Grief. 6 years in…

Today is the 6 year anniversary of the day my daughter Elizabeth came home to hospice care, from a devastating week in the ICU. This has been a week of many tears, and some small sense of almost-embarrassment – that it’s been this many years now, and these anniversaries are still so full of emotion. I KNOW that it’s normal and healthy, and no one has ever told me how I should be feeling, and yet I still have some expectation of what this “should” look like. So, I remind myself the depth of the love allows for the depth of the grief. And there’s no right, or wrong, way to do this. And this is what my grief looks like…

This week I’ve been allowing myself to look at photos and video from the time around Elizabeth’s brain surgery, and her time in the ICU, and then right as she came home. I did it each time with conscious preparation, asking myself if I really wanted to watch the videos from before her surgery, when she was telling many of us she loved us, i.e. saying goodbye, knowing she might not emerge from surgery at all, or not her same self, which was largely the case.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, non-hodgkins lymphoma, cancer, Tucson,

Elizabeth Blue, day before surgery

This particular anniversary day started very early, with the dog needing to go out, followed by the cat scaring her and not letting her back inside, which meant I had to go out and herd her back in to safety. So I was up early when a client texted with a rare, urgent need for a quick phone session, and before I’d showered or eaten, I talked to her. It amazes me that I can be so present and calm and offer insights and advice to another, while I’m feeling so vulnerable, aware of my own sadness moments before. I love that we have that capacity to shift, and be present for someone else, as well as for ourselves.

This week has also been ordinary – taking Gracie to the dog park, seeing clients, answering emails and watching an Australian Netflix show I’m addicted to (Offspring). I’ve also been remembering so many details from that time: the ICU conference room my family took over, where we ate scones and lattes my mom brought in (from Raging Sage, for the Tucson folks); the acupuncturist who did a hospital visit to treat Elizabeth, with the cool case she carried all her tools in; brushing my teeth and taking out my contacts in a public bathroom on the nights I slept in a chair by Elizabeth’s bed; the night she was given an overdose of some medication, causing some scary symptoms that the next nurse courageously admitted the reason for; the moment when the ICU nurse told me she heard we were thinking of hospice care, which I’m sure was her gentle way of suggesting that, and which angered me, but ultimately brought us a huge gift of two months of peaceful time at home together, with incredible grace and love; setting up the hospice/hospital bed in our living room with soft sheets, and my sister arranging a big vase of pink roses where Elizabeth would see them; not remembering her arrival at the house – was I not there? is that possible? was it overwhelming? I can’t remember…

roses, altar, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher

roses on the altar

Then later this morning, I read that a friend’s husband was just diagnosed with leukemia. Though I know them only through social media, I broke down sobbing, with tears for what they are entering, and what may lie ahead. These kind, lovely people with two children and a life about to change in ways they can’t even imagine…and it reminded me so of that time of Elizabeth’s diagnosis – so raw and wild and surreal. I send them reiki and prayers for grace and ease with all that is coming.

And now, my day is coming to a close – I’m tired, Gracie is tired, (finally) after an hour running at the dog park. I’m going to eat some leftover tofu curry for dinner and watch something that takes me away from my memories, that wrenches opens my heart and makes me laugh…Grateful and feeling peaceful at this close of day.

Gracie, Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Maui,

Gracie sleeping with her bear

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue,

my toes freshly painted blue today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rainbow, Maui, Hawaii, Hui Noeau,

today’s subtle rainbow

Three Gifts

There are three primary gifts that have helped me maintain a sense of peace and find joy in life, even with my beloved older daughter gone – the practice of staying in the present, made possible in part through The Work of Byron Katie; my deep faith in the divine and the consciousness that continues when we leave our bodies; and being in service to others with gratitude.

Rumi, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya,

Staying Present

There were so many times during the two months when Elizabeth was in hospice, when my mind would go to “this shouldn’t be happening”… Yet she never did that. She didn’t try to be anywhere other than where she was. She was in a state of grace.

