Facing My Own Mortality

Here’s the background: for the past three years I’ve had a bony bump on my forehead.  It didn’t hurt or grow much, changed little, and mostly I ignored it. It started to bother me when I saw it in photographs, and to assuage my vanity, I looked into having it removed.  I was pretty sure it was a cyst or other benign growth. A plastic surgeon was about to do it, but decided I really needed a CT scan first, to be sure what was under there…

Now we jump ahead to my move to Maui in March of this year.  I finally had health insurance and on my first visit to meet my doctor, I mentioned the bump. So I had an xray of my head that day, and she called me later, sounding worried. She said they needed to do a CT scan and that it was a “lytic lesion”, which could have many causes, but it means something is “eating away” at the bone. So, I have a CT of my head, and now she mentions she’s consulted an oncologist.

For someone whose daughter died from cancer less than two years ago, that is about the last thing I wanted to hear.

He or she (the unseen oncologist) recommends a CT of my chest, abdomen and pelvis, and what I understand, while I’m completely freaking out, is they think I’ve had cancer somewhere in my body (for over 3 years) that has spread to the bone in my skull. The doctor was obviously scared on the phone, and this is what worried me the most.  She wasn’t reassuring. She didn’t say this is just a rare possibility.  When I asked “but wouldn’t I have some symptoms if I’d had cancer for over 3 years that had spread to my skull??”, she said “Not necessarily.”  I told her my doctor friend had said there are many benign possibilities, and her response was “well, did you tell her it’s a lytic lesion?”

The BIG CAT Scan

CT scan, CAT scan,

CT scanner

I went for the big CT scan.  It took 2 intense days of waiting, with little sleep, terrifying unbidden images filling my head, of what my life would be like if I was told I had cancer somewhere that had spread to my bone.  Imagining what treatments I might have to go through, what would be the chances I’d be cured, what quality of life I would have, on and on. I do have a good imagination, though I was focusing on imagining my body whole, healthy, vibrant and living to be an old woman…

Finally the doctor called and told me there was nothing of concern in these full-body scans. But now they needed to do an MRI of my head, to get a more detailed image. I had an MRI done of my head, again waiting on pins and needles for a call with the results, and she tells me they still can’t tell what it is, but the possible diagnoses on the radiologist report include cancer, and also benign possibilities. Each test they think will give more information and rule out cancer, but each test shows a mystery.  All this time, I can hear the fear in my doctor’s voice, talking about what next test the oncologist recommends. 

Gratitude for my inner and outer resources

I am incredibly grateful for all the tools that I have: over 15 years of practicing Reiki and giving myself Reiki constantly during this time; years of practice remaining in the heart-center in the midst of chaos and fear; the aromatherapy, herbal, nutritional and homeopathic remedies I knew to use for calming my nervous system and clearing the radioactive dyes they injected into my veins; doing prayer and ho’oponopono constantly.   I am grateful for knowing to get help and support from others too – receiving acupuncture and craniosacral work, hypnotherapy and energy healing from my gifted and wise friend Kathleen, talking with family and a few close friends. I’m incredibly grateful for my partner, Zelie, who was with me every step of the way, offering to be with me for each appointment, listening to all my stories and holding me while I cried.

Fear of Not Living

I am grateful, because even with all these tools, I cried. A lot. Even with my own and others’ intuitive read that I did not have cancer and wasn’t dying, I was terrified. I was more frightened than I’ve ever been in my life. More off-center and filled with anxiety than I’d  been during the ten and a half months that Elizabeth had cancer, or even when she died.  I kept working with this fear, asking what was it I was so frightened of? It wasn’t fear of death. I know deeply that when it’s time to die, death itself is welcome. It was fear of not living. What terrified me most was the idea that I have so much left to do, that I haven’t yet fulfilled my purpose here, and I need many years still to do that.  I feel I’ve been preparing my whole fifty years of life (maybe even lifetimes) for what lies ahead, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to have that chance.

