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.

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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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)

 

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

Facing My Own Mortality

Here’s the background: for the past three years I’ve had a bony bump on my forehead.  It didn’t hurt or grow much, changed little, and mostly I ignored it. It started to bother me when I saw it in photographs, and to assuage my vanity, I looked into having it removed.  I was pretty sure it was a cyst or other benign growth. A plastic surgeon was about to do it, but decided I really needed a CT scan first, to be sure what was under there…

Now we jump ahead to my move to Maui in March of this year.  I finally had health insurance and on my first visit to meet my doctor, I mentioned the bump. So I had an xray of my head that day, and she called me later, sounding worried. She said they needed to do a CT scan and that it was a “lytic lesion”, which could have many causes, but it means something is “eating away” at the bone. So, I have a CT of my head, and now she mentions she’s consulted an oncologist.

For someone whose daughter died from cancer less than two years ago, that is about the last thing I wanted to hear.

He or she (the unseen oncologist) recommends a CT of my chest, abdomen and pelvis, and what I understand, while I’m completely freaking out, is they think I’ve had cancer somewhere in my body (for over 3 years) that has spread to the bone in my skull. The doctor was obviously scared on the phone, and this is what worried me the most.  She wasn’t reassuring. She didn’t say this is just a rare possibility.  When I asked “but wouldn’t I have some symptoms if I’d had cancer for over 3 years that had spread to my skull??”, she said “Not necessarily.”  I told her my doctor friend had said there are many benign possibilities, and her response was “well, did you tell her it’s a lytic lesion?”

The BIG CAT Scan

CT scan, CAT scan,

CT scanner

I went for the big CT scan.  It took 2 intense days of waiting, with little sleep, terrifying unbidden images filling my head, of what my life would be like if I was told I had cancer somewhere that had spread to my bone.  Imagining what treatments I might have to go through, what would be the chances I’d be cured, what quality of life I would have, on and on. I do have a good imagination, though I was focusing on imagining my body whole, healthy, vibrant and living to be an old woman…

Finally the doctor called and told me there was nothing of concern in these full-body scans. But now they needed to do an MRI of my head, to get a more detailed image. I had an MRI done of my head, again waiting on pins and needles for a call with the results, and she tells me they still can’t tell what it is, but the possible diagnoses on the radiologist report include cancer, and also benign possibilities. Each test they think will give more information and rule out cancer, but each test shows a mystery.  All this time, I can hear the fear in my doctor’s voice, talking about what next test the oncologist recommends. 

Gratitude for my inner and outer resources

I am incredibly grateful for all the tools that I have: over 15 years of practicing Reiki and giving myself Reiki constantly during this time; years of practice remaining in the heart-center in the midst of chaos and fear; the aromatherapy, herbal, nutritional and homeopathic remedies I knew to use for calming my nervous system and clearing the radioactive dyes they injected into my veins; doing prayer and ho’oponopono constantly.   I am grateful for knowing to get help and support from others too – receiving acupuncture and craniosacral work, hypnotherapy and energy healing from my gifted and wise friend Kathleen, talking with family and a few close friends. I’m incredibly grateful for my partner, Zelie, who was with me every step of the way, offering to be with me for each appointment, listening to all my stories and holding me while I cried.

Fear of Not Living

I am grateful, because even with all these tools, I cried. A lot. Even with my own and others’ intuitive read that I did not have cancer and wasn’t dying, I was terrified. I was more frightened than I’ve ever been in my life. More off-center and filled with anxiety than I’d  been during the ten and a half months that Elizabeth had cancer, or even when she died.  I kept working with this fear, asking what was it I was so frightened of? It wasn’t fear of death. I know deeply that when it’s time to die, death itself is welcome. It was fear of not living. What terrified me most was the idea that I have so much left to do, that I haven’t yet fulfilled my purpose here, and I need many years still to do that.  I feel I’ve been preparing my whole fifty years of life (maybe even lifetimes) for what lies ahead, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to have that chance.

Of course, I did not want to have cancer either. Watching my grandfather, then my daughter, and now one of my closest friends go through treatment for cancer, I knew I could do it if I had to, but really. I was asking the Divine “Really? Can I please have a break?” I lost my daughter less than two years ago, I was still exhausted from my move to Hawaii, and I am entering what feels like the best, prime years of my life for my work serving others: writing, teaching, facilitating, doing healing work and bringing through the gifts that Elizabeth shares through me. I could not believe that the Divine plan was for me to go so soon, and yet, I didn’t believe that was the plan for Elizabeth, and she was just 22 when she died of cancer.  I knew that it was not up to me and my preferences. I kept doing The Work, inquiring within my heart about the truth of what I was believing, and on some deep level, I had to surrender to the mystery and the suchness (as my teacher Brugh Joy used to say).

