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…

Update on NPR Interview

I promised the link to my interview on NPR, and here it is: Voices for the Cure on Arizona Public Media. Mark McLemore was a wonderful, thoughtful and sensitive interviewer, and I’m so honored to have the opportunity to share more of Elizabeth’s and my journey with more people.

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Lucia Maya and Elizabeth Blue, April, 2012, photo by Jade Beall

NPR Interview – “Voices for the Cure”

A quick note:  I was interviewed for our local NPR station about losing Elizabeth, and our journey with cancer and death.  It airs today, January 10 at 6pm, Arizona time, and tomorrow, January 11 at 5pm.  If you’re in Tucson, Arizona, you can listen live at 89.1, or stream it here wherever you are: https://radio.azpm.org/kuaz/

Elizabeth would have been turning 24 this Sunday – it feels like an appropriate honoring of her to be able to share this now…
If you can’t tune in live, it will be posted on their website, and I”ll share that later. 

Preparing and Offering Her Body

When Elizabeth died, I was as well prepared as I could be. She had been at home, my home, in hospice care for almost two months, and I was able to be with her that entire time, letting go of almost everything else for that time.  It was heartbreakingly sad and breathtakingly beautiful – the grace and love of Elizabeth’s Presence was immense.  She was in a state of egolessness.  She no longer cared how she looked, she had no anger, almost no fear or sadness – none by the end, and she was radiant in love.

We knew she was dying, and we had time to prepare ourselves emotionally, and also in practical ways.  We are blessed that our close friend Victoria, Elizabeth’s godmother, had recently taken a training in home funerals, and found an amazing woman here who also supports families in taking care of the bodies of their loved ones. I hadn’t known this was an option before, and am so grateful that we didn’t have to send her body off to be tended to by strangers.  Kristine Bentz, of Sweetgrass Ceremonies met with us – Elizabeth, me, and our close family, a few times, to let us know what our options were and listen to our hearts.

Elizabeth left her body around 4:30 on a Sunday morning, September 23, 2012.  My sister had had the amazing foresight to arrive the night before (though scheduled to arrive several days later), so she was there, and after some time of sitting with Elizabeth, I must have woken her up, and began calling and texting family to let them know.  I wanted our family to have that day to be with her body.  The next day was for others who wanted to come and visit. Tashe and I did a ritual bathing of her body: cleaning her, touching her skin one last time, anointing her with precious essential oils, then dressing her in a brand new, simple white long dress that was the last piece of clothing Elizabeth had bought herself, not consciously knowing she’d wear it to be cremated in. We then placed beautiful flowing sheer fabrics under, around and over her. We placed her body on a massage table that Kristine had brought us, and used dry ice under her torso to keep her cool, so she could be at home for a couple of days. Finally, we showered her in rose petals…

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral,

Her toes…

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

Elizabeth Blue’s body at home, 9/23/12

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

Elizabeth Blue’s body at home, 9/23/12

Elizabeth Blue, home funeral

Making offerings…9/23/12

I almost forgot to include some of the practical details, as I was spared from dealing with the outside world right away.  Kristine helped to guide Elizabeth’s father through the process of becoming the “funeral director” which involved filing some paperwork at City Hall, which allowed us to then transport her body ourselves for cremation. We could have had them come to transport her body, but it just felt right to us to do the whole process ourselves.

The funeral parlor (if that is what they’re still called) provided a simple cardboard casket which Kristine brought us, that we asked friends to decorate with messages and artwork, and we placed some of Elizabeth’s belongings in with her, along with many rose petals.  The day of the cremation, our family said our last goodbyes to her at home.  It was so hard to know that I’d never touch her skin again, very hard to let go…And then we brought her to the crematorium, where we were able to gather and watch as they placed her body inside the crematory. I didn’t think I’d want to do that when she was still alive, but when it came time, it felt better to be there . I knew then that it was not Elizabeth going into that fire, but an empty vessel – as she said, her “flesh and blood holder of humanity” had ceased to exist…

Here is the email I sent after the home funeral, about the cremation and as we began to prepare for a larger, public memorial and celebration of life:

September 26, 2012

Dear Ones,

Yesterday was very difficult, and beautiful.  We gathered with close family and said our last goodbyes to Elizabeth’s body at home, placing her body into the casket, which had been decorated by friends and family, and putting her baby blanket (Silky) and some flowers in with her, to help her make the transition.  We transported her body and were able to support each other and witness the box being placed in the crematory.  I didn’t know if I’d want or be able to witness this, but I am grateful that I could be present, in the way that seeing a burial might also bring some sense of completion.

