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

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