I exaggerate every story I've ever told, but this one is perfectly true.

Last night, I half-jokingly asked momma to send me a hummingbird for my last day on trail. It has been over a month since I've seen one, but hey, anything is possible. Hiking out of camp this morning, I saw two crows and was more than satisfied. It was a beautiful morning, misty and cool, nothing like the north-bounders must have experienced in Spring. I hiked though the burn section when a noise stopped me in my tracks. "Hola, hello, anyone there," I said. Oh, this was no person. It took me a second to recognize the familiar plat-pit-patter of a lone hummingbird in an unburned manzanita tree a few feet from my face. We spent three minutes together before it vanished. Momma! Thank you! You met me my first day on trail, comforted me while I cried myself to sleep that one stormy night, and now, here, a few hours before I finish my journey, you send me this beautiful sign. 

I've been carrying something special with me, and have been waiting over a year for the perfect moment to open it. It's a letter Momma wrote before she passed. Months of moisture broke the seal back in Oregon, but I haven't peeked inside until now. I sat on a rock next to the tree and read it weeping alone at mile 7. There was a perfect halo around the sun and I felt a warm tight hug from her, reflecting on this special moment. I'm here because of her. I did this with her. I've grown so much. And as it comes to an end, I'm realizing it's just beginning. 

January 18, 2013

Dear Ashley,

Hi honey! My precious baby. Delicate and darling from the earliest age. Bright blue eyes, cherubic little cheeks and the softest skin. A sensitive baby who loved to be held. From the moment you were born until forever - I love you.

I watched with awe how you open-heatedly befriended all students, including the outcasts - those without social skills, hygiene practices, were ragamuffins from dirty homes and those with lower grades. Even if they we're mean to you! Bless your heart. You were born with a beautiful body, slender bone structure, long graceful fingers, gorgeous eyes, a captivating smile and a slender feminine face. As a girl, I heard many times, "How darling your daughter is." When you were just a young adult, I heard comments about how beautiful you are, strikingly so. And that's on the outside. You're beautiful on the inside, too. You still seek out the disadvantaged and less appreciated people, giving hope to them. In both your personal life and professional career. My dream for you is that you allow the love of your life to fill your huge, open, giving heart. Believe in your journey, all will be well, even if there are low spots along the way. Believe. I also hold a dream that your life has WAY more ups than downs, and that you'll weather all the stormy spots, knowing you are loved deeply, exactly the way you are.

I have no doubts you are making the world a better place in a big way. You have a big personality and big energy. You are meant to be and do grand things. I think God smiles as he sees you just walk down the street. You're on to something BIG!

I love you, baby. You'll always be my baby, forever. And I will always be your mother, forever, watching over you with adoration and belief in you. 

I love your excitement for life. How you allow yourself to shine brightly, in glory. My wish is that the world opens their eyes and heart so that populations everywhere will be touched, inspired and encouraged by you. You are good at being you! I'm finally learning that from you. I'm glad it's never too late to be an eager student.

I'm sending you love and hope you can feel it. I love you and always will. Forever, and ever. Amen.