Of course, I did not want to have cancer either. Watching my grandfather, then my daughter, and now one of my closest friends go through treatment for cancer, I knew I could do it if I had to, but really. I was asking the Divine “Really? Can I please have a break?” I lost my daughter less than two years ago, I was still exhausted from my move to Hawaii, and I am entering what feels like the best, prime years of my life for my work serving others: writing, teaching, facilitating, doing healing work and bringing through the gifts that Elizabeth shares through me. I could not believe that the Divine plan was for me to go so soon, and yet, I didn’t believe that was the plan for Elizabeth, and she was just 22 when she died of cancer.  I knew that it was not up to me and my preferences. I kept doing The Work, inquiring within my heart about the truth of what I was believing, and on some deep level, I had to surrender to the mystery and the suchness (as my teacher Brugh Joy used to say).

I felt Elizabeth especially close throughout these many months, from April til early August.  The synchronicity of this was not lost. She had lymphoma, initially in her chest, which recurred in her brain. This recurrence was essentially untreatable, and my mystery bump was on my head, in a very similar place to where her tumor was, on the opposite side. (Interestingly, my bump had appeared some time in the months before Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer.)  I sat with her as she had brain MRIs done, CT scans of her body, countless blood draws, meetings with worried doctors, and I could only experience that through my own eyes and heart, as her mother.  This time, it was my body we were talking about, my life, and it was a completely different experience. I feel that a large part of why I was going through all these tests and the emotions that accompanied them, was so that I could have a better understanding of what Elizabeth (and others facing a terminal illness) may have gone through.  Another part is to take me deeper on my own healing path, feeling and expressing layers of emotions and writing about some difficult aspects of my relationship with Elizabeth.

Direct Evidence of The Mind/Body Connection

I’ve long had an immense respect for, and direct experience of the mind-body connection. What happened during this time of such stress served to more deeply embed this in my being. I hadn’t had any pain from this bump, other than an occasional tenderness over the years. However, after I heard the possibility that it could be cancer, and I was so overwhelmed with fear, with my stress levels high, I started having pain in the area of the bump! I could feel the pain increase after I had a conversation with my doctor, and I could feel the pain decrease when I placed a tachyon directly over it.  The tachyon is a small disk that helps to direct healing energy to what it’s placed on. It also had an immediate effect of visibly shrinking the bump! I could feel my body relax as soon as I placed the tachyon, and seeing the bump shrink by the week also helped me to relax, so it worked in several ways.

Lab Tests to Rule Out Myeloma

Finally I had a new doctor who agreed that blood tests might give some information towards a diagnosis. Kaiser sent me an email with each test result, and with each one my heart would be racing as I clicked on the link to see the results. Almost all came back quickly and normal, (and I’ve never been so happy to be normal in my life!), until we were down to the one test for myeloma (bone cancer), which seemed to be the doctor’s biggest concern.  This one, of course, took many days, and the first of two parts came back normal, which had me sobbing in relief. However it was on a Friday afternoon that the last of the tests came in. I was so nervous – it felt like I was going to open an envelope that would determine the course of the rest of my life. The result showed something that I did not understand and didn’t know how to interpret!  I could not believe it.  I had to wait til Monday to receive an email response from my doctor that it was normal!  Finally, something in me shifted and I trusted what I’d been feeling, that I do not have cancer and my body is healthy.

There was one piece to complete however, which involved surgery (albeit minor), to my head. You may know that Elizabeth had brain surgery in July of 2012, to try to remove the tumor which wasn’t responding to chemo, and the surgery did not go as planned. Her brain swelled, necessitating a second surgery to remove part of her skull, and she then had a stroke. After a week in ICU following the surgeries, she came home to hospice. So having a bone biopsy of my skull was rather unnerving, but this was the way to get clarity about what is causing this bony growth.  (I’d been asking for this since the beginning of the tests and mystery, but that is another story.)

