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

Leaving Her Body…

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Elizabeth Blue ~ April, 2012 by Jade Beall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One year ago today, the email below I sent to our close friends and family. Now I share it here, with those of you who have joined me on this transformative, healing journey.

As I prepared for this first anniversary of my daughter Elizabeth’s death, I anticipated it would be challenging. I’ve been learning how to care for myself, my needs, better and better throughout this time, so I asked close family and friends to gather, a very small group who knew and love Elizabeth (and me!) dearly, to come and spend time together.  We’ve spent the last couple of days telling stories, looking at photos, doing art projects with Elizabeth’s image, eating, laughing, resting, loving Elizabeth and each other…

We plan to begin the process of releasing her ashes today, spreading some in one of her favorite places in Tucson, with plans to spread more in Berkeley and Hawaii later, two of her other favorite places. I honor her and remember her every day, and oddly, today doesn’t feel as momentous or intense as I expected – I’m wondering now if the emotion will come when everyone leaves and I’m alone again…in this first year, even the hardest days have been fine, as I’ve watched myself experiencing emotion like never before, and always able to be aware that it will pass, that all I need to do is be present and keep trusting my heart. Thank you all for being here with me in this first year. Your presence from near and far, old friends and new, strangers and family, has meant so much. I am so grateful for each of you. Thank you.

Leaving Her Body

September 23, 2012

Dear Ones,

Elizabeth left her body this morning around 4:30 am.  She was peaceful, she knew I was right with her, holding her hand, talking to her and loving her. Something woke me at 4am, and I went to check on her. As I heard her breathing, I knew she was very close, and sat down to be with her.  I was thinking it could be a few hours still, so was about to lay down on the couch, when I heard her take one breath, and then realized it was her last one.  Her heart continued for a while…

Since yesterday morning her breathing had changed, and Greg (her dad) and I had spent the whole day sitting close, talking to her, telling her how much we love her, and how many people love her and have been affected by her.  She was mostly in another world, but every few hours would open her eyes, and was still so clear, with the same love and grace in her gaze.

I am so grateful for the gentle waves of these passages, that each new wave has washed over, giving me time to adjust, to accept, to move into the next stage gracefully, diving in deep and emerging with an ever more cracked open heart, and knowing there’s still more and still more….

As usual, we are doing something a bit unusual – we are keeping Elizabeth’s body at home for a few days, having cleaned, anointed and prepared her body ourselves.  We will have a visiting time here, for anyone who is in Tucson, if you want to say goodbye to her body, and connect with me and family.  She will be cremated in a couple of days.

We are also planning a large, public memorial service in 2-3 weeks.  We will honor and celebrate her life, with music, stories, photos and her poetry.  Do not feel you need to come and see her body,  it is simply a possibility if you want to say goodbye in this way.

More to come…

love and blessings,
Lucia

This photo is of her last night, still beautiful and at peace.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Elizabeth Blue her last night, 9/22/12

Elizabeth Blue,  Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Elizabeth Blue, April, 2012 by Jade Beall

Slowing Down – emails from the depths, September, 2012

Slowing Way Down

Some of the last emails I sent, about my older daughter Elizabeth Blue’s journey towards the ultimate release, from the two weeks before her transition last year. 

September 14, 2012

Dear Ones,
things here are slowing waaay down.  No words now, sometimes nodding or shaking her head in response to a question, sometimes that seems too much effort.

Elizabeth still has no pain, is comfortable and has no fear that I feel…there are lots of folks assisting her, both here and in the other realms too.  She’s not eating still, and only taking small sips of water.  The hospice nurse and our doctor/friend Ann Marie assure us that all is progressing as expected and in the best possible way as far as being peaceful and comfortable.  Even throughout the day there are changes, as tonight she had a hard time taking one of the medicines through a straw, so we skipped that one…it’s probably only days left now, but it’s still hard to say.  She’s breathing fine, a bit different now, and very inward, very much connected with the other worlds now.

