The Light Within – Elizabeth Blue

I’ve been intending to write of my own experiences lately, but going through Elizabeth Blue’s writing this afternoon, this showed itself, and it feels important for this time.

by Elizabeth Meagher (Blue)

2.7.09 (age 19)

The Kingdom of God

In reading the chapter “The Kingdom of God is Within” I continually return to an idea that I have long pondered.  This is the idea that ‘God’ dwells inside all and everyone and that in this way we are all One.  When assuming that God is within every human being it becomes easy to understand the nature of heaven.  To me God is the innate divinity that exists in us all.  God is the light, the unconditional love, the compassion  and the innate harmony that everyone has inside of them.  Heaven is our expression and self realization of these aspects of ourselves.  When one is fully in tune with these aspects of oneself then one is in tune with ‘God.’  When one expresses these aspects then one is expressing God and creating a heaven here on Earth.  I believe that this is what Jesus meant when he said that the Kingdom of God is within.  

The idea that heaven exists within oneself and is an expression of God is common among many cultures.  While not all cultures use the same language in naming ‘Heaven’ or ‘God’, it is very common to believe that through a connection with the light and divinity within us (God) it is possible to reach a higher state of consciousness and discover a happy and peaceful world (Heaven).  This is Jesus’ same teaching which is so blissfully compassionate.  Everyone has the ability to reach Heaven, it is always within grasp to get there, and simply requires a connection with what we already have: the light within ourselves. 

third eye, Elizabeth Blue, cat,

Elizabeth with a cat appearing in her third eye!

long ago sweetness

For some reason I decided to log in to Elizabeth’s email account a few weeks ago, just to see if there was anything important there. I discovered she had folders that I’d not noticed before, and in one called “treasures” I found this beautiful birthday email she’d sent me, on my birthday, when she was 15. I had saved it, and was surprised to see she had too, among correspondence with special aunties, her sister and a couple others.

This is helpful for me to read when I occasionally let myself remember the very challenging times we had; the times when Elizabeth felt I’d betrayed her; the times she wanted more than I could give; the times she was hostile and rude to me and my partner, the times I was not the mother I’d hoped to be, wanted to be…

I hope it may be helpful for those of you who have teenagers, or who have lost your beloved child without the chance to hear or read these words, as I believe all our children feel this about their mothers, at some moments in time. I’m grateful she had the chance to put this into words at such a young age.

12/24/2005

Hello Mom,
I hope you are having a wonderful birthday.  I have
arrived in San Diego but so far have no luck reaching
you by phone, so I am trying email.
Thank you for being born, for your soul coming in and
giving birth to my body, I think you are such a
wonderful Mother and such a wonderful human being.
Even if you weren’t my own personal Mom I would be so
lucky to be on this Earth at the same time as you!

You have taught me so much about being a woman, being
feminine and holding such great love for that.  You
have expressed so wonderfully to me deep mothering
beauty from the time you sang me songs as you held me,
to your belief that any kindergarden who didn’t take
me was suffering a loss, to standing with me and
trying to hold me as I yelled how I hated you and what
you were doing, to forcing me to go to public school
because you were following your intution, to saying
prayers to keep Brieana and me safe as we lived our
daring little lives, to saying yes to (visiting) Palenque and
allowing me to go and have one of the most decadently
amazing times of my life, to holding my hand as I
cried for a home I had left behind, to trusting my
judgement now and loving me.  I feel like from the
time you sang me songs, gave me life and breathed into
me your love, to all the journeys we have walked
together on this path we call life,
you have been my
constant source, an inspiration and probably the
greatest love of a daughter’s life.

Thank you for being, thank you for loving, thank you
for being born and thank you for my birth.
Thank you.
I love you

love,
Elizabeth

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Meagher

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

 

“Three Years Later” by Elizabeth Blue

I am slowly going through Elizabeth’s writing, wanting to share more here, as I know she wanted to share her work with the world. It’s a way for me to know that she was real, that she existed, to keep her spirit fed and nurtured, though it’s also painful for me. This one she wrote for a Kino High School assignment, a “reflective essay”. She wrote about her grandmother, my mother. They were very close and she was one of the few people who Elizabeth trusted and relied on for support. She was 16 when she wrote this, always insightful and thoughtful, and in a phase of irritation with most of the adults in her life, including her grandmother…

Three Years Later  

by Elizabeth (Meagher) Blue

2006

“I did not go back to work until three years later.”