A Bone Biopsy and Flashbacks

The biopsy itself was fairly uneventful, with Zelie flying with me from Maui over to Oahu as that’s where they can do a CT-guided biopsy. They told me I wouldn’t have much pain afterward, even though the radiologist had to essentially drill a small hole into my forehead bone. The next day at home, as the local and sedative medications wore off, I started to have intense pain. Fear combined with pain makes it much worse, and because I’d been told not to expect pain, I was worried that something was wrong. We were also preparing for a hurricane that night, which only added to the stress… 

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Elizabeth liked ice packs on her head – this was when she was in hospice, not in much pain

Sitting with a frozen pack on my head and crying in pain brought me right back to when Elizabeth was having horrible pain in her head, when the cancer had come back in her brain, but before we knew that’s what was going on.  I finally took something stronger than a tylenol, along with many remedies to help reduce swelling and bruising, and to facilitate healing, including arnica, dandelion root tea, and turmeric, and was able to get some restless sleep that night.

Cancer Free

I received an email the next day, saying there was no cancer found! All they could say was that it was “reactive bone”, usually caused by trauma. So on one hand I’m back to where I started, with a bump on my forehead, no real idea what it is, and knowing that it is nothing to worry about, which had been true these past three years. On the other hand, I’m in a very different place than where I started: I have a new perspective on mortality and what it can feel like when you, or your doctors, believe you may have a terminal illness. I have a different appreciation for the amount of time we have here, and how precious each day is. I wish I could say that every day is beautiful and the whole world looks fabulous all the time, but that’s not quite it. I’ve always been grateful to be alive. I lost my father at age 3, and had a usually fatal illness myself when I was 4, so I’ve been blessed with a profound appreciation for the gift of life as long as I can remember. What has changed is subtle. It is slowing down, eating more croissants (cause we never know…), loving more, with greater compassion, and I hope, greater presence.

Lucia Maya, healing, heart

My new heart…

Almost two weeks later, I still have a bruise/abrasion (mysterious how it got there – it covers the bump, but it’s not where they placed the needle) in the shape of a heart on my forehead. It may go away eventually, but I feel like I now have a heart tattooed on my third eye, a daily reminder to see everything through the heart. And another reminder that my heart will continue to heal.

The Shadow Side of Love

I’m crying before I even start to type. I’ve been avoiding this blog for months, knowing this post needs to be written and holding off as long as possible. It’s hard to write about the difficult aspects of my relationship with my first-born daughter Elizabeth, and yet I feel compelled to paint a full picture, to give greater context for our unconditionally loving relationship at the end of her life. Even more, to show that this spirit who is now so loving and who assists so many from the other side, had many facets and was incredibly complex. Ours was a mother/daughter relationship that encompassed unconditional love, hate, compassion, need, affection, and a deep soul connection unique to us.

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall,  Lucia Maya,

Elizabeth Blue and Lucia Maya, when she was in remission and I was crying tears of gratitude. April, 2012 (photo by Jade Beall)

Of all the people I love, she was the most challenging in my day-to-day life.  I miss her so deeply, I would give almost anything for her to be here, to be hearing about her new job, new relationship, her friends, her dreams…. And here is the “forbidden thought” (as my teacher Brugh Joy would say) – I don’t miss being pulled into her drama, into the tension that she wore like a cloak, that arose with each decision, each new beginning. I don’t miss being part of her angst.

Any of you who knew Elizabeth, either in person, or learning about her through our writing, knows that she was not all angelic. She was an incredibly wise, loving, loyal, girl and woman, and she also carried a lot of shadow, darker aspects that are less accepted. She could be fierce, mean, arrogant, “bratty”, self-centered, and hurtful. (Of course, I can be all of that as well!) Always mature for her age, from about age 9 to about 13, she was in full teenage angry-rebellious-needy-push away-pull me close mode. At age 21, when diagnosed with cancer, she and I were only about 3 years into a still-developing, sweet, mutually supportive, lovely relationship.  I had imagined that our relationship would continue to grow, deepen and soften, with less tension, and greater forgiveness. And it has, just not how I envisioned it…

Traveling to visit my younger daughter recently, I was reminded of a time when I was flying with both my girls, and Elizabeth was around 11 or 12. She was so sassy, so mean, so stubborn and hard-headed, so disgusted with me (and me with her). I remember seeing a mother with her teenage daughter across the aisle, and I still remember how sweet they were together, talking like friends, kind and appearing to enjoy each other! I longed for that, and at the time it seemed like a far-off fantasy that I could barely imagine.

