Elizabeth’s Gifts

Elizabeth loved clothes. From before she could speak (which was early!), she was in charge of what she wore, and as soon as she could dress herself, she did, always with several changes of outfits, sometimes before we even left the house in the morning. This theme carried throughout her life, with her love of spending hours in thrift shops and used clothing stores, searching out the perfect pieces, always combining them in ways unique to her.  She would often select items that seemed way out of style, or really unattractive (to my eye), but then she’d put an outfit together that was truly a beautiful form of art.

Elizabeth Blue, style, Elizabeth Meagher,

Elizabeth Blue in a favorite outfit, self-portrait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was one of her greatest artistic expressions, and one she had innately, but was also enhanced by her adoration of her godmother Victoria, who has a similar gift.  I think Elizabeth’s also came through her genes, but skipped a generation or two, as I have never cared about clothes in this way, though my grandmothers did, and Julianna, my younger daughter, has an equally unique and artistic style, though quite different from Elizabeth’s (she used to dress in British school boys’ uniforms in public middle school in California…but that’s another story!)

Last night I took a bath, and searched my closet for a bathrobe to put on after.  I found this white, silk, kimono-style robe that was Elizabeth’s.  I put it on and realized that it fits perfectly, is incredibly comfortable, flattering, and the robe I’ve always wanted…and I remember well the day she bought it.

In June of 2012, Elizabeth’s cancer had recurred, in her brain, and she was receiving high doses of chemo in the attempt to cross the blood/brain barrier, that is there to protect our brain from toxins that can harm it.  She was on several medications to prevent seizure and reduce swelling in her brain, and we had some idea of how serious this all was.  I can see now, in hindsight, that she understood, or knew, that she was most likely going to die.  I did not. I was steadfast in my optimism, only allowing in what I needed to get her the best possible care she could have. With the recurrence and spread of cancer, in addition to the allopathic treatment, Elizabeth was open to adding all complementary methods as well.  She was seeing an oncology naturopath, who prescribed many supplements to be taken throughout the day, on a strict schedule, to enhance the chemo regimen. She was scheduled to do a hypnotherapy session, and had started physical therapy to maintain strength, as she couldn’t do much yoga, being weak and dizzy. As it turned out, the cancer was growing too quickly, and nothing could change what was her ultimate path.

Elizabeth Blue, raw food, Kathleen Bowman,

Elizabeth and Kathleen sharing some delicious raw food, with that bag full of supplements to  enhance the chemo regimen. June, 2012

So our dear friend Kathleen, who is an amazing healer and has an advanced understanding of the healing power of raw food, drove from Colorado to visit us for a couple days, and share some of her knowledge with us.   Elizabeth adores Kathleen, was thrilled that she’d come out to help, and was aware what a loving and generous gift it was for Kathleen to drive 2 days each way to visit! The first day she was here, we made a big list of food we needed, and headed over to the food coop to shop.

Across the street from the coop is one of Elizabeth’s favorite vintage clothing shops.  Well, there was something she HAD to look for that day.  Kathleen and I were at first agreeable, and wandered around the store for a bit, but didn’t see anything we needed, though I think we played with hats for a while…After half an hour or so, we told Elizabeth we’d go to the cafe next door and get some iced coffee, but she needed to finish up.  It was over 100 degrees that day, and we were tired. After a while, I went back to check. She was still trying clothes on, and I was really annoyed. I felt she wasn’t being respectful of Kathleen’s time, that we only had a couple of days to learn as much as we could, and she was “wasting time” by spending so much of our afternoon trying on clothes…This was always a favorite activity of hers, and I didn’t have much patience for it, though I now wish that I could have found a way to spend more time with her doing the things she loved.

Finally, she made her purchase  – a white, silk robe, that she felt she really needed.  We went across the street, did our food shopping, and went home, all three of us tired from the heat and the outing. Kathleen continued to teach us and share her wisdom, and it was an amazing few days we spent together.  Elizabeth diligently ate raw foods even while in the hospital, up to the time she came home to hospice care, when she went back to eating cooked foods, all her favorites…

She only wore the white robe a few times. When I put it on last night, I felt her presence, and felt that she’d perhaps picked it out for me, as well as herself.  I’d almost given it away, but something had said to keep it, even though I thought it wasn’t my style or size, and I remembered so clearly the day she bought it. As I was wearing it last night, it felt like it was custom made for me, the size, shape, texture, color…I love it.  I just heard “it’s an early birthday present” – my 50th birthday is in a month, and Elizabeth always bought or made me very thoughtful presents, and wrote me beautiful cards.  I will miss her especially on my birthday.