Today 10 of Elizabeth’s friends came to say goodbye, led by Samantha, her closest friend, and it was so beautiful.  Full of tears, laughter, stories, reminiscences – they each took a turn holding her hand, kneeling by her bedside and talking to her, kissing her, loving her and telling her goodbye. It was exquisite.  They were all so loving, so respectful and sweet with us.  Amazing.

Feeling how precious we each are, remembering to tell those you love how you feel, letting the small things go, knowing that each day is precious, each smile, each kiss… for us all, not just Elizabeth.

sending love to you all ~ if you’re receiving this email know that I love you.
love,
Lucia

Samantha Salazar, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Elizabeth’s best friend Samantha and their circle of friends came to say goodbye, 9/14/2012

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Lucia and Elizabeth snuggle, 9/12/12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 15, 2012

…a rare and REALLY hard day, watching Elizabeth visibly recede, and I was compelled, like I was a zombie, to watch some of E’s video diaries, of her when she was healthy, and then right when she was finishing chemo, and so hopeful and herself… it was beyond heartbreaking, and I’ve been avoiding going back and revisiting other times, but today i got pulled in.  The rest of the day I can barely be present with her. Can’t sit still, am angry, rageful, so sad…

September 19, 2012

Dear Ones,
Elizabeth hasn’t been eating for 2 weeks now, except for these few times: it was lovely that she ate what seemed to be her last meal from Zelie, some fruit and toast for breakfast.  Then 4 days later when Greg arrived, with her favorite dessert, carrot cake, she ate a few bites, and then our dear friend Tita brought by some food, and Greg prepared and fed Elizabeth a whole meal of beans, rice, avocado, quesadilla – all her favorite foods, and it was so beautiful, her being able to receive that from her dad, who has such a deep connection to food and sharing his love for people through food…Then I was writing to him about how lovely that was, and realizing that I couldn’t remember the last food I’d fed her, and felt really sad.  A few hours later I offered her food again, (now days since she’d said yes to eating) and she said yes, as though she knew what I’d been thinking.  I fed her a perfect peach, and she gave me the gift of being able to feed her one more time…

She’s had almost no water for that long too (just enough to take pills and a few more sips), though the last few days it’s been hard for her to swallow, so she gets no pills, only 2 medications to give now, both liquid.  She has occasional ice chips, but often says no to that too.

She started having some pain a couple of days ago, so has had liquid morphine 3 times, but no pain yesterday or today.  She still has tremors/shakiness so gets liquid lorazepam a couple of times a day for that.  She’s sleeping much of each day, partly from the medication, and partly from having so little energy. She’s wanting to be alone more, doesn’t want any visitors and some days doesn’t want me around, which is different.  So it really feels like she’s disconnecting from this world…

Given all this, it’s quite remarkable that when there are no medications in her, she’s still quite clear, with a small smile to greet me in the morning, and this morning gave a thumbs up to my questions of how she slept and how she was feeling…She still rubs her lips together when i put lip balm on, like she always has, just very slowly now.  And she doesn’t want me to massage or put lotion on her now – it seems like too much stimulation, and bringing her back into the awareness of the body.

She’s not been talking for quite a while, but can still sometimes nod or shake her head, though even that takes effort now, using a lot of energy.   She is still comfortable and seems very peaceful.

So there’s no way to say how much longer she might be here, though without any water it seems it can’t be much more.  She is amazingly strong, and so courageous and loving.  She did say yes a few days ago when I asked if she feels ready to leave, and if she feels that she’s completed everything she came here to do.  That hadn’t been true a few weeks ago, so I was grateful to hear that.

