Some Days with Elizabeth
Preface: I am struggling a bit this week, the week leading to the first year anniversary of my daughter Elizabeth’s death. Partly for the obvious reasons – the intensity of this loss resounding in my body and mind and spirit to a degree that at times I can’t remember the simplest things, like where an acupuncture office is that I’ve been to a dozen times; I’m thinking of her constantly, with memories of her at all stages of her life popping up, sometimes making me laugh, often in tears…Today I smiled as I put on sunglasses and thought of Elizabeth’s love of sunglasses and how she always accessorized with them in the most artful way, and then I passed the hospital where she had brain surgery, and remembered the neurosurgeon sitting with me in the waiting area, telling me that the surgery was not successful, he could only remove part of the tumor, and that her brain was swelling to such a degree that he had to stop operating. At first I felt sad, and then I heard myself saying out loud “you were released!” and was able to smile and feel joy for/with her…
The less obvious reason I’ve been struggling: I’ve been posting these past year’s emails from Elizabeth’s and my journey and have had this strong sense that they each needed to be shared before the anniversary date of each update. But I’ve fallen behind, and the last few were posted “late” and I have several more to share before we get to the anniversary itself, in less than a week, on September 23.
It feels like the timing has been in large part due to Elizabeth’s guidance – that in the beginning she was urging me on, also aware of the dates and the timing being important, but as her spirit is moving to other levels, the earthly concepts of time are less important, so I haven’t received guidance to post as urgently in the past two months, and I’ve slowed down. Also, as I share these writings I (re)experience the journey, and it feels like there will be another sense of finality in sharing these emails leading to her transition…So this is all to warn you that this may be an intense week for you as well, if you read these in real-time. I’ll be sharing a month’s worth of transformation in a very condensed time, and you can choose to read them as they come, or you may prefer to take your time and stretch it out a bit. It feels important however, for me to share all the emails by this first anniversary. I will continue to share Elizabeth’s writing, as well as my own.
Though certainly sad on some level, ultimately my hope is that this story is as uplifting and transformative for you as it is for me. May these offerings bring you some comfort and inspiration on your journey!
This image is how I’m seeing her in my mind’s eye right now…
September 4, 2012
today I woke up, as I often do, to the sound of wooden bracelets lightly clinking together. Elizabeth’s bed in the living room is visible from our room, and I have a direct line of sight to her, so I can see her begin to move her right arm and hand, as though she is dancing slowly by herself, and making quiet music with her bracelets. She’s been wearing at least 6 bracelets for weeks, given to her by different people – 2 she was gifted from Tashe, my sister, one was a gift from Ann Marie, our friend and E’s doctor, and the 3 wooden ones are mine, gifted to me from my partner Zelie. Elizabeth has also been given rings from several women who’ve visited – as she plays with and holds their hands, they’ve been inspired/instructed to leave a ring with her. She enjoys playing with them and looking at them all.
I’ve been reading out loud to Elizabeth (one of my favorite things when my daughters were young, and still), and the first book that came to me was The Little Prince. I hadn’t remembered the story, but it was an amazingly perfect book to read at this time, for me very sweet and very reassuring, about love and the process of leaving one’s body. I highly recommend it for all. I’ve also been reading her Winnie the Pooh, which is lovely. We’ve been listening for weeks to the Graceful Passages CD, which she always says yes to when I ask, and also still loving the Coleman Barks readings of Rumi poetry. We have lots of beautiful relaxation types of music, which Elizabeth enjoys too. She likes being read to, and music, but then also wants time for quiet, when she’ll say no to offerings of words or music.
We’ve been enjoying this time of more quiet, more spaciousness, and Elizabeth seems to want to have time alone each day. (It is just me and Zelie here, with Elizabeth’s father Greg coming on the weekends from San Francisco.) It is a bit hard to know her preferences, as she might answer 2 different ways to the same question, depending on how it’s asked, so mostly I’m following my intuition and staying in the flow, reading her as best as I can, and trying to take care of myself too. It’s hard to tell also how much she understands, she has confusion and has little short-term memory, though long-term seems much better. Her expression is almost always neutral, and she only answers yes or no when asked, and if pressed might give a word or two explanation. She is still not stating anything on her own, or asking any questions, which is SO different from her previous expressive self, since she could first speak! She continues to smile so sweetly when we smile at her, and only occasionally expresses pain, her neck sometimes hurts when we turn her, but as soon as she’s positioned well, she’s not in pain.