I, however, was not. I would notice that I wasn’t actually with her, even though she was still in front of me, because of what I was thinking. So as soon as I caught myself, The Work would go like this. I’d have this thought: “she shouldn’t be dying, she is only 22!” I’d ask myself “is that true?” and if I said yes, I’d then ask “can I absolutely know that is true?” And the answer was always no, I couldn’t know that she shouldn’t be dying. That would always begin to shift things…

There are more steps to The Work, (www.thework.com) but the practice is one of bringing myself back to the present, noticing that it’s only my story about the past or the future that is creating my suffering. When I am in the present moment, I am always ok. Maybe incredibly sad, maybe sobbing on the floor, but as the emotion moves through and I’m present with it, without a story, I can allow it to be fully expressed without judgment or holding back, and I am ok. I am at peace.

Faith and Divine Presence

I’m grateful that for years I’ve been using The Work for myself and my clients, as it helps immensely. I also have been a Reiki Master since 2001, and this channeling of healing energy, with my work as an intuitive guide has kept me in deep connection with the Divine presence. Using Reiki on myself and others helps me literally feel the Divine with me. It has also helped to soothe and quiet my mind and feel balanced and clear, physically, mentally and emotionally.

In my work I receive messages from those in spirit. These have been validated as accurate by their loved ones so many times that I trust they are real. It brings me great comfort to know that there is a consciousness, a soul that continues to exist when we leave our body. So after Elizabeth died, I was worried initially about her being happy, the same way I’d been all her life! I’ve since heard over and over from Elizabeth, including in several readings with mediums, that she is happy, that she is doing wonderful work where she is – more than she could have done while in her body, that she is exactly where she is supposed to be and where she wants to be.

I have many stories of Elizabeth showing herself to me when I’ve needed confirmation from her that she is around. One of the most remarkable was soon after she died, and I was missing her terribly. I was floating in the ocean, looking at the sky, which was filled with puffy round clouds. I asked her to show me that she was present and immediately the clouds shifted to form a huge letter E in the sky above me!

Another way she lets me feel her presence is through music. When I am alone in the mornings, especially in the months after she died, I play Pandora on shuffle, with about 20 stations selected. This means there are many thousands of possibilities of songs that could play. On mornings when I desperately wanted to know her spirit was close, I’d ask her to show herself. Each time I made this request, the next song that came on was one of a handful of songs that she and I both loved, that had particular meaning to both of us, and that did not play any other time than those times I asked. It brought me to my knees in tears each time – simply overwhelmed with emotion and in gratitude.

Service and Gratitude

The third aspect that I’ve found essential to having a life of peace and joy, is being in service and feeling gratitude. I was able to take time off work during the time Elizabeth was in hospice, and slowly started seeing clients again in the months following her death. I am so blessed that I love my work, and that it is nourishing to me, while I’m supporting others in their healing. I have always worked with people during times of great transformation, and now especially, those dealing with grief and loss of all kinds find their way to me.

I have found writing, this blog in particular, to be immensely helpful. It has served as a way of processing my experience and emotions and having a forum to share Elizabeth and her writing. It’s also connected me to an online community, through other bloggers and Facebook, that has brought so much support, love and nourishment. The more vulnerable and authentic I am, the more authentic the connections and friendships I have received. It has felt like an offering, something coming through me that serves me and hopefully many others.

I find that four and a half years later, I still need more time alone than ever before. I need time to just be, to meditate, to connect, to listen, to not answer to anyone…and I need to balance that with living a life of purpose, doing the work I came here to do. I feel Elizabeth with me, joining me in serving others, and I believe that living my life as fully and joyfully as possible is the best way I can honor Elizabeth’s life and death. I take care of myself in every way I know how, and remember how blessed I am. I do my best to  focus on the gifts in my life – 22 years of having Elizabeth as my living daughter and the rest of my life with her as a spiritual companion; another amazing daughter, Julianna, now almost 24, very happily living and working in New York; a home on Maui and a thriving practice with clients all over the world; and a marriage to my partner of 15 years that supports me in so many ways.

I am blessed. I am grateful. I am present.

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…

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.

this week

This week, I am crying at every little thing. Even sitting down to write a blog post makes me teary, and there’s nothing I’m particularly sad about in this moment.

This week I am staying up late watching full seasons of shows I like, family dramas especially, and sobbing through them. So much emotion – from marriages, to deaths, to new babies…and of course the scenes with the mother and her 20-something daughter having her first baby just put me right over the top…

This week I just want to stay in bed all morning reading Facebook updates on my phone, laughing and crying at silly videos and other people’s lives.

This week I want to eat chocolate for breakfast. And lunch and dinner. (Though I did make a great lentil soup last night to supplement the chocolate.)