Sending much love to all of you, and connecting at the heart…
love,
Lucia

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Elizabeth today (9/19/12), with her newest blue bracelet and a silky blanket under her head, both from Aunt Tashe, with her bunny by her side. She’s wearing a favorite ring from my Aunt Amy. Surrounded and enveloped in so much love…

Some Days with Elizabeth Blue…

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.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, lymphoma,

Elizabeth Blue, June, 2012

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

Dear Ones,
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,
Lucia

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Elizabeth liked ice packs on her head – here she was being funny in this subtle way of hers…

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, Zelie Duvauchelle, hospice

Zelie and Elizabeth, September 4, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2012

Dear Ones,

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.

much love,
Lucia

Hospice – last week of August, 2012

Slipping Closer to the Edge…

These writings are from about a month before my daughter Elizabeth Blue died.  She was at home and needing 24 hour care, having had a stroke following unsuccessful surgery and chemo to remove the cancer that had spread to her brain. She was in a peaceful state of grace that is hard to capture in words and images.

August 24, 2012: a group email

dear ones,

again, I’m not sure how long it’s been since writing, but when I start to receive texts and emails asking what is going on, I can feel it’s time to share more outside of this small and yet expansive, world I’m living in.

Day to day, it’s hard to see change, much like when you have a newborn baby, and can’t see how quickly she is changing because you’re so immersed. But when I look at photos of Elizabeth now, I can see that her head is more swollen, and I know she now has a bump on the back of her neck that is very likely another tumor, or one that has spread, so there is evidence that the cancer is growing.   She has also had several episodes of muscle tremors, with her heart racing, which is uncomfortable for her, but responds to muscle-relaxants. It is likely a sign of neurological symptoms from the tumor, and may indicate other symptoms to come.

Some days she seems even less able to track things in a linear way, but this seems so natural now it’s hard to notice the change.  Today also for the first time she said her mind was busy when I asked (rather than quiet), using her hands to show me “chatty”.   She often uses her hands to communicate, though she is able to speak. She has said she is “doing work”, working through some things internally on this journey that need to be completed.  She is aware of the support she has, from all of us, in addition to the unseen forces.

There have been many visitors, (including the nurse and nurse’s aide 2 times a week), which she seems to enjoy though gets tired quickly. She says yes to everyone who has asked to visit, though I limit the schedule so she (and I) aren’t too tired. Often I am happiest when I have time alone to just sit with Elizabeth, like the other morning when I played Coleman Barks’ album, his readings of Rumi poetry, and we listened together, which was a beautiful way to start our day.  The physical tasks of feeding, changing, turning her, giving medicines at the right time, etc, often take up most of the time in the day, but I try to find times still when we can simply sit and be…

We have fewer people here, which is easier in some ways, harder in others.  Tashe and Terri (my sister and sister-in-law) were here which was immensely helpful. My mom is leaving this weekend, and it’s been wonderful to have her. She’s been patient and generous with me, even when I’m not at my best, not as patient and loving as I’d like to be.  Julianna (my younger daughter, 19 years old) heads back to NYU on Tuesday, and I’m going to miss her terribly.  She’s been home all summer, the longest time we’ve had together in many years and I’ve enjoyed every day with her.  During this difficult time she’s been just amazing – so loving, supportive, thoughtful, helpful, generous and just beautiful to be with. She is ready to go back to school, and though I can’t imagine how I could function in that world now, I can see that it will be a good place for her right now.

So next week it will be just Zelie (my partner), Elizabeth and me here, and we’ll see how that goes. Zelie is wonderful – patient and loving, and really sweet to see the two of them together. Greg (Elizabeth’s father) continues to come every week from Friday to Sunday, and brings Elizabeth treats from Berkeley and good company as he sits with her for hours each day, and he just cooked us all a wonderful dinner.  We may call on friends and hospice volunteers more, taking up offers of meals and perhaps just to come and sit with Elizabeth so we can do errands or have some time for emails and maybe even some breaks…

It doesn’t feel like Elizabeth’s ready to leave us yet, and yet we are aware it could happen at any time.  Most days it simply feels like I’m caring for her while she’s very ill, disabled, but really hard to see/believe that she’s dying.  The hardest day for me so far was going to Elizabeth’s apartment for the first time without her, and seeing all her belongings: her artwork, clothes, lists of things to do, all the outward ordinary objects that connect me to her in her previous self, all the ways we spent time together, the gifts I bought her, the stories of getting these shoes in Seattle, or that friend who made her that drawing, etc…it was just heartbreaking. Then a couple of days later I went back, and already it had shifted, and was much easier…so time continues to help, and continuing to be present to whatever degree possible.

