All that we love…

There have been 2 dates this past week that have felt quite significant.  It was one year ago, on March 21, 2012, the first day of spring, that Elizabeth had what we had every reason to believe was the last of her 6 chemo treatments for lymphoma.  It was a day of celebration – of moving out of the long, dark winter of chemo, and into the rebirth and new life of spring.  In the months that followed, she was reborn, telling people of her journey with cancer, writing about it on her blog, going without her wig once her hair had grown in just a half-inch (“I know there is a part of me that knows bald can be beautiful.), returning to yoga, getting a new job, dating a new man, a body-piercing internship (“I got a Piercing Internship today. I start Sunday.  I’m so excited, I think I was born to poke tiny holes in people and then tell them how to heal them correctly.” June 1 2012), being photographed not just bald, but bald and naked…

Elizabeth Blue by Jade Beall

Elizabeth Blue, 4/13/12

Elizabeth Blue by Jade Beall

Elizabeth Blue, 4/13/12

Elizabeth Blue by Jade Beall

Elizabeth Blue, 4/13/12

It’s still beyond my comprehension that almost exactly 6 months later, on September 23,  2012, Elizabeth died peacefully at home, having known for 3 months that the cancer had recurred in her brain, and knowing for 2 months that there was no more treatment, and that she would almost certainly die before winter arrived again.

Just past the 6 month anniversary of her death, I’ve been surprised at how the experience of grief has gotten both easier and at times, more intense.  What is fascinating is how grief is alive, a kind of entity, with its own timing and its own movement, separate from me, yet weaving itself into my life. Showing up some mornings, and taking a vacation, perhaps, on the other days. Visiting elsewhere possibly? Perhaps I am sharing this particular grief with someone else, and it can’t be in two bodies at once?  It does visit less, but when it comes it is much more powerful  Some days I think of Elizabeth and feel simply joy and gratitude, peace. I feel at a distance from “the story” and from grief. And there are the days when everything I see, hear, eat, wear, etc, makes me think of her and the loss of her physical presence with such intense emotion, such depth of sadness…it arrives like a wave washing over and into me, embodying me, and I surrender, as long as it takes to come up again.

I had two months of being with Elizabeth when we knew she was dying, and I had time to say goodbye to her many times as she shifted and changed during that time, but the one who I’d known before that – that Elizabeth is the one I didn’t know I was never to see again, and that’s the one I miss the most. The one who told me stories about her friends, met me for coffee every week, talked about socialism and feminism and was outraged along with me about some injustice, made me worry about her choices in men, made plans for graduate school and buying a house in the desert, and loved me as only she could. I only recently started having the phenomenon of thinking of calling her to tell her about something I think she’d like, and then laughing at myself for it.  I’ve had the awareness that some small part of me is still waiting for her return, as though she were just on a very long journey, which of course she is…

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”  ~ Helen Keller

 

Coming next – emails from June, 2012, the next stage of Elizabeth’s journey…