a hummingbird as a sign of forgiveness and that she was now in the beautiful home she talked about. I got a glass hummingbird as my first Christmas gift the year that she died.
Well, since then I have a whole bevy of hummingbirds and some have come so unexpectedly that I know there were sent by my mother. This morning I went pass the hummingbirds and thought of Mom and I wished I'd get a hummingbird. I talked to Mom off and on today. After 11 years, she feels so distant.
Then I got the mail. I opened a card from Marcia G..., and just guess what was on the front of the card! Yes, a whole bevy of hummingbirds. Mom is still out there sending me messages. Happy Birthday, Mom!
I received many replies to this post. Most stories related about hummingbirds in their yards. I guess, in a way, we were all a part of...the gift of the hummingbird.
I haven't written much on this page for the past five years, but the hummingbirds kept on coming. One special one came on Mom's birthday in 2011, when she would have turned 100 years old. First, I had a mass said in her name. One of her favorite songs, they used to play at mass often 20 years ago, was "Let There Be Peace On Earth." I rarely hear it played at our church. But, that Sunday, that was the last song played. I felt Mom's presence during that song. I did not receive a hummingbird, although I had secretly wished for one. I did receive a hummingbird several weeks later from my all-time favorite teller - Carol Birch from Connecticut. It was a small package with a tiny box inside a very small, black, cinched-tied, velvet bag. Inside was the tiniest hummingbird I had ever seen done in scrimshaw. I called Carol and thanked her. I asked her where she got it. I seems she was at a craft show a few weeks before and thought of me. (Was that the same weekend as Mom's hundredth birthday?) I guess, I'll never know, because I didn't need to ask.
I guess, I'll never know, because I didn't need to ask. You see, that tiny hummer whispered into Carole's ear.
Although I have received so many hummingbirds over the years, since Mom died, this one is very special. You may remember at the beginning of this story, there was one character who just did not believe that he was the vehicle for bringing me my first hummingbird - Larry. Well, for my 65th birthday, he did it again. He had our good friend and wonderful wildlife artist, Sue Waltonm send us a print of one her pictures. As you can see there are little hummers in the pic to the right. I think they were humming "Happy Birthday."
FYI, the picture on the left is an original of Sue Walton's. Larry's bird d'choice is the woodpecker. Sue calls him the "Flintpecker". In the picture is the fabled flintpecker looking out on the ancient Cahokia Mounds - where the flintpecker perches outside the doors of Cahokia to chip away and chirp to the oncoming visitors about Cahokia and the arrowheads that he is making. http://sawaltonstudio.50megs.com/
February, 2015 - In these past few weeks, many of my friends on Facebook have sent me many wondrous pictures of my little hummingbirds. Each one is my mom's way of telling me that she is surrounding our family with the love and prayers of our friends as Larry goes through his cancer treatments and ultimate surgery.
Thank you all for being an integral part of the Gift of the Hummingbird.!
HOME Patchwork of Memories