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:
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.
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.
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…
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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.