This morning I was talking to Elizabeth about how hard it’s been for me to believe that she’s dying (throughout this process with cancer, and still, though I’m finally starting to believe it), and she said the same is true for her. (I was talking about a poem of hers I read, that startled me as it seemed to be speaking of dying, but then I realized it was written as she was preparing to leave Tucson for Seattle 2 years ago – it’s “Bird’s Nest”, here.) I asked if she felt ready, and she said no. I asked if she felt she needed to do or say anything to prepare, and she said no. So I said perhaps she’s not ready yet because today’s not the day, and that she would be ready when it is the day, and she responded with holding up crossed fingers, which was both funny and so dear and moving. It does feel that she is getting closer to the end, though it’s still really hard to see how or when that will happen. I’m doing my best to be present and live each day as though it could be her last, and my own as well.
Physically, she is having 3-4 episodes of tremors/increased heart rate each day (due to the tumor in her brain), and sometimes they bother her, sometimes not, mainly related to the severity. This morning was the most intense one – they’re similar to the full body shivering one might have when really cold, and include her torso and her right arm. The medication helps quickly most often, though it makes her sleepy or “numb” she says, so she prefers not to have it when possible. Her head continues to swell, and the tumor in her neck feels like it’s growing, especially as it causes some pain with movement. I think it moves the vertebrae out of place, and some healer-friends have been able to help it shift back several times, giving her relief for many days or weeks.
She has been eating well still, and drinking some. The other day, she was holding a rose, and suddenly I realized she’d taken a bite! Must have smelled really good…though she said it didn’t taste good.
Elizabeth still says she is not afraid, her mind is quiet, and she’s peaceful. I’m really grateful for that, and for each day. Sometimes I go into stories of past or future, and get overwhelmed with grief, but then I can simply move into gratitude for her presence right now, feel the warmth of her skin, look into her eyes, place my hand on her heart and feel that love, and all is well.
love and blessings,
September 11, 2012
There has been a noticeable shift this past week, as Elizabeth has stopped eating and drinking for the most part. She occasionally (every 2-4 days) has said yes to something – Greg brought her favorite dessert of carrot cake this weekend, and she had a few bites, and our friend Tita brought some wonderful beans and rice (another favorite) which she ate as well, but overall she’s stopped eating and drinking. We are not pushing her to eat or drink, simply continuing to offer, as we’ve been told that often the wisdom of the body is to stop, and that it’s a painless and easy way to leave.
For quite a while she’s needed some encouragement to eat – she might say no to being hungry, but then would say yes to a specific food…But something really shifted last Wednesday – she started only drinking enough to swallow her pills and then saying no when I asked if she wants more. And started saying no to everything i offered her to eat. Right after I wrote this, she said yes to food, and ate a peach…so it continues to change, but that was the only thing she’s eaten since a dinner on Saturday. There is this fine line between offering and encouraging or urging. I want her to live as long as possible, but don’t to prolong her life if it means suffering. It feels like the best I can do is listen to her, and when she’s not clear, then follow my intuition, knowing her as well as I do for these 22 years. I hear from others some concern about her not eating and drinking, and it certainly has felt strange as a mother, not to urge her to eat, but I continue to trust her and listen.
This has brought the reality of her leaving that much closer, and I am aware of how precious it is that I can massage her arms and feet, clean her skin, hear her voice (more rarely now), kiss her cheek… I am deeply grateful for the blessing of each day with Elizabeth still here in her body, and at the same time wanting to let her go, which is the most challenging contrast of intentions and emotions I’ve ever experienced. The grief is ever-present, and mostly just below the surface, as I stay with her in this journey, present as I possibly can be.
I’ve just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho to Elizabeth, which I loved, and she seemed to enjoy, usually saying yes when I would ask if she wanted me to continue. It doesn’t seem she is following the story, but seems to like the sound of my voice. I’ve now started reading pieces from Anne Lamott’s “Tender Mercies”, and though I’d read it years ago, am amazed at how perfect each book has been for the process Elizabeth is in, and perhaps more so for me! She is not wanting music lately, prefers me to be with her, even if we’re not talking, though she still wants some time alone.
I keep delaying sending this, as things change each day, but I know many of you are wanting to know what life is like here, so this feels somehow like a lot is missing, but it’s still enough.
24 thoughts on “Some Days with Elizabeth Blue…”
Lucia – you know my heart and tears for you and Elizabeth. Much love!
