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.

img_8284

img_8286

dime from the ashes

img_8287

img_8288

hiding pheasant

img_8289img_8293img_8302img_8307img_8317img_8320img_8323img_8326img_8337

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.

 

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.

With Night – a poem by Sabine Miller

Thank you Sabine, for this beauty. Sharing with love and appreciation.

With Night

– For Lucia on the anniversary of Elizabeth’s death

Blue lacewing
singing
in the atrium

at summer’s end
coaxed
into open palms

where it stays
even while
being waved

through the garden,
oak crickets,
old moonlight –

Meanwhile
soliloquies
of poets and healers

echo inside:
A mother dwelling
in pastures

of surrender
helps one daughter
die-before-she-dies, held

in the heart of
her mother’s hands –
in the heart of a Hand

she’s a blue,
Blue rose as
open as it gets,

the petals the waves
she’ll return
in – the rosebud

she’ll become
is starlight
packed in

tight and deeper
than one can
fathom with this

mind, on this
night.

By Sabine Miller ©, 2014

Second Anniversary

9/18/14

I am over the Pacific Ocean as I write, traveling from my home on Maui to Berkeley, California. My mother, in her wisdom, proposed the lovely idea of gathering in the Bay Area, inviting me to join her there, along with my sister who lives close by. My oldest friend and Elizabeth’s godmother lives nearby and will be joining us for some time as well . It was my longtime home, one of my favorite places, that now holds many memories, joyful,  bittersweet, some sad.  It is where both my daughters were born and where I transformed from a young 19 year old at UC Berkeley to a slightly wiser and more experienced 41 year old mother of two, when I was told by the Universe that it was time to move on.

This Tuesday, September 23, 2014 marks two years since my daughter Elizabeth died. It is still hard to fathom that this has even happened, let alone that it has been two years since I heard her voice or touched her hand. It has now been longer than two years since I listened to her laugh, argued with her, met her for our weekly coffee dates to hear what was going on in her classes, with her friends, the guy she was dating or maybe someone new she had her eye on. She would always ask about me too, whether from being taught that it’s the right thing to do, or from genuine interest, I don’t know, but I was always touched and happy to share my life with her as well.

What do I miss the most? I miss sharing a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato scone at Raging Sage with her, both of us wanting the other to eat more than half, and giving the crumbs to the little brave birds that would gather round our sunny table. I miss her texting me to let me know her weekly schedule, making sure we found a time to get together every week.

I miss Mother’s Day when she would always give me a card and a thoughtful gift, and write a beautiful message of how much she loved me and how grateful she was that I was her mom.  I miss her so much that just writing of these memories makes me cry on the plane, and yet I’m so happy that I have them.  I see some photos of her and for a moment see myself, knowing simultaneously that it’s her. I am starting to understand how merged we were, and perhaps still are.

We are meeting for this anniversary with no plans except to be together. I hope to do some things that Elizabeth would have loved. I realized this morning that shopping for second-hand clothes in some of her favorite stores would delight her, and buying some makeup (which I barely wear) would make her happy too. I’d like to get another tattoo, but think this next one will take some planning… Probably we’ll create an altar. Perhaps we’ll have a picnic on the beach, eating delicious foods, taking full advantage of our embodiment, enjoying the sensations that she no longer gets to experience and sharing with her our pleasure and our longing.

birthday altar, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher

The altar on Elizabeth’s 1st birthday after she died, 1/12/13

I look back at these two years since she died, and the year before that when she was dealing with cancer, and in some ways it’s a blur. I find myself having moved to Maui, in a most amazing and beautiful new home, being supported with such grace, and some challenges. I find that I’ve been supported financially throughout all this, somewhat miraculously. I see that my work continues in the ways that I love, supporting others through healing work, teaching, facilitating and writing…and I see that it is shifting in ways I cannot yet know or envision. Another metamorphosis is at hand, being guided and supported, with massive faith and trust, and I can’t explain how or why.

I frequently talk with other mothers who’ve lost a child, or a beloved spouse, who ask me why God would do this? How can they have faith in a divine source who would cause such pain? It is hard for me to answer, because it is simply a feeling I have, a deep belief that I don’t remember being taught, but which has emerged in me through necessity – that there is a purpose to each tiny (and huge) event in life, that each moment is truly as it is meant to be, and there are no mistakes. I know that can sound like superficial cliches, but to me it is not. A quote from our dear teacher Maria Elena Cairo (Zelie’s, Elizabeth’s and mine), that I found in large print in one of Elizabeth’s journals from age 14: “The soul does not fuck up.” That’s one wonderfully succinct way of saying it.

carl jung, jung, coming to consciousnessAnd this just floated across my screen, as photos from my computer ‘randomly’ do: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain…” from Carl Jung. Juxtaposed with that is one of my favorite teachings of the Buddha: that pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is optional, and that has stayed with me since I first read it many years ago.  It is what I choose to do with that pain that matters to me. I can feel it fully, allow the rage to move through, so immense that I want to pull up huge trees and destroy forests with my hands… I can allow the grief to pull me to the floor, sobbing, and then sometimes merging into laughter as another wave comes in, seeing the humor in the self-pity or tragic beliefs I was just holding…Sometimes now it lasts for moments, sometimes I move into days of sadness, but I don’t feel that I am suffering and I am certain that Elizabeth is not suffering. I still feel her sense of humor, her playfulness, and her love when I tune in to her presence.