We had a lovely open house the day before, with many friends coming by with flowers, love, tears, laughter and stories.  It was good to be with others who love Elizabeth. Thank you so much to those of you who were able to be here.

We have confirmed the date and location for Elizabeth’s Celebration of Life/Memorial Service.  It will not be a religious ceremony, but one that represents Elizabeth’s diverse and deep spiritual beliefs and an opportunity to gather, celebrate her life, tell stories, share images, music, ritual, and more.
with much love,

Lucia

Moving Into Acceptance and Enlightenment

Moving Into Acceptance and Enlightenment

Early August, 2012: Emails and other writings from Lucia Maya

These are emails I wrote from the second week after my 22 year old daughter, Elizabeth Blue, came home from the hospital under hospice care last summer.  She arrived at my house and we quickly settled into a routine of caring for her physically in this new state. Emotionally adjusting to this unexpected new paradigm, appearing to be the end of her life, was a bit more of a challenge. In a very short time,  Elizabeth had moved into the most beautiful state of love, acceptance, peace and grace – true enlightenment, that I have ever witnessed.  This guided the rest of us and we followed her lead…

August 5, 2012: a group email
Hi all,
I’ve not been writing because there’s not much to say – it’s very quiet here. But I can understand you all might want a window in to what the days are like…

Elizabeth is sleeping much of the time, on a bed set up in the living room, with flowers all around, a lovely altar that she can see at the foot of the bed, essential oils diffusing much of the time.  She has been massaged several times a day by my sister Tashe, who left yesterday, and is hugely missed by me and the rest of the family!  Elizabeth doesn’t seem to notice when people come or go, and has no sense of time it appears… I am doing some massage as well, keeping her limbs moving and loving her with touch. Elizabeth is not able to use much of her body, mainly just her right hand, and she can speak and smile, though still mostly a whisper, from having had the breathing tube in so long, but last night she did start to speak a bit louder and it was lovely to hear her voice! When I told her that, she said, “I bet.” Hard to tell when she’s being funny, but it seems she doesn’t get jokes now, or perhaps I’m not getting hers – yesterday i kissed her and said “i want to bite you”, meaning she was so yummy i wanted to eat her up, and she replied, with no expression, “please don’t”.   When I asked her later if she preferred being shifted to her back or her other side, she asked, “what other side?”  It seems she has little sense of the body at this point.  She’s said no every time we’ve asked her if she is having any pain, but this morning said yes, and when i asked her where, and named several possibilities, she couldn’t say where. I gave her some pain meds and she’s been sleeping mostly since then.

She eats usually one small meal each day, declining most food that’s offered throughout the day, and drinking some.   Usually she has some fruit,  and something like a tamale, last night she said yes to a veggie burger with guacamole, but then only ate a couple of bites. It seems she’s eating less each day, but then she surprises us and eats a lot one day.   She’s taking almost no medication, other than continuing on the anti-seizure med, now an antibiotic because she got a UTI, and something to help her sleep at night, though she may not need that still now that she’s off the steroids which were keeping her awake.

Her friend Ava came down from Seattle for a visit this week, and today her oldest friend Brieana is here from California, and she has seemed to enjoy them, mostly listening but talking with them some too.  My dad and my step mother, Alexandra, my brother David, have all been here this week too, and her dad Greg is here again for a long weekend, and plans to continue that schedule for now.  My mom is staying and it’s really wonderful to have her presence and her help. Zelie (my partner who’d been away since Elizabeth’s recurrence of lymphoma, mid-June) came home on Wednesday and it’s been wonderful to have her home.  Victoria (my close friend and Elizabeth’s godmother) arrives tomorrow for most of the week, and that will be wonderful I’m sure too.

