Mama’s Colibri

The ancient Aztec thought the colibri (hummingbird) were the returned souls of warriors killed in battle. It seems only fitting that B and I saw one today, delicately perched on a cherry tree that was arrayed in rosy floral chiffon.

Three weeks ago, B’s mother died after a year and half long battle with pancreatic cancer. Today was my first time to see B after her mother’s death.

Pancreatic cancer. When B came into work and told me that her mother had just received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer that very day, I hugged her tight and murmured words like “be brave” and “it’ll be okay”.

But in my mind, I was alarmed; pancreatic cancer seems to be a quick killer. People get diagnosed, and mere weeks or months later, they are gone.

B’s mother held on and fought tough. Amazing for this demure woman. Despite tussles with insurance companies, convoluted conversations with doctors and nurses (B translating English to Spanish for Mama), months of agonizing chemotherapy and radiation, she tenaciously clung to life. She did it stoically, with grace and good humor.

I met Mama once, briefly.  She was having a good week, so B brought her by to say hello. She was quiet, sweet and kind.  She didn’t say much to me, because of the language barrier, but she beamed at her daughter and grandchildren. It was clear she was savoring every moment with them, not knowing how many more she had left. Love was her lingua franca. It spoke her heart’s mute adoration clearly and sweetly, like the hummingbird’s piccolo trill, audible and distinct.

Colibri were Mama’s favorite birds, so B asked her to choose one, giving her sixteen pictures from which to decide. A week later, B got that hummingbird picture tattooed on her forearm, and surprised Mama with it.

Two more weeks, and Mama was gone.

Tattoos last forever. Thankfully.

Today I took B to my favorite place to view the cherry blossoms, along a quiet street in Seattle. I wanted to give her a place to find solace and beauty after such a rough and ugly time in her life.  I wanted to remind her that the nature can be generous and soft, not always grasping and harsh.

As we strolled down the sidewalk under clouds of pink petals, B’s face brightened as the blossoms cast their spell. The blushing inflorescences seemed even more delicate against a grey spring sky, a potent charm to ward off the chilly April breeze.

We passed several groups of people, all intent on welcoming Spring under this gentle arbor umbrella. We crusty Seattleites smiled at each other, and greeted one another with “good morning” and “have a lovely day” salutations. The magic of the blossoms was strong.

Suddenly, B stopped and whispered “Look!” and pointed across the street to the top of a cherry tree. There, perched on the highest bough, was a hummingbird, resting for just a few precious seconds. It sang a chorus of soprano chirps, and off it went, zipping to its next task.

B looked at me, and we smiled at each other.

“Mama was here!” B exclaimed. And yes, I do believe she was.

Warrior bird. Mama’s bird. Marking a lovely spring day etched with ephemeral cherry blossoms.

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