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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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

Summer Squash – poem by Elizabeth Blue

Summer Squash

by Elizabeth Blue, 9/1/08, age 18
(a class assignment)

The Seed, Elizabeth Blue, poetry,

The Seed, by Paweł Jońca

When the sun grows
full and ripe in the morning sky.
When the cracked Earth
begins to soften and thaw.
It is then that I shall emerge from the hard shell of my birth
My pod.
My seed.

It is then that I shall uncoil.
It is then that I shall meet you.
You who nurtured and birthed me into existence.You who kept me warm and hidden.
I shall meet you, Soil above your surface.
I shall meet you, Earth where I had not expected —
on the line where ground meets sky.

It is then that I shall meet you, Mother.
In the thin and vaguely described space
where the strength of my stocks
defies the firm and assured pull of your gravity.

In this place of balance I shall meet you
not as your baby
not as your seed
not as your spawn.

I shall meet you as me.
As I am grown.
From you but not of you.
Rooted in your strength
strong in my growth.

It is here I shall meet you Mother
As you.
As me.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, umbrella, rain

Elizabeth at about 3 years old

Elizabeth Blue ©, 2008

A Cancer Poem – by Elizabeth Blue

A Cancer Poem

written by Elizabeth Blue during her treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, 2012

As I pray to the goddesses of white blood cells
to increase my cell counts
so I won’t get sick.
Won’t get a fever and go to the hospital.
It becomes more apparent
to me
than ever:
that gentle hand of grace
we call god
is in
my own body.

As I pray to the goddesses of white blood cells
to increase their numbers
so that
I won’t get sick.
I won’t get a fever
and go to the hospital.
And I imagine my fate
hinged on their fingernail
I know more than ever
that twisting fate
we call god
is in
is part of
my own self body.

Victoria told me
a shaman told her
so many ask
beg
to meet God.
And then they say:
“But:
keep my children safe.”
“Keep me healthy.”
“Don’t send me to war.”
“Let me be prosperous.”
“Let me be in love.”
“Keep divorce away.”
“Let me be beautiful.”

And Victoria told me
she thought it was interesting
the unwillingness to surrender
yet want to meet God.
We were talking about cancer I think
When she told me all this.
“Yes it is interesting.”
I agreed.

Elizabeth Blue©, 2012

I’m sharing some of Elizabeth’s poetry as I am able, selecting ones that I love, and that offer some deep wisdom, beauty and teachings for us all.

Elizabeth Blue – the photoshoot by Jade Beall (part 1)

Click on any image to see them larger.

These are just a few of the photos taken by the amazing artist Jade Beall, of the Beautiful Bodies Project, in April of 2012, when Elizabeth was in remission from cancer.  She had finished 6 chemo treatments, and we were celebrating that she had no sign of cancer in her body.  I was delighted that she’d agreed to be photographed, wanting to document this time, this transition time in her life, showing all aspects of herself, with hair and without, with clothes and completely naked. We did not know that just 2 months later she’d find that the cancer had recurred, spreading to her brain, and that she would die 3 months after that, on September 23, 2012.

I am incredibly grateful that we have these beautiful, revealing images of Elizabeth Blue – a beauty inside and out.

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

Elizabeth Blue’s Life in Pictures

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Elizabeth Blue, 4/2012 (by Jade Beall)

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher,

Elizabeth Blue, 4/2012 (by Jade Beall)

As we move closer to the one year anniversary of my daughter Elizabeth’s death, on September 23, she is very present with me, giving me many messages and signs that she is close.  I will share more of that in another post.  For now – I am getting the message that it is time to share this video again.  This is a slideshow of Elizabeth’s life, from beginning to end, with many of the people, animals, events and passages in her life.

The professional photo shoot done during the last year of her life was done by Jade Beall, who recently dedicated a blog post with photos and story of that photo shoot, and I will be sharing many more of those extraordinary photos soon. Here are 2 favorites.

This slideshow was created with love and is shared with love.  (And you might want to have some tissues handy…)

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