I’ve been in the process of writing this in bits for days, as that’s how life is right now, and this feels broken up and unsatisfying, as some of the days do.  There’s an unsettled quality right now, and also an immense amount of love and gratitude in each day. Grateful for all that has been and all that is.

love and gratitude to you all,

Lucia

We managed to take Elizabeth outside in a reclining wheelchair to the backyard last week, which she’d really wanted to do:

Elizabeth Blue. hospice,

Elizabeth Blue on her expedition outside, 8/2012

Elizabeth Blue, hospice, wheelchair,

Elizabeth with Julianna and Greg, 8/2012

Elizabeth Blue, hospice, reclining wheelchair,

Elizabeth with Grandma, 8/2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2012 – from Lucia’s Journal

Tonight I had the thought to tell Elizabeth that I would willingly trade places with her, sacrifice my life for hers, and then I realized how arrogant that was, the idea that my life was better then hers, my situation, my potential future, better than hers.  I saw in that instant that her life and situation, however long, has nothing wrong with it, nothing that she needs to “trade” for.  I shared this all with her, and she agreed, nodding.  I finished by saying that I wanted her to know that if I could, and she wanted, I would willingly give my life for hers.

Assumptions About Life and Death

Assumptions:  things that are accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof

There are many things we live with as givens, as assumptions that we don’t even know we believe.  Even when we do our best to live with great awareness and consciousness, they still creep in, so universally accepted in our world, that we don’t see the possibility that they could not be true.

Elizabeth Blue, assumptions, grand canyon,

Elizabeth Blue – at the Grand Canyon, January, 2012

As I was sitting with my older daughter Elizabeth last year while she was moving towards her death, I had time to reflect on many assumptions I’d made about her and her life: That she’d live a long and fulfilling life. That wherever we both lived, we’d continue to talk, communicate, and see each other. That no matter our differences and hurt feelings, we’d continue to dive deep into our inner worlds and find places in common and communicate about what we wished for, apologize for any ways we’d hurt each other, and let each other know how much we loved and appreciated each other.

In some ways the assumption about her, or any of us living a long life was foolish, having grown up close to my grandparents, who’d watched both their sons die young, my uncle and my father at ages 21 and 30; I had watched several friends die of cancer who had young children they’d planned on raising; I’d worked with people dying of cancer, including children and young adults, years before Elizabeth had been diagnosed with cancer…so I knew this was a possibility in life.  However, I believed as so many do: not to me, not to my family, not possible, please.

August 19, 2012 from Lucia Maya’s journal – Assumptions

The things i didn’t even realize i was counting on. Assuming without knowing: that Elizabeth would grow up and outlive me. That she’d have a career, whether as an English professor, as she talked about, or a body piercer, another idea that seemed more a youthful way to make some extra money, I didn’t know. Perhaps owning a vintage clothing store, or as a successful writer…

I assumed and hoped: that she would have long term relationship(s) with someone that she would love and find happiness with, that I might like, hopefully marry one of them someday, a wonderful man/woman who loves and adores her, and makes her happy, inspires her creativity, and that they would have children together. That I would have grandchildren to come visit, wherever she lived.

That we would have lots of time to talk and get along, to have intimate conversations and have times where she couldn’t stand me again. Where she desperately needed me, and times when she was so in love and busy she couldn’t answer my calls or texts.