I am blessed.
I have been blessed.
I will be blessed.
I know grace.
I have felt the touch of grace.
I have seen it encircle and emanate from my daughter while she was dying.
I have experienced unconditional love.
I am moved to tears by what a rich life I have lived these fifty years.
And I will be blessed with each day I am given.

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

Moments

It’s been so long since I’ve written, and I have much to share, but I’ll start with now, with today. The first email I opened today was from Jade Beall, saying her new book Bodies of Mothers, was being shipped, and had this photo of it fresh off the press.

Although I knew these gorgeous photos of Elizabeth (and me) would be in the book, it was a bit overwhelming still to see the reality. My emotions ranged from delight to deep sadness, for she’s in a book about mother’s bodies, but she didn’t get to be a mother herself, and I wish she were here in her body, dammit, instead of memorialized in this way.  I had to laugh too, as I’m sure Elizabeth had something to do with this page being opened!

bodies of mothers, beautiful bodies, elizabeth blue, jade beall,

“The Bodies of Mothers – A Beautiful Bodies Project”

The next email was this blog post, from Tric, about the shocking and sudden death of the 24 year old son of her friend. More tears, and another reminder that “this day is the most precious thing possible”, as Elizabeth wrote while in high school. It is so easy to become complacent, to take it for granted that we can breathe, that our heart beats, that we can walk and see the ocean and mountains – which I’m fully enjoying every day, by the way, now that I’m living on Maui, which is a whole other day’s story…

Baldwin Beach, Maui,

One of my walks on Baldwin Beach, Maui

So I do my best to stay present. This is one of the greatest gifts I received in being with Elizabeth during her last two months of life. Noticing every time I started to play out a story in my mind, of what the future might look like without her, or what could have been different in the past, that I wasn’t being present with Elizabeth, in what I knew to be her last days here.  There’s nothing like truly knowing that this moment is unique and finite, to bring us present in each moment.

Of course I struggle with this too, preferring at times to distract myself in various ways, from movies to Facebook or reading – being present in other people’s worlds, but not my own.  When I do though, I usually notice, and do it consciously, giving myself permission to take a break.  And then I come back, doing a quick meditation or really loving my dog, Tilly, and feeling her love for me, or going for a walk and appreciating the beauty around me with all my senses.

Next, I saw that the movie “Heaven Is For Real” was showing, so headed out to see it.  I’d wanted to see it since seeing a preview months ago, as it’s about a 4 year old boy who has an experience of being in Heaven, and comes back with stories of people who died whom he’d never met or heard of.  It was quite moving at times, and reinforced many stories I’ve read of people who’ve had near death experiences (though this boy doesn’t actually die, but somehow had a similar experience). It wasn’t great as a movie, but it’s worth seeing for the story of this little boy.

It helps me a great deal to learn of these experiences, such as Dr Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven”, his story of spending a week in a deep coma, and coming back with clear memories of a wondrous, beautiful afterlife.  He had previously not been spiritual, nor a believer in life after death, as he was a scientist who didn’t believe what he couldn’t see or touch. This experience completely changed his life, and many who’ve read his book. I’ve always believed there is life after death, and it’s comforting to have some validation, helping me to trust more deeply that Elizabeth is at peace, is doing a great deal of work on the other side, and is present with me, and with many who love her, bringing gifts and blessings to each of us.

Elizabeth has been so present with me these last couple of days, and I’ve been feeling this new wave of disbelief.  As time goes by, it is easier to feel her spirit everywhere, it’s also harder to remember her in her body.  I look at photos of her and still can’t comprehend that she was even here, and that now she’s not. It’s such a mystery, a profound mystery.

Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya

Elizabeth Blue, September 2, 2011

I was reminded again of her poem “Seeping Back” written at age 15, which speaks of this mystery and the eternal, beyond my comprehension, a good place to end for today:

“Devotion, my mysterious master
I saw the crossroads, one forever movement of light
Seeping back to the river of eternal life…

…I am waiting for our hearts to be conjoined in the endless breath
Why can we not meet at the simple movement, place of undying peace and satisfaction?
Whisper of eternity that says I love you
For if we were to meet in that place there would be nothing left to live for.”

~ Elizabeth Blue, ©2005