Elizabeth Blue, punk rock, blue hair,

Elizabeth Blue at 13

I am well aware that I gave her some good reasons to be angry with me. In many ways, her anger and rebellion came from wanting to be closer to me, wanting me to herself, wanting all of my attention.  Somehow, at the same time that she was needing me more than ever, I was experiencing my own time of learning independence and exploring my own wilder side for the first time.  I was not a wild teenager. I was a very responsible, good student, good friend, then good wife and mother. After my divorce in my mid-thirties, I finally wanted to play, and wanted time on my own, separate from my kids. This was a fairly abrupt change for them, as I’d been a happy, devoted, stay-at-home mom up til then.  My world started to broaden, my priorities shifted, and they knew it and understandably, resented it.

From a very young age, Elizabeth did not want to share me – first with her dad, then with her younger sister, and especially when I fell in love with my new partner after I was divorced. This created an extremely challenging triangle, between me, Zelie and Elizabeth.  On the one hand, Elizabeth adored and admired Zelie, at least in the early years. But anytime I appeared to choose Zelie over Elizabeth, whether it was in a decision about discipline, rules around the house, or just when she felt left out (which was often), she was devastated and angry. Then, she’d become “bratty” (her word), manipulative, argumentative, disrespectful…

There were a couple of sweet years when she just wanted to hang out with us. This was in her early teens, just before and after we moved to Tucson and she had left behind the intense punk rock scene of the Bay Area.  She had shifted into a deeply spiritual aspect of herself, and was lovely to be with. She was writing gorgeous poetry, attending spiritual workshops, working at creating a new persona, and enjoying Tucson.

Then everything changed. Partway through our first year in Tucson, she decided she had to move back to Berkeley to live with her father, sister and new step-mother. She felt lonely and afraid she couldn’t fit in. After months of debate, she convinced us all, and we made arrangements for her to move back – I helped her apply and she was accepted at a new school, her dad rearranged their home for her, etc… About 3 weeks before she was to leave, she changed her mind. She had finally made friends and realized she wanted to stay in Tucson. She had always been able to talk (and manipulate) me into pretty much anything – she could always wear me down. I was terrible at setting limits, especially with her.

This time I said no. There was so much tension in the household, I was in a place of fear, and I couldn’t handle it. I listened to my head, rather than my heart, and told her that she had made this commitment, all of us had worked hard to set this up for her, and she had to follow through. She was furious, enraged and desperate to change my mind. She felt I was choosing Zelie over her, betraying her, and was devastated. For a variety of reasons, it was the one time I didn’t listen to my heart with Elizabeth, and it’s the only decision with her I deeply regret. I still can’t write or talk about it without crying.

She was miserable, calling me almost every day, talking of depression and begging to come home. By the end of the first semester I relented and Zelie agreed. Though in the big picture I do trust that everything happens as it is meant to, and I can see good reasons why this needed to happen, it was very damaging to our relationship.  It took years for her to trust me again, and some part of her hardened from that time. This protection around her heart only really started to soften after her cancer diagnosis, and finally released in the months when she knew she was dying.

Jade Beall, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya,

Elizabeth Blue and Lucia Maya, April, 2012 (photo by Jade Beall)

Elizabeth and I had one of the deepest soul connections I can imagine. When I look at photos of her now, I feel like a part of my soul left with her. I hear that many mothers feel this when their child dies, so perhaps this is simply part of this process. I hear often how much she looked like me, and I can see some resemblance in photos, but she had a kind of beauty that I used to long for. And yet, it feels like we were 2 sides of the same coin, that we made a whole in some way, and now I’m missing some part of myself. It’s very hard to put into words, but I imagine many of you can feel what I’m describing.

I mourn the years that feel like they were lost, before she died. If I’d known she would leave her body at age 22, that’s one thing I would have done differently. I know she forgave me, but I still haven’t completely forgiven myself. I am working on it, with her help and guidance. Being able to share it helps to bring healing as well.