This week I am angry at Elizabeth for dying. I am still stunned. Shocked that she left. Shocked that this fierce, stubborn hard-headed young woman, stronger-willed than I her whole life, could be gone. Taken down by something that wasn’t supposed to kill her. All kinds of people survive cancer. How did she not?

This week I rediscover Elizabeth’s Tumbler “Freshly Shaved Legs”, and smile at her posts the last months of her life – about fashion, music, deep thoughts, love, worries about her phone not working and being out of communication (little did we know she’d be communicating in a whole new way so soon…).  I forget how funny she was, in her sly, kittenish way. I admire her writing style, wish I could emulate her, and know that she is unique.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher,

Elizabeth Blue, ~2010

This week I reread some of Rachel Remen’s book “Kitchen Table Wisdom”, which I loved when I read it years ago. One story is of a man who had survived cancer, and reading it this time, it seems she believes he survived only because he was able to move through and heal some deep emotional woundings. As Elizabeth’s mother, I feel responsible for ALL her emotional woundings (which I know intellectually isn’t true), and feel myself sink into self-blame.

This week I delight in the yard being cleaned and feeling brighter, more spacious, open; in adding a pump to my little pond so I hear running water from my bed when I wake up in the morning; in a basket full of oranges I picked from our backyard.

This week I cry tears of love and my heart opens as Zelie listens to her inner calling and attends a voice workshop for 10 days, being challenged and loved and supported in her soul’s work.

This week I listen to Julianna with pride and deep love as she prepares to graduate college and move out into the world at large, making her way with such grace, determination, focus and wisdom.

This week I despair at how little I’ve been writing, and feel my heart crack open when I discuss taking a writing workshop, and how I feel called to write a book about Elizabeth’s life and death and our journey together.

This week I feel the full-body Yes to this call, and know it’s not in my timing, any more than the timing of this post today, this week.

What Would Be Elizabeth’s 25th Birthday

I have been remarkably quiet here for some time. Not that I don’t have anything to say, but I’ve felt somehow paralyzed. There are some days filled with joy and gratitude – full and hopeful, and I don’t have much to say about them. There are days filled with deep sorrow, my eyes filling with unspilled tears with nearly every breath, as the past two weeks have been, and I don’t quite know how to express in words what is in my heart…I am grateful for these anniversaries and birthdays as it gives me an absolute knowing that I will sit down here and write, and there is much that wants to be written.

Today, January 12, 2015, Elizabeth would have turned 25. She would have been here in Hawaii these last couple of weeks with me, with her sister and my partner, with her aunts and her cousins, her grandmother…we would have all celebrated her birthday together, at least in my imagination. And she’s not. And we’re not celebrating with her. I know she’s here in spirit, I’m feeling her laughing at me, and I don’t care, I just wish she were here. Her bossy, sweet, appreciative, wise and beautiful embodied self.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher,

Elizabeth, ~ age 8

I know I’m not alone in missing her. It’s possible I’m not even missing her and hurting the most (though it’s hard to imagine that). I know the rest of our family and her close friends, maybe even people I never knew, are missing her terribly, their hearts hurting and throats filled with tears. And yet, even when I’m with others, I feel alone in this. Ironically, I’ve barely been alone these past 3 weeks, and perhaps that’s part of why I feel so separate from Elizabeth. It’s when I have more time alone that I can most easily feel her presence and connect with her spirit, and then I feel more connected with everything.

I do sense she’s farther away these days though – tending to bigger things than just me and my grief. She feels more diffuse nowadays, more everywhere and less anywhere. So I will celebrate her birthday without her, with family, and mostly within myself.

Her birthday is deeply important to me. I gave birth to her 25 years ago on this day. I knew her intimately from the time she was conceived. I fed her from my own body for over two years. I watched her joys and her sorrows and her loves and her fears. I watched her take her first step, discover her love for avocado, dress up in clothes with delight, eat her first and her last, bite of food. I watched her take her last breath. Today, she will be honored and loved, celebrated and cried for. I carry her with me and all who are reading this carry her as well. Thank you.

Happy birthday my sweet first born. Happy birthday Elizabeth Blue.

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher,

Celebrating our birthdays, January, 2009

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

These photos are from 2009, on a family vacation when Elizabeth and I celebrated our birthdays together. Mine is December 24, and hers January 12, and we were all together sometime in between.

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.