I felt Elizabeth especially close throughout these many months, from April til early August.  The synchronicity of this was not lost. She had lymphoma, initially in her chest, which recurred in her brain. This recurrence was essentially untreatable, and my mystery bump was on my head, in a very similar place to where her tumor was, on the opposite side. (Interestingly, my bump had appeared some time in the months before Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer.)  I sat with her as she had brain MRIs done, CT scans of her body, countless blood draws, meetings with worried doctors, and I could only experience that through my own eyes and heart, as her mother.  This time, it was my body we were talking about, my life, and it was a completely different experience. I feel that a large part of why I was going through all these tests and the emotions that accompanied them, was so that I could have a better understanding of what Elizabeth (and others facing a terminal illness) may have gone through.  Another part is to take me deeper on my own healing path, feeling and expressing layers of emotions and writing about some difficult aspects of my relationship with Elizabeth.

Direct Evidence of The Mind/Body Connection

I’ve long had an immense respect for, and direct experience of the mind-body connection. What happened during this time of such stress served to more deeply embed this in my being. I hadn’t had any pain from this bump, other than an occasional tenderness over the years. However, after I heard the possibility that it could be cancer, and I was so overwhelmed with fear, with my stress levels high, I started having pain in the area of the bump! I could feel the pain increase after I had a conversation with my doctor, and I could feel the pain decrease when I placed a tachyon directly over it.  The tachyon is a small disk that helps to direct healing energy to what it’s placed on. It also had an immediate effect of visibly shrinking the bump! I could feel my body relax as soon as I placed the tachyon, and seeing the bump shrink by the week also helped me to relax, so it worked in several ways.

Lab Tests to Rule Out Myeloma

Finally I had a new doctor who agreed that blood tests might give some information towards a diagnosis. Kaiser sent me an email with each test result, and with each one my heart would be racing as I clicked on the link to see the results. Almost all came back quickly and normal, (and I’ve never been so happy to be normal in my life!), until we were down to the one test for myeloma (bone cancer), which seemed to be the doctor’s biggest concern.  This one, of course, took many days, and the first of two parts came back normal, which had me sobbing in relief. However it was on a Friday afternoon that the last of the tests came in. I was so nervous – it felt like I was going to open an envelope that would determine the course of the rest of my life. The result showed something that I did not understand and didn’t know how to interpret!  I could not believe it.  I had to wait til Monday to receive an email response from my doctor that it was normal!  Finally, something in me shifted and I trusted what I’d been feeling, that I do not have cancer and my body is healthy.

There was one piece to complete however, which involved surgery (albeit minor), to my head. You may know that Elizabeth had brain surgery in July of 2012, to try to remove the tumor which wasn’t responding to chemo, and the surgery did not go as planned. Her brain swelled, necessitating a second surgery to remove part of her skull, and she then had a stroke. After a week in ICU following the surgeries, she came home to hospice. So having a bone biopsy of my skull was rather unnerving, but this was the way to get clarity about what is causing this bony growth.  (I’d been asking for this since the beginning of the tests and mystery, but that is another story.)

A Bone Biopsy and Flashbacks

The biopsy itself was fairly uneventful, with Zelie flying with me from Maui over to Oahu as that’s where they can do a CT-guided biopsy. They told me I wouldn’t have much pain afterward, even though the radiologist had to essentially drill a small hole into my forehead bone. The next day at home, as the local and sedative medications wore off, I started to have intense pain. Fear combined with pain makes it much worse, and because I’d been told not to expect pain, I was worried that something was wrong. We were also preparing for a hurricane that night, which only added to the stress… 

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Elizabeth liked ice packs on her head – this was when she was in hospice, not in much pain

Sitting with a frozen pack on my head and crying in pain brought me right back to when Elizabeth was having horrible pain in her head, when the cancer had come back in her brain, but before we knew that’s what was going on.  I finally took something stronger than a tylenol, along with many remedies to help reduce swelling and bruising, and to facilitate healing, including arnica, dandelion root tea, and turmeric, and was able to get some restless sleep that night.

Cancer Free

I received an email the next day, saying there was no cancer found! All they could say was that it was “reactive bone”, usually caused by trauma. So on one hand I’m back to where I started, with a bump on my forehead, no real idea what it is, and knowing that it is nothing to worry about, which had been true these past three years. On the other hand, I’m in a very different place than where I started: I have a new perspective on mortality and what it can feel like when you, or your doctors, believe you may have a terminal illness. I have a different appreciation for the amount of time we have here, and how precious each day is. I wish I could say that every day is beautiful and the whole world looks fabulous all the time, but that’s not quite it. I’ve always been grateful to be alive. I lost my father at age 3, and had a usually fatal illness myself when I was 4, so I’ve been blessed with a profound appreciation for the gift of life as long as I can remember. What has changed is subtle. It is slowing down, eating more croissants (cause we never know…), loving more, with greater compassion, and I hope, greater presence.

Lucia Maya, healing, heart

My new heart…

Almost two weeks later, I still have a bruise/abrasion (mysterious how it got there – it covers the bump, but it’s not where they placed the needle) in the shape of a heart on my forehead. It may go away eventually, but I feel like I now have a heart tattooed on my third eye, a daily reminder to see everything through the heart. And another reminder that my heart will continue to heal.

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