I Shared the Third Year Anniversary of My Mom’s Passing with a Hummingbird

I guess it has been a minute since I’ve done a proper blog post. It has been more than a year, in fact. My advocacy time has been mainly spent on promoting my film. And I don’t even have a lot of time for that, given the demands of my teaching job. Remote teaching this past academic year has been, frankly, the pits, in terms of the workload.

At times, in the past, I’ve felt impelled to write a blog post, as a way to “reclaim my time” from the demands of life. I’m surprised, though, that hasn’t occurred once this past year, even when February arrived. That month made 3 years, 3 years since my mama passed away to, hopefully, be with her “Heavenly Father.”

In a sense, not writing about it is perhaps an indication that I’m continuing to heal. While I was contemplative and sad, it was nothing like the 1st year anniversary. Then, it wasn’t just the approaching day of her passing, the 27th that weighed heavily on me. When the month of February arrived, I began to experience nausea; the same nausea I last felt during the 9 days my mom was in hospice care. Each subsequent day, she deteriorated. “Near death symptoms” would begin to develop and I’d increasingly worry I wouldn’t be able to “keep her comfortable,” which is the main aim in hospice care. As the day I brought her home from the hospital to hospice care approached, I felt impelled to chronicle it some: February Musings #1: Mom Enters Hospice

By the time the 2nd anniversary arrived last year, I was in Berkeley and fortunate enough to be working on my film as part of my sabbatical project. Though I was just in my early scriptwriting stage then, I think working on my film provided me with some sense of catharsis. Even when my mom was alive, as futile as it often was, doing advocacy was important for me to at least feel like I was doing something to help her and my family. Making the film was no different, in that respect.

The challenge I knew I was going to have, though, was processing and accepting that the same amount of time had passed as we had spent living together. Those 2 years together were exceedingly difficult. Truth be told, I know damn well it was more like 4 years, physically and emotionally. My body and mind are still exhausted from the ordeal. Still, as trying to live a more “normal life” has shown me, I know 2 years is practically nothing in the context of being a responsible adult. Admittedly, it actually causes me some guilt knowing that I was only able to provide my mom 2 years of adequate security and safety out of what was at least 15 years of her living with an untreated serious mental illness. That was fully a 1/3rd of her adult life she lived that way!

As can often be the case, my mind can be in a bit of an unpleasant place. “Two years ain’t shit!” “Her kidney disease robbed us of having a so much better of quality of life.” “God, or whoever may be listening, why the hell did it take so long for me to find a place for us to live? Where have you been in all this?” These are just some of the things I thought about and said out loud the week of hospice, at times, leading up to the 27th of February last year.

As the 3rd anniversary approached, it was hard to wrap my head around it. The grief is still intense at times and the circumstances surrounding the Pandemic have been terrible for my healing. I haven’t been able to do Aikido, for example, with the closing of the dojo. I’ve been pleased with the response of my film, but the gnawing sensation that I should be doing more mental health advocacy is a constant.

I knew this year should be better for me than the first two. But part of what makes February hard is that it’s also my birthday month. Unfortunately, my last birthday with my mom was depressing. That morning, on February 6th, she’d decide to stop continuing dialysis. During our dinner out to celebrate, I got frustrated with her and complained a little bit about our situation. My mama, at that point, was very withdrawn, given her declining health. She didn’t respond to anything I said. We ended up barely talking over dinner at all. That memory pains me a lot.

On my birthday this year, I noticed a hummingbird had started building a nest in a tree on my patio. The tree was just 5 feet away from my kitchen window. On the 14th, the mama would lay an egg. Two weeks later, the baby would hatch. It’d grow and gain strength quickly.

The baby hummingbird at around 7 days old

Within almost two weeks of hatching, its head was just about as big as the mama’s. Watching it feed, its head bob up and down rapidly, was a beautiful sight. Seeing it lift its rear end up to defecate outside the nest was hilarious. In a short time, it’d begin to exercise its wings, usually after the mama would leave after feeding it. It was trying to mimic mama, I thought, because she’d hover a little before taking flight. The baby then began to perch itself on the edge of the nest. And, finally, I’d see one of its first flights, before leaving the tree for good.

My mom asked me one time, many years ago, if I’d ever stopped to enjoy the flight of a hummingbird. I was able to do that many times and more with this experience. I’m grateful for what the universe gifted me during what is an exceedingly hard time. I like to think the universe was letting me know it is looking out for me, much like the hummingbird mama did its baby even during stormy weather. My mom and I rode out many storms together and I know, as estranged as we were from each other, her love for me and her family was undying.

National Best Seller Reviews My Film

I was lucky enough to have my film, Benevolent Neglect, reviewed by national best selling author and mental health advocate, Pete Earley. Pete knew my family’s story somewhat, from when my mom was living with me in Modesto. As a way to raise awareness about our plight and to possibly have people at the ready to help me shame local government to help my mom, I had asked Pete to run a couple of my blog posts on his blog. He obliged.

I was hoping Pete would like my film. I wasn’t expecting him to give it such a glowing review, though. I’m so happy he did. Mom would be proud of me, for sure. Here are some excerpts:

“A Modesto police officer refuses to involuntary commit Josie so she can go to the hospital even though she is clearly a danger to herself. Why? Because she is able to tell him what day and month it is, along with the name of her street. A  hospital supervisor ignores Estrada’s pleas even though his mother has nearly died because voices are telling her not to take her diabetes medication. Why? Because Josie wants to be discharged and the supervisor doesn’t want responsibility for her.  A California Department of Mental Health employee rebuffs Estrada when he says his mom has been kicked out of so many apartments, she now is homeless. Why? Because she is living in her car and therefore has a roof over her head.”

“All of us rejoice when we read accounts about individuals, such as my son Kevin, who get treatment and the tools needed to control the symptoms of their illnesses and do well in life. I believe most Americans with mental illnesses can but Estrada’s film reminds us that getting that help often proves impossible.”

You can reach the whole post here: http://www.peteearley.com/2020/09/28/14812/