Times where I’d worry if she was happy, had anxiety, was fulfilled, was never going to fall in love; have high enough self-esteem; recover from whatever emotional damage I’ve inflicted, or ways life traumas have wounded her…

It is this loss of the innocence, the loss of all these beliefs and assumptions and my stories of the imagined future that cause me the greatest grief. It is when I go back in my mind to see a “movie” of Elizabeth as she was, and that picture of her in the past holds all these assumptions and beliefs of what was still to come, and it is heartbreaking. All the stories that will never come true. The conversations never had, the joy and the anger and the fear and the wedding(s) and the grandchildren and the growing old, and the love, always the love…

So I take and am grateful for what I still have – the love, the conversations I can still have with her now in spirit, when I listen closely I hear her. I know she is always with me, and the present and the future will look different than what I assumed, and I do the best I can to accept and even love this life, as it is.

Moving Into Acceptance and Enlightenment

Moving Into Acceptance and Enlightenment

Early August, 2012: Emails and other writings from Lucia Maya

These are emails I wrote from the second week after my 22 year old daughter, Elizabeth Blue, came home from the hospital under hospice care last summer.  She arrived at my house and we quickly settled into a routine of caring for her physically in this new state. Emotionally adjusting to this unexpected new paradigm, appearing to be the end of her life, was a bit more of a challenge. In a very short time,  Elizabeth had moved into the most beautiful state of love, acceptance, peace and grace – true enlightenment, that I have ever witnessed.  This guided the rest of us and we followed her lead…

August 5, 2012: a group email
Hi all,
I’ve not been writing because there’s not much to say – it’s very quiet here. But I can understand you all might want a window in to what the days are like…

Elizabeth is sleeping much of the time, on a bed set up in the living room, with flowers all around, a lovely altar that she can see at the foot of the bed, essential oils diffusing much of the time.  She has been massaged several times a day by my sister Tashe, who left yesterday, and is hugely missed by me and the rest of the family!  Elizabeth doesn’t seem to notice when people come or go, and has no sense of time it appears… I am doing some massage as well, keeping her limbs moving and loving her with touch. Elizabeth is not able to use much of her body, mainly just her right hand, and she can speak and smile, though still mostly a whisper, from having had the breathing tube in so long, but last night she did start to speak a bit louder and it was lovely to hear her voice! When I told her that, she said, “I bet.” Hard to tell when she’s being funny, but it seems she doesn’t get jokes now, or perhaps I’m not getting hers – yesterday i kissed her and said “i want to bite you”, meaning she was so yummy i wanted to eat her up, and she replied, with no expression, “please don’t”.   When I asked her later if she preferred being shifted to her back or her other side, she asked, “what other side?”  It seems she has little sense of the body at this point.  She’s said no every time we’ve asked her if she is having any pain, but this morning said yes, and when i asked her where, and named several possibilities, she couldn’t say where. I gave her some pain meds and she’s been sleeping mostly since then.

She eats usually one small meal each day, declining most food that’s offered throughout the day, and drinking some.   Usually she has some fruit,  and something like a tamale, last night she said yes to a veggie burger with guacamole, but then only ate a couple of bites. It seems she’s eating less each day, but then she surprises us and eats a lot one day.   She’s taking almost no medication, other than continuing on the anti-seizure med, now an antibiotic because she got a UTI, and something to help her sleep at night, though she may not need that still now that she’s off the steroids which were keeping her awake.

Her friend Ava came down from Seattle for a visit this week, and today her oldest friend Brieana is here from California, and she has seemed to enjoy them, mostly listening but talking with them some too.  My dad and my step mother, Alexandra, my brother David, have all been here this week too, and her dad Greg is here again for a long weekend, and plans to continue that schedule for now.  My mom is staying and it’s really wonderful to have her presence and her help. Zelie (my partner who’d been away since Elizabeth’s recurrence of lymphoma, mid-June) came home on Wednesday and it’s been wonderful to have her home.  Victoria (my close friend and Elizabeth’s godmother) arrives tomorrow for most of the week, and that will be wonderful I’m sure too.