 

Gratitude

Today I am in deep gratitude. For Elizabeth, for life, for death and the ways it shapes us and transforms us. I have cried tears of gratitude twice already this morning. I am inspired to write. It is a good day.

Molokai, Hawaii, sunrise,

Sunrise on Molokai, HI

I just read an email from a dear friend of my daughter Elizabeth’s, with wonderful news of a new relationship with a supportive man, a job helping others in her chosen field, going to school, going to yoga, attending a yoga teacher training…all the things that Elizabeth had wanted for this friend, and which had been elusive before Elizabeth’s death. It made me reflect on the circle of those I know who were closest to Elizabeth – her family and her close friends, and again notice the amazing gifts each of us has received, the opportunities for growth, for our dreams to manifest, for our love to grow stronger, for our awareness of “this day being the most precious possible thing” as she wrote.

I was in tears of gratitude this morning for the immense beauty I’m enveloped in, the blessings of being able to move to Hawaii; of being able to buy a home; doing the work I love – supporting others in their journeys of grief and transformation, of healing and awakening; to buy freshly picked vegetables at the farmer’s market, with views of the slopes of Haleakala, of the West Maui mountains, and the pacific ocean spreading out beyond.

farmer's market, Maui,

Abundance from Maui farmer’s market

I think of others in our family who have had similar gifts and blessings in their lives – my younger daughter getting an amazing summer internship and a (miraculous) last-minute place to stay for the summer, friends in wonderful relationships, finding just the right place to live, healing wounds in family relationships… I don’t mean that we are all in bliss all the time, that we don’t each mourn and miss Elizabeth many times a day, that we don’t wish for her to be here in body.  I do mean that her death has opened the door for those who are ready for great opportunities and great transformation.

I believe that it is a combination of two things that have created these experiences. The death of a beloved in itself is a catalyst for great change. And, Elizabeth is a potent force for change from the “other worlds”, she is very active in answering our prayers and being a guiding force for each of us whom she loves.

So often we only look at the death of a loved one as a tragedy, which is especially easy to do when it is someone who fits this concept we have of a “senseless” death – i.e. young, one’s child, and/or someone who shines so bright, with great unfulfilled potential.  Make no mistake, it is an incomprehensible loss, deserving of wailing and rage and tears and tears and tears. It is essential that I experience all the emotions to the greatest degree possible. I do not “bypass” the grief for the spiritual, for the transpersonal aspect. I do not mean that grief is not a daily presence.

And, for me, it is truly a “senseless” death if I don’t allow Elizabeth’s life, and death, to be a catalyst for my own transformation, for gratitude, for healing, for seeing beauty, for taking every opportunity to live my dreams, knowing that life is precious and we do not know each day if it may be our last.

I know that Elizabeth Blue is around me and those she knew in this life, responding to our requests and watching over us. I also know that many who have only known her through her death have connected with her and have received gifts of healing in many forms, and that she is available to assist many more people. When I ask her where she is, I hear “I am everywhere.” I can feel her close when I need her, and I can also feel her spirit from afar, working with many others and open to working with more. If you feel a connection to Elizabeth, you can ask her for guidance and support when you need. I’d love to hear stories of what you experience, as well as stories of experiences of receiving help from others who are in spirit. My hope is that her death serves as a catalyst for many, for inspiration and transformation. For me, this helps it to “make sense”.

A note about prayer:  I am aware that prayer and setting intentions does not always bring us what we ask for, as our preferences are not always in alignment with what our soul needs.  I do my best to keep my mind open, to ask for “this or something greater”, to receive and be grateful, to see even the challenges as part of my journey, to remember that the answer to my prayers may not look like I’m expecting. I’m not successful at this every day, and I ask for support in this as well.

Many blessings and much gratitude.

rainbow, Molokai, Hawaii,

Rainbow, Molokai, HI

Moments

It’s been so long since I’ve written, and I have much to share, but I’ll start with now, with today. The first email I opened today was from Jade Beall, saying her new book Bodies of Mothers, was being shipped, and had this photo of it fresh off the press.