She looks across the table at me, starkly, her eyes lock mine.  It is as if she is trying to communicate something bigger to me than language can possess.

Needingly, my eyes grab hers, searching, almost pulling, trying to lock her into some journey I am set on undertaking.  I am searching, trying to find the time and space between the words, between the stories.  The time and the space  between the work and the cooking and the raising the children and the caring for the husband and the surviving,  I am trying to see what the time and space between the hours were like and I guess I am trying to lift the veils, trying to see what life was like for her.

Our eyes locked across the table as people around us talk and eat — I think how we are trying to find each other.  The genetic thread through which we are somehow linked, I think we are trying to know each other and communicate a feeling of tribal humanity.  To know a connection deeper, more substantional than words, something we can feel, as all I feel now is the cold scraping of metal chairs as we slide back and forth gesturing to each other through our posture.  Perhaps if we gesture enough we might accumulate at least a sense of knowing one another’s bodies.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, Jane Hans, Julianna Meagher

Julianna, Jane/Grandma, Elizabeth, NY, 2011

Mother of my Mother, womb of my womb and we are trying to see each other as people.  Unconditionally, what we are trying to recognize is a bond of love and the connections we associate with it.  I am trying to see how her love is my love, her flesh is my flesh, her life is my life, that I am her and she is me.  I am trying to see emotion and connection stronger than a cut umbilical cord.

This is my Grandmother and for perhaps the first time I am trying to see her as a person as she tells me how my Grandfather, the love of her life, entered university at junior year at the age of 15.  I am trying to see her when I ask, “Why did you love him?”

She laughs.

“I really don’t know.”  She is sweeping crumbs from the table with her hand into a neat little pile.  “Why does anybody fall in love?”  She laughs again.  “I don’t know if I had ever been in love before.  I had an older boyfriend before him, when I was in high school and he was in college.  He was a very passionate man, in the end however he turned out to be much too childish.  But Bobby, your Grandfather, I just fell in love with him.”  She gazes out a window thoughtfully and I  note that this may be the softest I’ve ever seen her.  She did really love him, and there was not question.

“He was very smart,” I prompt her wanting to know more than how smart he was.  I want to know things like how did he feel when you rested against him under his arm?  How did he take his tea, with milk like you? with sugar? Both? Neither like me?  Did he read the paper everyday?  What did he sound like when he laughed?  What kind of people did he like best?  How would he have loved me?   I don’t want to know how smart he was, I want to know about his humanity.  I want to know him as a person, as I want to learn about her as a person, maybe I want to learn her enough for the both of them.  I want a Grandfather with stories of youth grown old.  I don’t want to hear how smart he was.

“Oh yes very smart.  Probably the smartest person I have ever met.”  She ticks off his on-paper accomplishments, “University of Chicago, graduated in two years with honors.  He was on the tennis, football and riflery teams.  After he wanted to go to law school but no one would take him because he was so young, so he went to Dartmouth for a masters in business instead.  After that he wanted to become a lawyer still so he went to Harvard and graduated top of his class.”

I look her in the eye, nodding, not wanting to miss a beat.  I wonder what she is trying to communicate by repeating all this information I already know, and I think it has something to do with legacy.

Elizabeth Blue,

Jane/Grandma and Elizabeth Blue, Sedona, 1/12

Somewhere between the years I know they met in Italy when they both spent a summer abroad, somewhere between the years my Grandmother fell in love for perhaps the first time.  Somewhere between the years she became a wife and he became a husband, somewhere between the years he became a lawyer, she became a college graduate and took a job working under the head of the African studies department at Boston University.  Somewhere between the years my mother’s life began and somewhere between the years his illness became much worse.