Elizabeth has said a couple of times this week that her mind is quiet, and yesterday when I asked what is going on inside, she said “nothing, and a lot”.  She had one night with a lot of anxiety, and she and I talked more about death, fear of the unknown, her fear of disappointing people (especially her grandmother, who she’s been quite close to), and we’ve each been making it as clear as we can how much we love her and will miss her, and that we will be ok when she goes, that we want her to leave whenever she’s ready, and we will be fine with her timing, and that she’s not disappointing us, that we are incredibly proud of her and everything about her.  Then Zelie, Tashe and I all did Reiki on her for quite a while, and she’s seemed more at peace since then.

It’s a very strange and interesting time, as I am deeply sad, and in acceptance, and possibly some denial too, as it feels like the Elizabeth I’ve always known is already gone, and I love this one in front of me as well, but I’m grieving and loving her at the same time…and numb some of the time too, as I seem to run out of emotion after some time.

Thank you all for your continued prayers, love and support.
love,
Lucia

August 8, 2012
Some friends who do energy healing and can “see” into the body as well as angels and guides came to do some work on Elizabeth.  This was my reply about how she was doing after the visit:
She is good, very quiet, more inward, wanting time alone, which is rare for her.  She seems more at peace, and it feels like what transpired yesterday, first felt like a move towards “recovery”, and now feels more like a move towards some resolution, clearing, and bringing all of us gathered into more peace and center…we’ll see what each day brings.
love,  Lucia

Our friend’s experience of working with Elizabeth:
“the energy was incredible! I grounded while there but it was a surprise to see Elizabeth’s guardian angel actually materialize. At that exact time, she smiled really big and seemed to relax…I saw you and Elizabeth connect on a level not often seen, it was so deep.
Elizabeth felt at peace as soon as the guardian angel descended and spread her wings. That’s about the same time M. told her she could change her  mind if she wanted. I think her guardian angel was telling her the same, but there seemed to be a profound energy  change in the room.”
August 9, 2012: to a friend:
Elizabeth’s cat, Blue, can come in and visit her from the guest house where he’s living now with my mom, who loves him.  Interestingly (and very surprisingly), Elizabeth’s not very interested in him and none of the animals are showing interest in her, which is really different than in the past. She’s always been an animal person, more connected with them than with most humans, and they always love her…so clearly there’s been a big shift (in her energy and her identity), partly I think they don’t recognize her, even her own beloved Blue.
August 12, 2012: about a home funeral
We had learned about the possibility of a home funeral: being able to take care of Elizabeth’s body at home, with the guidance and support of a wonderful woman in Tucson, Kristine Bentz of Sweetgrass Ceremonies. She came to listen and share information with our whole family who gathered in circle with her.  It was incredibly helpful to have her support during this time and later. This was Kristine’s email after the meeting:
“I left awash in goosebumps today. Despite the heat. Thank you for being so courageous and sitting in a circle to open the conversation we shared. I do not pretend to know what you feel in your journey with Elizabeth. I can only offer this: I felt love overflowing your home and her being. She is surrounded in beauty. She is magnificent. Your caregiving circle is so strong…I am willing to walk beside you on this continuum, support you and be a resource whenever the need arises.”

August 10, 2012: from Lucia’s journal
We are being given permission to be intimate with Elizabeth and with one another in a way that’s not ordinarily possible.

Elizabeth In Enlightenment – she is being completely present, no thought or cares of the past or the future. No ego, no artifice, no irritation or anger, only calm presence, with loving and compassionate smiles.