Although I knew these gorgeous photos of Elizabeth (and me) would be in the book, it was a bit overwhelming still to see the reality. My emotions ranged from delight to deep sadness, for she’s in a book about mother’s bodies, but she didn’t get to be a mother herself, and I wish she were here in her body, dammit, instead of memorialized in this way.  I had to laugh too, as I’m sure Elizabeth had something to do with this page being opened!

bodies of mothers, beautiful bodies, elizabeth blue, jade beall,

“The Bodies of Mothers – A Beautiful Bodies Project”

The next email was this blog post, from Tric, about the shocking and sudden death of the 24 year old son of her friend. More tears, and another reminder that “this day is the most precious thing possible”, as Elizabeth wrote while in high school. It is so easy to become complacent, to take it for granted that we can breathe, that our heart beats, that we can walk and see the ocean and mountains – which I’m fully enjoying every day, by the way, now that I’m living on Maui, which is a whole other day’s story…

Baldwin Beach, Maui,

One of my walks on Baldwin Beach, Maui

So I do my best to stay present. This is one of the greatest gifts I received in being with Elizabeth during her last two months of life. Noticing every time I started to play out a story in my mind, of what the future might look like without her, or what could have been different in the past, that I wasn’t being present with Elizabeth, in what I knew to be her last days here.  There’s nothing like truly knowing that this moment is unique and finite, to bring us present in each moment.

Of course I struggle with this too, preferring at times to distract myself in various ways, from movies to Facebook or reading – being present in other people’s worlds, but not my own.  When I do though, I usually notice, and do it consciously, giving myself permission to take a break.  And then I come back, doing a quick meditation or really loving my dog, Tilly, and feeling her love for me, or going for a walk and appreciating the beauty around me with all my senses.

Next, I saw that the movie “Heaven Is For Real” was showing, so headed out to see it.  I’d wanted to see it since seeing a preview months ago, as it’s about a 4 year old boy who has an experience of being in Heaven, and comes back with stories of people who died whom he’d never met or heard of.  It was quite moving at times, and reinforced many stories I’ve read of people who’ve had near death experiences (though this boy doesn’t actually die, but somehow had a similar experience). It wasn’t great as a movie, but it’s worth seeing for the story of this little boy.

It helps me a great deal to learn of these experiences, such as Dr Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven”, his story of spending a week in a deep coma, and coming back with clear memories of a wondrous, beautiful afterlife.  He had previously not been spiritual, nor a believer in life after death, as he was a scientist who didn’t believe what he couldn’t see or touch. This experience completely changed his life, and many who’ve read his book. I’ve always believed there is life after death, and it’s comforting to have some validation, helping me to trust more deeply that Elizabeth is at peace, is doing a great deal of work on the other side, and is present with me, and with many who love her, bringing gifts and blessings to each of us.

Elizabeth has been so present with me these last couple of days, and I’ve been feeling this new wave of disbelief.  As time goes by, it is easier to feel her spirit everywhere, it’s also harder to remember her in her body.  I look at photos of her and still can’t comprehend that she was even here, and that now she’s not. It’s such a mystery, a profound mystery.

Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya

Elizabeth Blue, September 2, 2011

I was reminded again of her poem “Seeping Back” written at age 15, which speaks of this mystery and the eternal, beyond my comprehension, a good place to end for today:

“Devotion, my mysterious master
I saw the crossroads, one forever movement of light
Seeping back to the river of eternal life…

…I am waiting for our hearts to be conjoined in the endless breath
Why can we not meet at the simple movement, place of undying peace and satisfaction?
Whisper of eternity that says I love you
For if we were to meet in that place there would be nothing left to live for.”

~ Elizabeth Blue, ©2005

 

 

Praying ~ Mary Oliver

elizabeth blue, bird tattoo,PRAYING

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

~from Mary Oliver’s collection of poetry, “Thirst” (Beacon Press, 2006).