Sitting here looking at my Grandmother, with her, I eat my chocolate cake and she finishes her salad and I observe how different we are.

She possesses a certain quickness to her small body, at 67 she does not look her age and prides herself on getting carded for a senior discount.  She is, as usual, dressed in black with perhaps a bit of gray trim showing for her socks or sweater.  This constant state of dress makes me wonder if she ever truly stopped mourning my Grandfather.  Her hair, short and silver gray, clings close to her head.  Her eyes are green gray hazel and narrow when confused or pretending to be.  (I have learned to look away when she does this or find myself babbling to try to answer an unspoken question which she can always back out of.)

She is always doing something — a quality I find increasingly annoying as we spend more and more time together.  Though over time I realize that it is not so much this constant need to do something which bothers me, as much as her constant need to try to make me be always doing something.  This nagging at the back of my mind which she vocalized telling me that I am unworthy of rest, that there is always more to do, more to see and not constantly doing or seeing such things equates laziness.  A most abominishal quality.

She reminds me of the quick short black lines she loves in art so — quick, definite, to the point.  Always suggesting movement.  Never resting for a minute’s peace of ‘look where we are, how wonderful, how  glorious, how blessed we are to experience this!’  But constantly wanting to see what is just around the corner of a bendy pass.  (I begin to wonder if this is not a defense technique always wanting to see what might be coming.)  After a while I find it intolerable to walk or do almost anything with her.

If when I think of her I think of quick, sharp, black, lines, when I think of myself I think of drapery, of rich soft velvety antique sofas.  Of meandering circles, or pearls hanging from ivory carved light fixtures.  I think of green fields and white lace dresses under the shade of willow trees having tea parties on bone china with scones and biscuits, soft butter and sweet jam.  I think of a soft buddha, monks in red dress bowing to a  deity 30 times their size.  And I don’t know how to relate to her lines of movement.

This is why I am trying to see the connection through love.  Trying to see how we are both human, both women, both feel.

I try to imagine what it was like for her when he died.  All I’ve ever heard her say specifically was overwhelming.  He left her with my mother at age three and the second baby which she so desperately felt she needed — my aunt, not yet walking.  I try to imagine and try to imagine and yet what repeats in my head is, “I didn’t go back to work until three years later.”  This woman who is constant lines of movement to me was unable to go out in the world doing and seeing things until three years later.  Her passion for life was put to rest alongside grief for my Grandfathers death.  She gave herself over to the wolves, to the children, to the taking care of the remains of a life so hopefully started.  She of quick lines gave over — sacrificed — her womanhood, her interests, her movement to live to stay alive and to survive.  And I wonder, if  perhaps this is not the legacy she has meant to pass on.  Whisper in the wind, “I did not go back to work until three years later, but you, young one, can.”

Elizabeth Blue, lymphoma

Elizabeth and Jane/Grandma, Tucson, during her recurrence of lymphoma, 7/12

elizabeth blue

Jane/Grandma and Elizabeth Blue, Tucson, at home in hospice. 7/12

Beginning to Leave the Hospital by Elizabeth Blue

(One of Elizabeth’s essays when she was almost done with her first (and we thought only) round of chemo, followed by her musings on titles and structure for the book she planned to write about this experience. God I love her mind and and am so grateful to have these writings…)

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, lymphoma

Elizabeth Blue, Spring, 2012

Beginning to Leave the Hospital

March 5, 2012

I feel like I’m only now beginning to walk out of that hospital.
UMC, the day after they diagnosed me.  The day after they told me it was cancer.

I was lying in the hospital bed drugged up on morphine right after surgery (my first surgery) and my biopsy.  I looked at my mom all swollen with makeup running down my face and said to her (smiling) “If it is cancer its going to be ok.”  And she said “Yes.”  And then a few hours later they/the surgeon came to tell me it was indeed cancer.

I feel like only now, approaching treatment six, (the last one please god).  Chemo round one, round two, round three, round four and round five are done.  Whew.  I still feel like I’m in the hospital.

