As I share this story, my mom’s picture is on my desk. She is staring back at me, smiling, sitting in a black weathered wicker rocking chair that my grandmother bought at an auction. Her blue sandals are beneath her on the red porch floor and her bare feet are touching the top of the cushion as she leans back. I often look at this picture when I need to talk to her.

My mom died of kidney cancer, unexpectedly, six years ago. Even towards the end she held onto the hope that she would recover and join us for the next Thanksgiving holiday. But that never happened. Deep down, though I consciously supported that hope, I felt an intuitive sense that her soul had other plans.

Two weeks before Christmas, she was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia. For three days, she laid in a hospital bed not responding, her eyes remained closed, as she labored for each breath. My sister and I stayed quietly by her bed watching, listening, and waiting for some type of sign of what to do next. But there was nothing to do but just be with her, tell her we loved her and watch her let go. Neither of us were ready.

On the third day, around five in the morning, I got up from the hospital chair lounger where I had been sleeping. I stared at her face for an hour, trying to memorize every feature so I wouldn’t forget her, watching her chest rise and fall with every shallow breath she took. 

I gently touched her face, pushing her blonde hair away from her forehead. She had suffered too much already. Sensing she was holding on for us, I knew I had to give her permission to leave even though I didn’t want her to go. She would never hug her grandchildren again, laugh at the silliest things and tell me she was proud of me even when I struggled to see the good in life. But it was time.

In a quiet gentle voice, I whispered, “Mom you can go now, it’s okay, we love you. The angels are by your side waiting for you to take the next journey.” All of a sudden I wasn’t by myself anymore. Although I could not see anyone physically in the room with me, the divine presence surrounding me was undeniable. I heard a voice inside my head say, “It’s time Valerie. She will be okay and you will be okay. Just trust this is God’s plan.” I put her hand in mine and stood there watching as she took her last breath. So ironic, she brought me into this world and I transitioned her out of it. Something I never really expected to do. 

But this would not be the last time I heard from her. Months later, she came to me in a dream; we were sitting on that same red porch having a cup of black Irish tea, her favorite. Watching the sunset together, and in a gentle voice, she said, “I love you my sweet Valerie.” That was her way of saying the “goodbye” she wasn’t able to give me. I woke up sobbing, wanting to hug her. I got up out of bed and looked through the window at the trees in my backyard. A hummingbird, fluttering her wings, came right up to the glass looking directly at me. For a few weeks, she visited everyday. After that experience, I decided to pay more attention. I thought to myself, “Maybe my mom is sending me messages.” Once I became open, she sent reminders of herself to me all the time. She would speak to me through songs I heard, what other people said to me, or something I would read. I knew she was always with me. Knowing this has given me great comfort, and my hope is that it will for you too if you have lost a loved one. They are always with us, watching, helping, sending us love and cheering us on, we just have to be open to receive the gifts they want to share.