Elizabeth has said a couple of times this week that her mind is quiet, and yesterday when I asked what is going on inside, she said “nothing, and a lot”.  She had one night with a lot of anxiety, and she and I talked more about death, fear of the unknown, her fear of disappointing people (especially her grandmother, who she’s been quite close to), and we’ve each been making it as clear as we can how much we love her and will miss her, and that we will be ok when she goes, that we want her to leave whenever she’s ready, and we will be fine with her timing, and that she’s not disappointing us, that we are incredibly proud of her and everything about her.  Then Zelie, Tashe and I all did Reiki on her for quite a while, and she’s seemed more at peace since then.

It’s a very strange and interesting time, as I am deeply sad, and in acceptance, and possibly some denial too, as it feels like the Elizabeth I’ve always known is already gone, and I love this one in front of me as well, but I’m grieving and loving her at the same time…and numb some of the time too, as I seem to run out of emotion after some time.

Thank you all for your continued prayers, love and support.
love,
Lucia

August 8, 2012
Some friends who do energy healing and can “see” into the body as well as angels and guides came to do some work on Elizabeth.  This was my reply about how she was doing after the visit:
She is good, very quiet, more inward, wanting time alone, which is rare for her.  She seems more at peace, and it feels like what transpired yesterday, first felt like a move towards “recovery”, and now feels more like a move towards some resolution, clearing, and bringing all of us gathered into more peace and center…we’ll see what each day brings.
love,  Lucia

Our friend’s experience of working with Elizabeth:
“the energy was incredible! I grounded while there but it was a surprise to see Elizabeth’s guardian angel actually materialize. At that exact time, she smiled really big and seemed to relax…I saw you and Elizabeth connect on a level not often seen, it was so deep.
Elizabeth felt at peace as soon as the guardian angel descended and spread her wings. That’s about the same time M. told her she could change her  mind if she wanted. I think her guardian angel was telling her the same, but there seemed to be a profound energy  change in the room.”
August 9, 2012: to a friend:
Elizabeth’s cat, Blue, can come in and visit her from the guest house where he’s living now with my mom, who loves him.  Interestingly (and very surprisingly), Elizabeth’s not very interested in him and none of the animals are showing interest in her, which is really different than in the past. She’s always been an animal person, more connected with them than with most humans, and they always love her…so clearly there’s been a big shift (in her energy and her identity), partly I think they don’t recognize her, even her own beloved Blue.
August 12, 2012: about a home funeral
We had learned about the possibility of a home funeral: being able to take care of Elizabeth’s body at home, with the guidance and support of a wonderful woman in Tucson, Kristine Bentz of Sweetgrass Ceremonies. She came to listen and share information with our whole family who gathered in circle with her.  It was incredibly helpful to have her support during this time and later. This was Kristine’s email after the meeting:
“I left awash in goosebumps today. Despite the heat. Thank you for being so courageous and sitting in a circle to open the conversation we shared. I do not pretend to know what you feel in your journey with Elizabeth. I can only offer this: I felt love overflowing your home and her being. She is surrounded in beauty. She is magnificent. Your caregiving circle is so strong…I am willing to walk beside you on this continuum, support you and be a resource whenever the need arises.”

August 10, 2012: from Lucia’s journal
We are being given permission to be intimate with Elizabeth and with one another in a way that’s not ordinarily possible.

Elizabeth In Enlightenment – she is being completely present, no thought or cares of the past or the future. No ego, no artifice, no irritation or anger, only calm presence, with loving and compassionate smiles.