The shock: the utter senselessness and cruelty of being beautiful and twenty-two and having cancer is just starting to wear off and the feeling has begun.  The feeling of having had cancer.  I feel like the shock and senseless and sudden, unprovoked tragedy of it all kept me mentally in the same room it all happened in until now.  Now, six months later, my mind is beginning to catch up with the body that gathered her things from that room, left the hospital, went to school and told her family and teachers she had cancer.  And got on with it.  Took the treatment like a grinding kick in the face and a wet cold punch in the stomach, week after week and sat there quietly and didn’t say anything.  And didn’t yell at god or the world or the doctors for A: letting this shit happen and B: letting the treatment, the cure be so goddamned miserable that it destroyed her feeling and her heart and her youth and made her lose her hair and the oh dear god, fucking pic line.

They called the thing they put in me a Pick Line.  THEY CALLED IT A PICK LINE, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?  They put this tube into my veins and all the way down into my heart and I didn’t want it and I didn’t understand what they were going to do until they already were doing it. They exposed me to way too much radioactivity in the process and sewed it up into my skin like it was no big deal and it hurt, it fucking hurt.

Then there was this big gaping wound and a tube sewn into my body permanently and they forced a long tube into my heart and I didn’t want it and it wasn’t necessary and that was the worst rape I’ve ever experienced.  And I never cried.  I sat there and was good and quiet and cooperative because I trusted that they knew what they were doing and that they could save my life.

And they did.

But me, the real me who talks and has feelings and still can’t comprehend the fact, that cancer was inside of me, that it even could be.  The me that still can’t wrap my head around something so unfair and unpleasant could happen to the blessed child who led a charmed life.  She (that me) is still in the hospital.  Because the shock, the pure and blessed numbing shock of the news that cancer was in me froze her in time.  It froze her so the me who is numb and unfeeling and quiet and detached and removed could take over.  Take the chemo, take the treatment, take the tragedy.  And hold space for the sadness of others.  The me who I generally associate with is just beginning to de-thaw in that hospital room, shake her head and wonder how the fuck did I get here and where do I go now?  I’m hoping, I mean I think, she can come join me now.

(Musings on her future writing…)

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, lymphoma

Elizabeth Blue, with Blue, Spring, 2012

The Stories We Will Tell Our Children
The journey of a 22 year old cancer survivor

By
Elizabeth Blue

Why this title is important:

Dr. Miller told me on our last meeting that all this would just be a story I would tell someday (an unpleasant one)
The realization that I want children came with having chemo and being told I couldn’t.
My children will exist because I had cancer not the opposite (strange)
This is my history
Buildings, ie hospitals and doctor offices are going to be the transitional and pivotal star points for this experience.  THIS IS THE STRUCTURE FOR YOUR STORY ELIZABETH.  IT HAS ALREADY BEEN GIVEN.  THIS IS LUCKY.  BUILD THE STRUCTURE/SECTIONS/CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK AROUND CHEMO ROUNDS AND HOSPITAL VISIT AND DR. VISITS.
Interview Mom, perhaps others as an example of how narratives vary
talk about trauma theory and troubles with perception
there is a lot here.
Now, should it be a biography or just this story?

Other ideas include:

“High Tales and Desert Winds”
“For My Mother”
“Coming Home”
Mama: How having cancer brought me back to my mother  (The journey of a twenty two year old cancer survivor.)

©Elizabeth Blue, 2012

Keep Living

A Reason to Keep Living

This is a piece Elizabeth Blue wrote, from the period when she was going through chemo for the first time. She was being treated for non-hodgkins lymphoma which was diagnosed 2 months earlier.  The doctors had told us she had an 85-90% chance of full recovery at this point.

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Elizabeth Blue, April, 2012  (photo by Jade Beall)

1.20.12

Keep Living

It’s sort of funny this thing when you have cancer.  One thing about it is when people are talking about someone who they know who has died recently, usually part of such a story is telling of how they died or what they died from.  The funny thing is when you have cancer and someone is telling a story about someone they knew who died from cancer, they chose to omit that detail.  And that’s how you can tell.  You don’t really want to ask about it (it’s a normal question, ‘how did they die?’) because you can tell and you don’t want to make the person telling the story uncomfortable.  You don’t want to make them be the one to say cancer kills to your face.