When I hung the robe up this morning, and was thinking that perhaps she’d had me somewhere in her mind when she chose it (selfishly, I know), the tag caught my eye. “Esme” is the name, and I caught my breath – that is a name Elizabeth considered for herself for years, and used for her email address, though she spelled it Ezme, with wonderful layered meanings. It felt like another sign from her, and it’s lovely to feel her close as I wear this robe, for many years to come. Thank you Elizabeth, for this gift.

Preparing and Offering Her Body

When Elizabeth died, I was as well prepared as I could be. She had been at home, my home, in hospice care for almost two months, and I was able to be with her that entire time, letting go of almost everything else for that time.  It was heartbreakingly sad and breathtakingly beautiful – the grace and love of Elizabeth’s Presence was immense.  She was in a state of egolessness.  She no longer cared how she looked, she had no anger, almost no fear or sadness – none by the end, and she was radiant in love.

We knew she was dying, and we had time to prepare ourselves emotionally, and also in practical ways.  We are blessed that our close friend Victoria, Elizabeth’s godmother, had recently taken a training in home funerals, and found an amazing woman here who also supports families in taking care of the bodies of their loved ones. I hadn’t known this was an option before, and am so grateful that we didn’t have to send her body off to be tended to by strangers.  Kristine Bentz, of Sweetgrass Ceremonies met with us – Elizabeth, me, and our close family, a few times, to let us know what our options were and listen to our hearts.

Elizabeth left her body around 4:30 on a Sunday morning, September 23, 2012.  My sister had had the amazing foresight to arrive the night before (though scheduled to arrive several days later), so she was there, and after some time of sitting with Elizabeth, I must have woken her up, and began calling and texting family to let them know.  I wanted our family to have that day to be with her body.  The next day was for others who wanted to come and visit. Tashe and I did a ritual bathing of her body: cleaning her, touching her skin one last time, anointing her with precious essential oils, then dressing her in a brand new, simple white long dress that was the last piece of clothing Elizabeth had bought herself, not consciously knowing she’d wear it to be cremated in. We then placed beautiful flowing sheer fabrics under, around and over her. We placed her body on a massage table that Kristine had brought us, and used dry ice under her torso to keep her cool, so she could be at home for a couple of days. Finally, we showered her in rose petals…

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral,

Her toes…

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

Elizabeth Blue’s body at home, 9/23/12

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

Elizabeth Blue’s body at home, 9/23/12

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

Making offerings…9/23/12

I almost forgot to include some of the practical details, as I was spared from dealing with the outside world right away.  Kristine helped to guide Elizabeth’s father through the process of becoming the “funeral director” which involved filing some paperwork at City Hall, which allowed us to then transport her body ourselves for cremation. We could have had them come to transport her body, but it just felt right to us to do the whole process ourselves.

The funeral parlor (if that is what they’re still called) provided a simple cardboard casket which Kristine brought us, that we asked friends to decorate with messages and artwork, and we placed some of Elizabeth’s belongings in with her, along with many rose petals.  The day of the cremation, our family said our last goodbyes to her at home.  It was so hard to know that I’d never touch her skin again, very hard to let go…And then we brought her to the crematorium, where we were able to gather and watch as they placed her body inside the crematory. I didn’t think I’d want to do that when she was still alive, but when it came time, it felt better to be there . I knew then that it was not Elizabeth going into that fire, but an empty vessel – as she said, her “flesh and blood holder of humanity” had ceased to exist…

Here is the email I sent after the home funeral, about the cremation and as we began to prepare for a larger, public memorial and celebration of life:

September 26, 2012

Dear Ones,

Yesterday was very difficult, and beautiful.  We gathered with close family and said our last goodbyes to Elizabeth’s body at home, placing her body into the casket, which had been decorated by friends and family, and putting her baby blanket (Silky) and some flowers in with her, to help her make the transition.  We transported her body and were able to support each other and witness the box being placed in the crematory.  I didn’t know if I’d want or be able to witness this, but I am grateful that I could be present, in the way that seeing a burial might also bring some sense of completion.

