Remembering our loved ones, who have passed, is part of our human experience and compassion. Episode 64 highlights the Latinos and Hispanic week long, cultural celebration, ending on November 2. During this time, ancestors are remembered and their stories shared. More often, though, our loved ones return to us in a different form as a reminder that they are always with us.
November 2 is titled differently depending on culture. In Mexico and Latin America, it’s Dia de Los Muertos. For Catholics in Latin America and Hispanic countries, it’s All Souls Day. Like many cultural traditions, Dia de Los Muertos can be used as a reason to dress up and party. But for the faithful, it is a sacred time to celebrate their ancestors in gratitude for what they have given and resonates in each of them today.
In the frenzy of today’s tech driven world, our minds are overrun with tasks, disruption and mesmerizing screens, all wanting attention. Rarely is time given to stillness where the mind can rest. In that calm, awareness rises and things are seen. We are not alone. Our loved ones return to us on any given day.
Ancestors, Ghosts and Spirits
Our loved ones return to us in times of need or celebration; loneliness or large company; fear or our most courageous moment. Stories have been handed down from ancient times, but not as a tall tale. Instead, as a lesson to look out for loved ones visiting repeatedly.
As a young person, I was religiously taught that spirits that stay near us are unsettled. You even hear it in ghost stories; the pirate ghost in search of treasure or the husband lamenting his lost wife.
But, after my mother passed away, I no longer believed in unsettled spirits. Instead, I experienced her constant companionship and humor every day in the form of a tiny hummingbird. It wasn’t obvious to me, at first. I was in a deep state of sadness, taking care of my father left behind after 60 years of marriage and needing to finish my Masters from USC.
As respite, I would sit out in my yard, cafecito in hand, every morning to heal. My garden is lush and full of wildlife. One day, I noticed a tiny hummingbird sitting at the tip of a tree. As I stared at it, the bird came flying closer, hovering at a nearby bush flush with burnt orange flowers. Then, it did something amazing.
The hummingbird flew over and stopped in front of me, staring eye to eye with only the hum of its rapid wings in motion. Then it went back to the tree. I didn’t think too much of it but felt immediate joy at the beauty in the world again.
My Mother Visits as a Hummingbird
Without expectation, I made my morning cafecito an outdoor ritual. And every morning, she would come to me, flying around the bushes where I sat. I began to realize that this wasn’t just nature at play. This was my companion, my wanderlust chic, my mother.
Suddenly, all the statues of hummingbirds that decorated her home came flooding back in memory. I had attributed them to funny, older person decor. But then, there she was, just like the statues, wings splayed, beak tilted up and stationary.
Until the one day that I will always cherish. Instead of coming down from her tree and hovering by me, the hummingbird darted into my home. Desperately, I ran to rescue her from the four legged, always hungry, creatures inside. She sat on the windowsill of my kitchen. Above her, the stained glass art piece my mother had given me of a row of birds sitting on a branch.
Without hesitation, I reached out to cup her in my hands. She lay there calmly, her rapid wings at rest. I began to sob uncontrollably. In the time since she had passed, I hadn’t had the time to grieve, too afraid that I wouldn’t finish the tasks at hand. But in that moment, time stood still and my brain stayed silent.
Loved Ones With Me Everyday
I didn’t want to let her go, and yet, I couldn’t keep her free spirit trapped. Stepping outside, I gave her one more hug. I opened my hands to set her free. She stared at me for a minute, then rose straight up in the air above me. In a blink, she was gone.
If the religious concept was accurate, I would have never seen her again after she “settled her spirit”. Instead, she comes every morning still, even 8 years later. Only now, she is joined by my dad, also a hummingbird. Funny how they knew all their lives to surround themselves with hummingbird statues.