Home Funeral – Upworthy shares our story

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:

https://www.upworthy.com/how-a-nontraditional-funeral-helped-this-mom-process-her-daughters-tragic-death?c=hpstream

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

Making offerings…9/23/12

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

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

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral,

Her toes…

4 years of grief and peace

As this 4 year anniversary of my daughter Elizabeth’s death was approaching, I could feel the shimmering of grief in and around everything. I’ve been getting better and better at learning how to take care of myself, and I realized a few days ago that doing a ritual for Elizabeth with flowers and ashes on Haleakala would bring me some peace.

The past couple of years I’ve been with my mom and sister and good friend (Elizabeth’s godmother), and it was hard to be far away from each of them and my partner. Talking and texting with them helped, as did the many messages I received from family and friends  throughout the day – I love knowing that others are thinking of Elizabeth, missing her, remembering her, honoring her…

I started the day moving slowly, putting on clothes I think Elizabeth would have liked (a dress! she always wanted me to wear dresses…), earrings of hers made of butterfly wings, a pearl necklace she made for me…And then bought and ate food I thought she’d have liked, enjoying these embodied pleasures for and with her.

I had envisioned driving up the nearby mountain, Haleakala, as I know she loved being on Mt Lemmon in Tucson, and this feels very similar. One of the things Elizabeth had really wanted after she was diagnosed with cancer was to come back to spend time in Hawaii, which she didn’t get to do. Her ashes hadn’t been placed anywhere here yet, so today felt like the right time.

As I opened the basket on the altar that holds her ashes, and scooped some into a blue jar, I felt something hard and metallic. I reached in and found a dime!  I remember placing a few things with her to be cremated, like flowers, her tattered baby blanket and bunny, but don’t remember any of us putting money in with her…Perhaps someone who was there will remind me, or perhaps it was John, our dear friend who died of cancer a few months ago. I seem to hear him laughing now…

I waited until close to sunset and began my drive up the mountain, quickly enveloped in fog that became clouds. I love driving into the mist and seeing the world transform into another realm…I could feel her with me, listening and watching as she showed me how she can be with each of the people she loves, all at the same time. She showed me again that she helps people as they’re making their transition, especially when they’re young and when they are in shock and unprepared, that she acts as a guide of sorts. Still with her same kindness and also lack of patience or bullshit. Being very real and direct about where they are and what is happening.

I drove without knowing where I would stop to place her ashes and the beautiful lei made of tuberose and small pink roses, one of her favorite flowers. I asked her for guidance and also a sign that she was with me. Immediately I saw a gorgeous pheasant, and ended up seeing a total of four of these gorgeous birds on the mountain.

After driving only a half hour,  I was above the clouds and the light was incredible as the sun was close to setting. I was led to a place to pull over and found an easy path through the grass and then a beautiful rock. I placed the lei around the rock and spread some of her ashes in a circle around and on top of the rock. I spent a while meditating and taking photographs, feeling grateful for the peace I felt, the extraordinary beauty around me . I kept thinking I needed to leave, but realizing I had no where to go.  Being present, appreciating this peace and beauty was where I needed to be.

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dime from the ashes

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hiding pheasant

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Elizabeth’s 26th Birthday

Today, January 12, is Elizabeth’s birthday. She would be 26 today, if she were alive. Funny how our aging ends, and yet those who are left behind keep track, as if age and years were real. Yesterday I cried, all day. Relieved actually, as it felt like months of tears being released.

My mind wondered why this birthday feels especially potent, especially heart breaking…what is it about 26? Today I realized – I was 26 when Elizabeth was born, 26 years ago. She doesn’t have this opportunity, the huge blessing of having children, and I am missing out on any grandchildren I might have had.  When I was 26, I had been waiting years – my whole life it felt like, to have her, my first daughter. I’d always envisioned two daughters and couldn’t wait to get started. Though my vision has served well in seeing much of my future, it didn’t allow this to be seen. I hadn’t been shown this profoundly different reality, being in relationship with one in body and one in spirit.

Today, while talking about Elizabeth with my friend, her godmother Victoria, music started playing in my office. I walked in and the computer had woken up and started playing songs on iTunes, which I didn’t even have open. This has never happened before, and at first I was confused and ignored it, thinking somehow the music I’d been playing on my phone had transferred to the computer… but then realized that’s not possible. When I walked in to see what was playing, it was “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt n Pepa, that I’d taken from E’s most-played songs in her iTunes when putting together a playlist for the memorial service.  One of her favorites, and I had to dance…

Elizabeth has often sent me messages through music, and the “random” playlist today has been amazing:

  • “Let’s Talk About Sex” – Salt n Pepa, a favorite of hers
  • “Earth Kisses Sky” from the album Sky Kisses Earth (Prem Joshua) – the title says it all, yes?
  • “Son of a Preacher Man” – one of my favorite songs
  •  whale songs – E loved animals deeply, and especially whales
  • “Flesh and Blood” by Johnny Cash, who she loved
  • “Let the Wind Carry Me” by Joni Mitchell
  • Brugh Joy recording from a conference I attended. He was a masterful teacher I was blessed to study with for many years, and Elizabeth had hoped to attend one of his conferences, but he died before she was old enough. This captured him talking about being a screen, as a teacher, knowing when others are projecting onto you, as a way for something deep to arise to consciousness. And then how important it is to notice “what wants to happen rather than what we think should be happening”…
  • “The End” by Green Day – must be from E’s computer also, and fitting as I am finishing this post!

Fascinating to me, and feels like she’s clearly here with me as I’m writing today.

Yesterday I was trying to come up with something I could do today to honor Elizabeth, a gift for her, and after a few vague ideas realized I should ask her. While in meditation I felt her touch – I was told by a medium that she touches me on my hair, and I very occasionally will feel this touch and know it’s her. I then saw very clearly selecting and sharing a few of my favorite poems of hers. I know this is something that would make her happy, and though they’re ones that are already on this site, they are buried on a page with many others. So, if you will bear with me, I’m creating a few posts, each featuring one of Elizabeth Blue’s poems.

 

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)

 

3rd Anniversary – in Photos (2nd try!)

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…

Altar, Elizabeth Blue, anniversary, death

Altar for Elizabeth Blue

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya

Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya

Victoria, Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar

Beach Altar

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar

Circle of Stones

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya,

Tunnel Into the Light

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar

home altar

IMG_6546 Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar

Me, happy at dinner with my family

Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar

Me and my mom at dinner

Song for Elizabeth Blue

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-

well some might say that she gone away awhile ago
while others say that she came my way and i won’t ever let her go.
where is she now? yeah i just don’t know.
but i can feel her in the wind, every time my head spins I’m wondering
is she listening?
to my cry…
i never got to say good bye.
now don’t it feel in life like you’re hanging by a rope
sometimes this rope will help you cope
sometimes this rope will make you choke
and i fear the mistake i fear the fever and i fear this heartache yeah…
but life goes on
well it goes on and on and on and on even though you’re gone.
well i love you i miss you i love you i miss you i love you
heres why
from high school to later years you’re the one who curb our fears
and i won’t ever let you go.
no no no i won’t let you go.
but i want you to know
that i love you i miss you i love you i miss you i love you…
heres my, good bye
good bye good bye.
~ Julia Paradies, © 2015

Catching Up

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.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, Lucia Maya, before cancer,

me and Elizabeth, ~ 2008

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, Lucia Maya, before cancer,

me and Elizabeth, ~ 2008

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.