We had a lovely open house the day before, with many friends coming by with flowers, love, tears, laughter and stories.  It was good to be with others who love Elizabeth. Thank you so much to those of you who were able to be here.

We have confirmed the date and location for Elizabeth’s Celebration of Life/Memorial Service.  It will not be a religious ceremony, but one that represents Elizabeth’s diverse and deep spiritual beliefs and an opportunity to gather, celebrate her life, tell stories, share images, music, ritual, and more.
with much love,

Lucia

Deconstruction and Re-creation

“Death is not a separation but a different form of communion, a higher form of connectedness with the community, providing an opportunity for even greater service.”  ~ Malidoma Somé

I’ve not written here for a long while, and I’ve been missing it, but also dreading it, for a few reasons.  One is that I want to write about Elizabeth’s death, and how we cared for her body, and that has felt difficult to begin.  Another reason is that I’ve been afraid of “running out” of Elizabeth’s writing to share, as it is a finite source. Though there is an abundance of her essays and poems still unearthed, some part of me feels that she will die again once all of her writing has been shared here…I feel a need to savor each piece. And I know there is no hurry from all of you, but there is an internal message to continue, and when I ignore it, it gets louder and creates more tension, so I am listening.

And last, I’ve been very busy, as I’ve been getting my home ready to sell, and planning to move to Hawai’i. I’ve known for a long time that I would be leaving Tucson, but didn’t know when, or where to.  During the first year after Elizabeth died it became clear that the time was approaching, but that I needed to stay here, in the city that she loved, and in the home where she last breathed, at least until the one year anniversary of her passage.  First though, I had a revelation – I realized that some part of me believed that if I left here permanently, Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to find me.  Now, I know that she is with me wherever I go, and she lets me know that she’s with me often, answering questions when I ask, and showing me signs that are clear it’s her presence.  This felt like something else.  I’m not entirely sure about past lives, but this felt like it was from another lifetime, a long-ago memory that surfaced: that of being a mother in a home that had been under attack, perhaps had been bombed, and it was time to leave or else risk dying myself.  But in this memory, my child had left the house, and I was afraid that if I left, she or he would never be able to find me again, and would be in great danger and feel abandoned.  It is still a vivid “body memory” and moves me to tears, and it feels like possibly a past life that Elizabeth and I shared.  Once I realized that some part of me was carrying this belief, it started to loosen its grip, and I knew that I could leave this home, and not be abandoning my child.

So a couple of weeks before the one year anniversary, it became clear that the time has arrived for me to move to Hawai’i, and that there is great energetic support at this time.  (This has been discussed for years, as my partner is from Hawai’i, and we’ve spent a lot of time there, as it is where we have a second home and offer our spiritual retreats.) Once the anniversary date passed, on September 23 (and that is another post!), I set a date to put my house for sale, and started readying it.  This meant giving away anything that I wouldn’t be taking or putting in storage, and putting away most personal photos and spiritual images – and there were a lot!  I did it in stages, and it was many-layered.  Each round I’d think I was done, and then realize there was a whole other layer to clear…  I’d had an altar set up for Elizabeth since she came home from the hospital into hospice, that now held her ashes, along with some of her most precious belongings, things from her altar at her home, gifts from friends and family, and several photos of her.  I knew that I could leave it up, but over several weeks it seemed to take itself apart, bit by bit, until I realized that it was no longer needed at all.  She is with me always – sometimes so close I can’t believe she’s gone, and at the same time farther away, my memories less vivid, my sense of her presence as more diffuse…

Elizabeth Blue, altar, Lucia Maya

One Year Anniversary Altar – 9/23/13

One of the ways Elizabeth sends me messages is through music.  In my recent busyness, I find that my grief is present less often, but emerges from a deep well of emotion. When I’m alone, and quiet, and still, it emerges, often from a connection to Elizabeth through music or an image. I listen to Pandora, with about 25 stations on shuffle, including a wide variety of musicians.  Every once in a while, when I’m missing Elizabeth to the core of my being, and talking to her, asking how is it possible that she’s not here anymore, and a song will come on. A few songs in particular: Here Comes the Sun, and Angel from Montgomery are two – songs that I know Elizabeth loved and that she knew were my favorites as well, and I am brought to my knees, with sadness, gratitude, and joy, as I feel her letting me know she is there, seeing me, connecting with me, and comforting me.