I was interviewed for a story on home funerals in Upworthy by Evan Porter, and he wrote a beautiful piece. Very grateful to be sharing it here:
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.
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.
I love you
The photos I intended did not make it the first time, so I’m doing this again!
I’m not inspired to write much today, but want to share a beautiful day of remembering, celebrating and loving Elizabeth. My mom, sister, dear friend Victoria (Elizabeth’s godmother) and I gathered with food and drink and created altars and played on the beach.
Here is some of what the day held…
One of Elizabeth’s closest high school friends was Julia. Elizabeth didn’t have many friends, by her own choice mainly, as she had to really like and trust someone to be open to being friends with her/him. She was very selective. Julia was one of her few friends in high school, and they stayed in touch for a while after, but then they drifted apart…She had moved away and was out of touch during the time Elizabeth was being treated for cancer, and by the time she came back to Tucson, Elizabeth had died. As might be expected, it was quite a shock, as she hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye, or even reconnect.
Since Elizabeth’s death, Julia (along with several other of Elizabeth’s really close friends) has stayed in touch with me, especially checking in around the more difficult days of birthdays and anniversaries and sharing photos and stories of the altars and rituals they’ve created for her. In honor of September 23, the 3rd anniversary of Elizabeth’s death this week, Julia shared the lyrics and recording of the song she wrote for Elizabeth. She has a gorgeous voice and is a gifted singer/songwriter.
Listen and enjoy, and you might want some tissues close by…
-Elizabeth Blue lyrics-
I’ve been feeling exceedingly sad today, and the last couple of days, and I had a few ideas of what might be contributing, including one of my dearest, most beloved friends about to have surgery for cancer for the third time. It’s also coming up on the anniversary of my father’s death, which continues to bring grief to the surface, even after 48 years.
Then I remembered that it was three years ago yesterday that Elizabeth was in the ICU, and had her second, emergency brain surgery. The day before that was her initial one, which we learned was largely unsuccessfully at removing the large tumor that had not responded to chemo. Three years ago today was the day she had a stroke, and could no longer move her legs or her left arm.
And now, it’s making more sense…why I’m feeling like once again, it’s the end of the world as I know it. (Which always reminds me of this great song, which I start hearing whenever I think that phrase: https://youtu.be/Z0GFRcFm-aY)
It’s amazing how the unconscious and the body remember these anniversaries, even when the mind doesn’t.
Starting in January of this year, these months have been both amazingly wonderful, and extremely challenging, which are both reasons why I haven’t been writing much here. Two close family members have had worrisome diagnoses and unresolved health issues. A friend’s husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. By the time it was diagnosed, it had already spread throughout his body, and he died within weeks. Another friend’s niece, about Elizabeth’s age, had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia in the fall. I watched intently, from a distance, as she progressed through brutal treatment, to an amazing remission, only to be followed immediately by her heart failing from the chemo. She died about three months ago, at the age of 18.
As I mentioned, I’ve also been watching from afar as one of my best friends is dealing with cancer, doing amazingly well through over 18 months of chemo, radiation, surgeries…showing resilience and strength that is so like him, and with his wisdom, compassion and loving presence completely intact.
Each of these experiences has impacted me deeply, bringing emotions and memories to the surface that I sometimes have the luxury of allowing to remain below. Not forgotten, but not front and center either. I no longer can distance myself. I no longer have illusions that everyone will be fine; that people don’t die because they are young, or seemed healthy just last week. Of course I knew this before, intellectually, and somewhat internally as well, since my father had died when he was 30, my uncle at age 21. But I was very young then, and losing one’s child to cancer is like nothing else, not even the loss of a parent.
Almost 3 years…
Almost 3 years since Elizabeth died and I don’t cry every day. I think of her more often as she is now, appreciating her presence in my life. I spend less time now thinking of her as she was in her last couple of years of life, at age 21 and 22, less time longing for another phone call or meeting for a latte and a scone… I have more random memories of both her and J, from all different ages, some joyful, some regretful, some proud, some guilty – more what feel like “regular” mother memories.
A week ago though, a friend had gifted me with a trip to a spa. As I was relaxing in the soaking pool, a mother about my age entered with her daughter, who looked to be in her early twenties. Their easy communication and manner reminded me a great deal of me and Elizabeth, and it took all I had to keep from sobbing right there, the loss so fresh and great. It also reminded me that it is in those quiet, reflective times that the emotions have more space to come to the surface. Much of my life is occupied by working with clients, listening to stories about their lives, reading about other’s lives on Facebook, blogs and books, and on and on.
It’s easy to fill up all the minutes of the day, and why I treasure my times of reflection and meditation. When alone in the mornings on Maui, I play Pandora on shuffle while I make my breakfast smoothie, present with my thoughts, with the other worlds and connection and messages that come through the music. It gives me a few minutes of this time for reflection and connection. When here on Molokai, I spend time in the ocean, watching the clouds and feeling Elizabeth, feeling her presence in nature, talking to her and feeling her response. It’s not enough, but I’m so grateful for these precious moments.