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

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

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.

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.

Gratitude

Today I am in deep gratitude. For Elizabeth, for life, for death and the ways it shapes us and transforms us. I have cried tears of gratitude twice already this morning. I am inspired to write. It is a good day.

Molokai, Hawaii, sunrise,

Sunrise on Molokai, HI

I just read an email from a dear friend of my daughter Elizabeth’s, with wonderful news of a new relationship with a supportive man, a job helping others in her chosen field, going to school, going to yoga, attending a yoga teacher training…all the things that Elizabeth had wanted for this friend, and which had been elusive before Elizabeth’s death. It made me reflect on the circle of those I know who were closest to Elizabeth – her family and her close friends, and again notice the amazing gifts each of us has received, the opportunities for growth, for our dreams to manifest, for our love to grow stronger, for our awareness of “this day being the most precious possible thing” as she wrote.

I was in tears of gratitude this morning for the immense beauty I’m enveloped in, the blessings of being able to move to Hawaii; of being able to buy a home; doing the work I love – supporting others in their journeys of grief and transformation, of healing and awakening; to buy freshly picked vegetables at the farmer’s market, with views of the slopes of Haleakala, of the West Maui mountains, and the pacific ocean spreading out beyond.

farmer's market, Maui,

Abundance from Maui farmer’s market

I think of others in our family who have had similar gifts and blessings in their lives – my younger daughter getting an amazing summer internship and a (miraculous) last-minute place to stay for the summer, friends in wonderful relationships, finding just the right place to live, healing wounds in family relationships… I don’t mean that we are all in bliss all the time, that we don’t each mourn and miss Elizabeth many times a day, that we don’t wish for her to be here in body.  I do mean that her death has opened the door for those who are ready for great opportunities and great transformation.

I believe that it is a combination of two things that have created these experiences. The death of a beloved in itself is a catalyst for great change. And, Elizabeth is a potent force for change from the “other worlds”, she is very active in answering our prayers and being a guiding force for each of us whom she loves.

So often we only look at the death of a loved one as a tragedy, which is especially easy to do when it is someone who fits this concept we have of a “senseless” death – i.e. young, one’s child, and/or someone who shines so bright, with great unfulfilled potential.  Make no mistake, it is an incomprehensible loss, deserving of wailing and rage and tears and tears and tears. It is essential that I experience all the emotions to the greatest degree possible. I do not “bypass” the grief for the spiritual, for the transpersonal aspect. I do not mean that grief is not a daily presence.

And, for me, it is truly a “senseless” death if I don’t allow Elizabeth’s life, and death, to be a catalyst for my own transformation, for gratitude, for healing, for seeing beauty, for taking every opportunity to live my dreams, knowing that life is precious and we do not know each day if it may be our last.

I know that Elizabeth Blue is around me and those she knew in this life, responding to our requests and watching over us. I also know that many who have only known her through her death have connected with her and have received gifts of healing in many forms, and that she is available to assist many more people. When I ask her where she is, I hear “I am everywhere.” I can feel her close when I need her, and I can also feel her spirit from afar, working with many others and open to working with more. If you feel a connection to Elizabeth, you can ask her for guidance and support when you need. I’d love to hear stories of what you experience, as well as stories of experiences of receiving help from others who are in spirit. My hope is that her death serves as a catalyst for many, for inspiration and transformation. For me, this helps it to “make sense”.

A note about prayer:  I am aware that prayer and setting intentions does not always bring us what we ask for, as our preferences are not always in alignment with what our soul needs.  I do my best to keep my mind open, to ask for “this or something greater”, to receive and be grateful, to see even the challenges as part of my journey, to remember that the answer to my prayers may not look like I’m expecting. I’m not successful at this every day, and I ask for support in this as well.

Many blessings and much gratitude.

rainbow, Molokai, Hawaii,

Rainbow, Molokai, HI