August 12, 2012: a group email
Dear Ones,

the days flow seamlessly into one another, and time no longer seems to exist in this world we are inhabiting. I have no idea when I last wrote, or what was said, so I’ll try to give a sense of what is true now.
Elizabeth continues to be in a beautiful state, gracing us with her sweet presence.  She speaks little still, and makes her needs known, mainly by all of us guessing and intuiting, then asking her for confirmation.  She expresses no desires, no complaints, no irritation or boredom, though she will have an opinion if we offer her choices of what to eat, or which shirt to wear, etc.  She seems content, and smiles are her main expression.  She is loving and patient with us all, accepting of our desire to please her. Gives us long thumbs-up when we’ve put her in a new position and ask if she’s comfortable, with a smile:
Elizabeth Blue, hospice, enlightenment,

Elizabeth giving us a thumbs-up

These last few days we’ve had Greg, her dad, here, and Victoria, her godmother, and there’s been a really sweet bedtime ritual of hands-on pouring love into her, with all of us gathered.  Zelie (my partner) has sung her a lullaby and she has fallen asleep this way some nights.  It feels like such a gift she is offering us all, this time together, and with her.  Here we are finishing up (missing Julianna (her sister, my younger daughter), who’s been a part of all of this too):
Elizabeth Blue, hospice,

Lovely family bedtime ritual

Elizabeth’s appetite has increased, so she’s eating well, several small (sometimes large) meals a day, (I’m sure helped by the wonderful food provided by Victoria, and last night Greg made Elizabeth’s favorite of bruschetta!), drinking plenty of water, tea and juice, and still appears to be losing weight.  We’ve all been eating dinner together sitting with her, as she says yes when we ask if she wants that now.  She has been on minimal medication, a couple days this week she had some pain, but mainly in her hip, which has gotten tweaked from positioning perhaps, though we’re being careful as can be as we turn her and try to find the most comfortable positions.  Just ibuprofen and tylenol is all she’s needed, and several of us are doing energy work on her as well. This just changed today, as she’s been having pain in her neck (where we believe the cancer had spread), a wound on her leg that’s slow to heal, and her hip, so she’s needed more pain meds today than in the last week combined.  Every day is different, and we all try to stay in the flow, in the moment.
Some of us sense that while Elizabeth is still here, she is also connecting with other worlds, other realities, weaving a web of love that will help to carry her into this transition and beyond, that will help us stay connected with her in spirit once she leaves her body.  Here is a beautiful image, with a lovely golden heart on her brow, that was visible in all the photos, though not to my eyes. She has rose petals on her arm, and a beautiful crystal on her heart.  She’s been holding that crystal most of the time since it was gifted to her:
Elizabeth Blue, acceptance, hospice, enlightenment

Elizabeth Blue with rose petals and a golden heart

She is very sensitive (as always, but intensified) to those around her, the moods, energies, etc.  This morning I’ve had the luxury of sitting alone with her, and put on Constance Demby’s Sacred Space music (Elizabeth most often says yes to music – Ashanna’s crystal bowls, Beyonce, Mozart, mostly soft relaxing music, though sometimes rap) and went into heart meditation, and she joined in and fell deep asleep, even now the doorbell just rang and didn’t disturb her…She is mostly accepting of whoever and whatever is being presented, and seems to adapt her process accordingly.
I’d been giving her some homeopathic remedies that had been recommended, and she took them willingly, but yesterday I had the sense that she really didn’t want or need to be taking them, and when I asked her, she said no, she didn’t want to take them.  I sensed, and asked, “you want to keep it simple?” and she nodded.  That feels like the main message I’m getting – keep it simple, tuning in, being present with her when we’re with her, accepting what she has to offer, to the best of our abilities…
Yesterday was the deepest peace I’ve felt in a while, even on my walk with our dog Tilly in the neighborhood, which is when my sadness usually emerges – seeing the college students moving back in, preparing to start the semester, and listening to my internal story of how Elizabeth won’t be among them.  But yesterday there was an ability to stay present with the peace I feel when I’m with her, in each moment, and carry that with me out into the outside world.  I am grateful for that, and for each minute of each day that I am able to spend here with her.
sending much love and the hope that you can all feel Elizabeth’s love and presence from here,
Lucia