The funny thing is that when you have cancer, if you’ve had it for any length of time you had to come to grips with dying long ago.  You’re sort of over it now (that is if you’ve established that you’re probably not going to die).  You’ve dealt with that possibility and, in a sense, moved on.  You kinda have to move on.  You kinda have to move on from that idea of death if you have any intention or expectation of living.  I think of a friend who has cancer (an uncurable kind she will live and die with, but probably has a long time to live).  She told me that at first when diagnosed she was very depressed.  For about a month all she could do was be sad.  And then a friend said to her: “Tita, you can’t die while you’re still living.”  And now she sees beauty in everything because it’s what makes her so so happy and want to keep living.  I think that’s the thing, you know, you’ve got to find that thing that makes you want to keep living.  For Tita it’s beauty.  

My Godmother recently asked me what my thing was, that thing that I want to live life for.  At my age there are a lot of obvious potentials to want to fulfill.  (Having children, a husband, a career, etc.) but these aren’t palpable things you get to experience right away if you beat cancer.  They’re a bit far off in the future to put that desire in your hands, a desire strong enough to make you want to live as much or more than you’ve ever wanted anything before.  

What came to mind for me was the carnal.  Wanting to live long enough to have that amazing feeling of heartbreakingly beautiful sex with a person after you’ve wanted and been imagining it for months.

That’s enough for a twenty-something person to want to keep living another day, truly beautiful sex.  It doesn’t even have to be actual sex, it could be just the idea of it.  The idea of the hunt or the chase and the exuberant feeling of wanting someone and guessing that they might want you too.  Some days that is quite enough to keep me alive.

Elizabeth Blue ©

Motherhood – by Elizabeth Blue

A short and heart-wrenching piece written by my daughter Elizabeth Blue, while she was in the middle of her first round of chemo treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which ended her life on September 23, 2012. This was written 4 days after her 22nd birthday.

Motherhood

Monday January 16, 2012
7:57 PM

I just burst into tears. I was looking at a friends new baby and wedding pictures and I was getting teary eyed at them. I got up, closed the computer and went to use the bathroom. When I came out I thought about my daughter and the people I would want there during my labor and her birth. I thought about Victoria coaching me through labor and pain and telling me about her experiences and I burst into tears. Truly uncontrollable sobs. I’m still crying. I thought about how I might never have that and I could barely stand it. Something just months ago I thought I would never want, I want. I want so badly, so much, to be a mom. I want so much to meet my daughter Chloe Cricket Benjamin Blue. I imagined her having the same birthday as me or the day before and how it would be the best birthday present god or life or anyone could give. I want to meet her. My daughter: Chloe Cricket Benjamin Blue. I want so much to know her – the thought of not knowing her brings tears to my eyes and I can’t stop crying and sobbing and wailing knowing that it is possible it may never happen. I miss her and I didn’t even meet her yet. I tried to reason the tears away wondering if I’m hormonal or had too much coffee or am hungry. But none of these things were true and even if they were it doesn’t matter. I just want to meet her I just want to know her. I want to be born a mom, anew and born with her into a new life: the clan of motherhood.

Elizabeth Blue ©

Two Moments – by Elizabeth Blue

Two Moments

December 7, 2011
I guess I could try and say a bunch of cliche and profound things about having cancer.  
“I’m lucky to be here.”
“I shouldn’t be here”
“I’m fighting for my life.”

That one really gets me:  I’m fighting for my life.  The thing is, it doesn’t feel like fighting, it feels like an inconvenience.  Yes, I’ve got this huge tumor the size of my fist right near my heart and I’m 21 years old and this shouldn’t be happening at my age, with my overall health, etc. etc.
This shouldn’t be happening.