Thank you to my wonderful mother for sending this at the perfect time. I’m mostly without words these days, while I’m resting and recuperating from my move and all that was involved. I expect they’ll be back soon, and Elizabeth will have more to say too…

Ghost Cats

I’m in the process of moving to Maui at the end of this month, and I’m selling my home and many of my belongings.  It’s been keeping me busy and full of a mix of emotions.  Yes, of course I’m happy and excited to be moving to Maui – paradise as everyone calls it…Now don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful, and know that I am truly blessed. I feel grateful for my nearly 9 years in Tucson, and the many gifts I’ve received, the opportunities, the community, friends, and how my work has blossomed and grown. I know it’s time to leave, and am grateful that my time here is complete, and the universe has “assigned” me to such a beautiful new home, one I’ve been waiting for for many years. It is time.

And, it’s hard, this leaving. Part of the process of clearing out means I’ve been going through all the rest of Elizabeth’s things and and giving away much of them: clothes (she had a LOT of them, as anyone who knew her is aware!), jewelry (also a great deal of jewelry she’d bought, been gifted, and made herself), personal belongings, art, and writing, as she was always a journal keeper and saved all her writing, which I’m so grateful for, and ALL of which I keep!

Going through her clothes has been the hardest, as they are possibly more intimate aspects of her even than her writing. Elizabeth had expressed herself through clothing since she could first crawl to the shelves and pick out her outfits! Her many personalities were expressed, and she still had her shredded pink Converse high tops from her punk days, her many pairs of high heels, and then clothes. Clothes to dress her school self, out dancing with friends self, going on a date self, getting chemo self which she also wrote about here…As I was despairing about how to find a home for all her clothes (that didn’t fit either me or her sister), I got an email from Felice, a friend and teacher of Elizabeth’s, who is about the same size, and whom Elizabeth adored.  I asked if she’d be willing to take them, and she said she’d be honored, and would also distribute them to friends who might like some! I felt Elizabeth at work behind the scenes helping me…

Everywhere I go in Tucson I am reminded of time spent with Elizabeth, from the cafes where we often met for coffee and conversation, to the hospital, cancer center, naturopath’s office where she received treatments…it is bittersweet, these memories and this leaving. As I leave behind the places with sad memories, I also leave behind reminders of our time as a family, of our closeness, of her homes, her friends, her jobs.  I know the memories are with me, and Elizabeth is alive in my heart wherever I am, but those tangible reminders will not be part of my daily life – a relief and a loss, at the same time.

So today, while my house was being held open, I went to a movie, a chance to rest that was much needed. The only one playing that appealed was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which I’d heard nothing about. I believe Elizabeth was guiding me to see it, and I’ll tell you why.  First, it was wonderful – funny and moving, a movie about transformation and Life, just what I needed. I really felt her presence, and started to cry during a scene towards the end.  An amazing photographer has climbed high in the Himalayas, waiting patiently for an elusive Snow Leopard to appear so he can photograph it. He speaks of how hard they are to see, and that they are called “ghost cats” because of this. I was immediately brought to Elizabeth’s fascination with and love of snow leopards, (all cats, but especially them), and a video that she had had shared with me, that we’d watched together over and over, delighting in the play of snow leopard kittens in a zoo. In an amazing reading someone had done from Elizabeth’s photo, the woman had said that she is “still drinking mint juleps (a line from one of her poems) out of silver goblets and is finally with her snow kitten”.  In the film, the photographer chooses not to capture the moment on film after all that, saying that sometimes he prefers to just take in the moment…beautiful!

I felt that Elizabeth had guided me to this film, as a way of connecting with me. I’d been feeling like she’s been far away, but also feeling like I’ve been SO busy that I haven’t had time to be quiet and notice her.  This was the first time in a while that I was not engaged with others, and she showed up.  Thank you Elizabeth, my ghost cat – here’s the video for you, though I imagine you can now enjoy snow leopards anytime you like!

Update on NPR Interview

I promised the link to my interview on NPR, and here it is: Voices for the Cure on Arizona Public Media. Mark McLemore was a wonderful, thoughtful and sensitive interviewer, and I’m so honored to have the opportunity to share more of Elizabeth’s and my journey with more people.

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Lucia Maya and Elizabeth Blue, April, 2012, photo by Jade Beall