Thank you! love, Lucia
What an honor – to spend Elizabeth’s last days with her. And you, willing to let us all in. I’m watching you letting her go, not resisting the is-ness. Because death is the final letting go, isn’t it? Maybe if we practice it now it won’t be so scary at the end. We will certainly die differently, Lucia, with Philip and Elizabeth gone. I take comfort in knowing they’ll help. Keep writing; the more you write, the more time I get to be with you and Elizabeth during the most profound and intimate time in your lives.
Denise, thank you so much. I’m grateful for the wonderful company, as I relive this journey…the final letting go. I don’t feel afraid of death, though I certainly don’t feel ready yet either!
Thank you for your encouragement, I am so grateful.
blessings and love,
I am writing a book about my mother. It took me 6 months to write the chapter about her death. I was unable to relive it. So I know how very brave and strong you are., i also know how healing it was once I had done it. So I also know that even though this is a difficult time you are going through, you, too, will benefit from your writing and remembering and sharing.
Yes, the writing and remembering is difficult, and at the same time so rewarding and healing! I am grateful that “someone” knew to be writing these emails and journaling, so that I can now share this extraordinary time we had. blessings, Lucia
Thinking of you this week, Lucia. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Elizabeth. Blessings, Lucia
I always love to hear your take on the last days with your daughter. It’s so emotional and deep, to a level that people can’t understand. I find some comfort from your words in a bizarre way, as I begin a similar journey. My mom has agreed to come stay with me after she finishes the last of her radiation. It has traveled to her spine, and spinal fluid, in and around the brain. My heart is broken. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time, and hope you begin your healing process soon.
Tia, thank you so much for writing. I am so sorry to hear about your mom, and I will keep all of you in my heart and in my prayers. I am glad to know that my words bring some comfort to you, that is my hope in doing this blog…
I feel that my healing process started from the moment we knew Elizabeth had cancer, and will continue the rest of my life. It is a lifelong journey, which is rich in gifts and full of great teachings.
Sending love and blessings to you, Lucia
I am so honored to be in the field of Presence of your Love. Thank you once again. I hold you in my heart as you approach this anniversary. Love, Mira
Mira, thank you so much for reading and writing. It means so much to be in the field with you…much love and many blessings, Lucia
Thank you for sharing your beautiful words of these difficult days. In spite of the grief you were enduring, your words evoke a feeling of peace and acceptance that comforts me as I deal with my own loss. I’m so glad I found you, albeit under sad circumstances. Much love to you — Liz
Liz, thank you so much for writing. I’m glad we found each other too, and feel such a strong connection to you and your daughter. I am grateful to know that this helps bring some peace and comfort to you, that is my hope…
love and blessings to you, Lucia
What a beautiful gift, the writings you have of the moments with her. I know for me, the “firsts” and all the days leading up to the “firsts” were clear and easy to remember, but as time goes by, the memories fade. Things I thought I would never forget, I forget. It is a blessing to have your feelings written down. Those moments you had with her, touching her and feeling her presence and her smile, and her breath… a beautiful, wonderful gift. You were so wise to write about it all. I am thinking of you, and know how you are reliving every moment of every day leading up to her passing. It is a journey I would not wish on anyone. Hugs and Love!
Audra, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I knew I’d forget a lot, and that was on my mind as I wrote and shared these emails at the time, knowing I’d want to go back and remember all these details. I am so grateful that I have them.
I am also deeply grateful that we had as much time as we did, to savor, and to complete as much as we could.
I am struck by how present and responsive you were and continue to be with Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing your relationship with us.
Your blog also inspires me to be courageous in sharing my experience with Maura.
Jenne, thank you for reading and commenting! I believe that sharing how we have lived through and grown from these life-changing experiences can benefit others, so please do share your experience.
There will never be words to express what I felt reading this; the memories of my best friend it evoked; or my appreciation for the strength it requires to make decisions, accept realities and deal with allowing the one you love to fly. You are being thought of. Much love. Belinda
Thank you Belinda, for reading and letting me know you are thinking of me. Life is a continual journey of loving and letting go…sending you so much love, Lucia
Lucia, the pleasure was mine. It was a privilege to read. I hope I don’t miss future posts as I’m not on here as often as I wage my own war in becoming healthier. Yes, you remain in my thoughts and prayers. Warm embrace. Belinda
Belinda, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with health challenges. Please let me know how you are doing. I will keep you in my heart, and send prayers for you as well. With blessings and love, Lucia
Thank you once again for sharing Lucia. This experience is so spiritually important and I feel important for you to share with the world. Much love from my heart to yours. ❤
Thank you Kristine. I keep getting messages to share it, and I’m grateful to know it’s being received! love, Lucia