But the thing is also, I don’t believe in that: This shouldn’t be happening.  I’ve always felt the absurdity of anything occurring because it is so unlikely.  The odds for any incident occurring are miniscule (if you consider how unlikely it is that any of us be born.  The right sperm meets the right egg not to mention the unlikelihood of your parents meeting in the first place, etc.) The world is filled with improbability.  I’ve always seen it that way.  And so it is not entirely shocking to me, the randomness of having cancer at age 21.  It’s not fighting.  I mean, maybe it is but I feel like I just lay there in a barcalounger and take a benadryl-induced nap while they pump me with chemicals that will hopefully make the tumor go away.  (They think it will, they think its working.)

Fighting is active.  What I’m doing feels passive.  I am letting them do things to my body to combat something my body and my soul have manifested that overall I will benefit from (experience wise) but all I have to do is lay there and let it happen to me.  I am not cutting the tumor out of my body with a knife.  I am not inventing new chemicals to destroy cancer cells.  I am not fighting cancer.  I’m letting them fight what my body has created that is not in its best interests in terms of survival.  Fighting just doesn’t seem like the right word.

There are moments of vulnerability where I break down and feel the simple sadness of the diagnosis.  Of the situation.  Like when Victoria, my goddessmother, sent me a package and in it was this ring.  It had a gold clover on it and I realized it was for luck.  I put it on the ring finger of my left hand and squeezed my fingers together as tight as I could because I realized for the first time in my young life I needed luck in a life or death sort of way.  Not a ‘luck to pass my finals’ sort of way, but a ‘luck to survive’ sort of way.  I needed luck to survive.  That was a blow.  That concept struck me and made me sad.

What else:  When I left the cancer center after my second chemo treatment my mom told me a story:  There were two older people sitting next to me in the barcaloungers, getting chemo.  (Well one of them was, the other was there for support).  I always try and be cheerful when I go in to get chemo, even though I know I’ll feel like shit in a couple hours, when it starts I feel fine and everyone takes it so seriously.  As if being serious will make them more likely to survive or something.   I guess they are just scared.  I try and be all smiles and long sexy hair flips of my gorgeous brown wig (the best thick brown real human hair China can export and New York can sell).  I wear sexy yet respectful outfits, comfortable since I’ll be napping.  I do my makeup the way I always do, with liquid black eyeliner, and soft lips.  I try and look pretty for the nurses to prove to them I don’t always look as shitty and swollen to a crazy degree (the way I did when I came in the first time and the tumor was blocking the blood and fluid in my head and neck from leaving and I looked like I gained 50 pounds all in my face).  I try and look pretty for the nurses.  Especially my favorite, Else, who is from the Netherlands and pricks my veins no problem even though they are slippery, and speaks in her soft accented perfect English without hesitation or doubt that she knows what she is doing.  Sometimes I love her, my angel mother.

I try and look pretty for the nurses and cheerful to make their jobs a little easier/better.  I try and smile at the other patients and give them disapproving looks when they complain or smell bad or are rude to the nurses.  I really shouldn’t.  I should learn to be more compassionate.  

When I walk around the cancer center I wear high heels so I can hear my feet clacking on the tile floors so I know I exist.  So I know I don’t shuffle like an old person with soft shoes and a cane/walker.  I keep my head up the way Maya Angelou told me to and I’m not particularly nice to anyone.  By not particularly nice to anyone I mean I’m the way I always am.  Professional, efficient, kind but distanced.  I treat people formally and with smiles when they are helpful and harsh eyebrows when they are not.

Anyway, my mom told me this story:  When I was getting chemo for the second time and I got up to use the bathroom the old woman next to me told my mom “She’s too young, she’s too young to be here.”
My mom, wise woman that she is, responded: “everyone is, everyone is too young to be here.”
But the old woman’s eyes welled up with tears and she said “yes, but she is especially too young.”

When my mom told me that it made me cry because yes, I am too young.  But at least I have my beauty and my youth and a future to realize to help me make it through.  I don’t know if it would be better to be old.
That was the other moment.

© Elizabeth Blue, 2013