August 12, 2012: a group email
Dear Ones,

the days flow seamlessly into one another, and time no longer seems to exist in this world we are inhabiting. I have no idea when I last wrote, or what was said, so I’ll try to give a sense of what is true now.
Elizabeth continues to be in a beautiful state, gracing us with her sweet presence.  She speaks little still, and makes her needs known, mainly by all of us guessing and intuiting, then asking her for confirmation.  She expresses no desires, no complaints, no irritation or boredom, though she will have an opinion if we offer her choices of what to eat, or which shirt to wear, etc.  She seems content, and smiles are her main expression.  She is loving and patient with us all, accepting of our desire to please her. Gives us long thumbs-up when we’ve put her in a new position and ask if she’s comfortable, with a smile:
Elizabeth Blue, hospice, enlightenment,

Elizabeth giving us a thumbs-up

These last few days we’ve had Greg, her dad, here, and Victoria, her godmother, and there’s been a really sweet bedtime ritual of hands-on pouring love into her, with all of us gathered.  Zelie (my partner) has sung her a lullaby and she has fallen asleep this way some nights.  It feels like such a gift she is offering us all, this time together, and with her.  Here we are finishing up (missing Julianna (her sister, my younger daughter), who’s been a part of all of this too):
Elizabeth Blue, hospice,

Lovely family bedtime ritual

Elizabeth’s appetite has increased, so she’s eating well, several small (sometimes large) meals a day, (I’m sure helped by the wonderful food provided by Victoria, and last night Greg made Elizabeth’s favorite of bruschetta!), drinking plenty of water, tea and juice, and still appears to be losing weight.  We’ve all been eating dinner together sitting with her, as she says yes when we ask if she wants that now.  She has been on minimal medication, a couple days this week she had some pain, but mainly in her hip, which has gotten tweaked from positioning perhaps, though we’re being careful as can be as we turn her and try to find the most comfortable positions.  Just ibuprofen and tylenol is all she’s needed, and several of us are doing energy work on her as well. This just changed today, as she’s been having pain in her neck (where we believe the cancer had spread), a wound on her leg that’s slow to heal, and her hip, so she’s needed more pain meds today than in the last week combined.  Every day is different, and we all try to stay in the flow, in the moment.
Some of us sense that while Elizabeth is still here, she is also connecting with other worlds, other realities, weaving a web of love that will help to carry her into this transition and beyond, that will help us stay connected with her in spirit once she leaves her body.  Here is a beautiful image, with a lovely golden heart on her brow, that was visible in all the photos, though not to my eyes. She has rose petals on her arm, and a beautiful crystal on her heart.  She’s been holding that crystal most of the time since it was gifted to her:
Elizabeth Blue, acceptance, hospice, enlightenment

Elizabeth Blue with rose petals and a golden heart

She is very sensitive (as always, but intensified) to those around her, the moods, energies, etc.  This morning I’ve had the luxury of sitting alone with her, and put on Constance Demby’s Sacred Space music (Elizabeth most often says yes to music – Ashanna’s crystal bowls, Beyonce, Mozart, mostly soft relaxing music, though sometimes rap) and went into heart meditation, and she joined in and fell deep asleep, even now the doorbell just rang and didn’t disturb her…She is mostly accepting of whoever and whatever is being presented, and seems to adapt her process accordingly.
I’d been giving her some homeopathic remedies that had been recommended, and she took them willingly, but yesterday I had the sense that she really didn’t want or need to be taking them, and when I asked her, she said no, she didn’t want to take them.  I sensed, and asked, “you want to keep it simple?” and she nodded.  That feels like the main message I’m getting – keep it simple, tuning in, being present with her when we’re with her, accepting what she has to offer, to the best of our abilities…
Yesterday was the deepest peace I’ve felt in a while, even on my walk with our dog Tilly in the neighborhood, which is when my sadness usually emerges – seeing the college students moving back in, preparing to start the semester, and listening to my internal story of how Elizabeth won’t be among them.  But yesterday there was an ability to stay present with the peace I feel when I’m with her, in each moment, and carry that with me out into the outside world.  I am grateful for that, and for each minute of each day that I am able to spend here with her.
sending much love and the hope that you can all feel Elizabeth’s love and presence from here,
Lucia