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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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.

 

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

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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.

“Three Years Later” by Elizabeth Blue

I am slowly going through Elizabeth’s writing, wanting to share more here, as I know she wanted to share her work with the world. It’s a way for me to know that she was real, that she existed, to keep her spirit fed and nurtured, though it’s also painful for me. This one she wrote for a Kino High School assignment, a “reflective essay”. She wrote about her grandmother, my mother. They were very close and she was one of the few people who Elizabeth trusted and relied on for support. She was 16 when she wrote this, always insightful and thoughtful, and in a phase of irritation with most of the adults in her life, including her grandmother…

Three Years Later  

by Elizabeth (Meagher) Blue

2006

“I did not go back to work until three years later.”

She looks across the table at me, starkly, her eyes lock mine.  It is as if she is trying to communicate something bigger to me than language can possess.

Needingly, my eyes grab hers, searching, almost pulling, trying to lock her into some journey I am set on undertaking.  I am searching, trying to find the time and space between the words, between the stories.  The time and the space  between the work and the cooking and the raising the children and the caring for the husband and the surviving,  I am trying to see what the time and space between the hours were like and I guess I am trying to lift the veils, trying to see what life was like for her.

Our eyes locked across the table as people around us talk and eat — I think how we are trying to find each other.  The genetic thread through which we are somehow linked, I think we are trying to know each other and communicate a feeling of tribal humanity.  To know a connection deeper, more substantional than words, something we can feel, as all I feel now is the cold scraping of metal chairs as we slide back and forth gesturing to each other through our posture.  Perhaps if we gesture enough we might accumulate at least a sense of knowing one another’s bodies.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, Jane Hans, Julianna Meagher

Julianna, Jane/Grandma, Elizabeth, NY, 2011

Mother of my Mother, womb of my womb and we are trying to see each other as people.  Unconditionally, what we are trying to recognize is a bond of love and the connections we associate with it.  I am trying to see how her love is my love, her flesh is my flesh, her life is my life, that I am her and she is me.  I am trying to see emotion and connection stronger than a cut umbilical cord.

This is my Grandmother and for perhaps the first time I am trying to see her as a person as she tells me how my Grandfather, the love of her life, entered university at junior year at the age of 15.  I am trying to see her when I ask, “Why did you love him?”

She laughs.

“I really don’t know.”  She is sweeping crumbs from the table with her hand into a neat little pile.  “Why does anybody fall in love?”  She laughs again.  “I don’t know if I had ever been in love before.  I had an older boyfriend before him, when I was in high school and he was in college.  He was a very passionate man, in the end however he turned out to be much too childish.  But Bobby, your Grandfather, I just fell in love with him.”  She gazes out a window thoughtfully and I  note that this may be the softest I’ve ever seen her.  She did really love him, and there was not question.

“He was very smart,” I prompt her wanting to know more than how smart he was.  I want to know things like how did he feel when you rested against him under his arm?  How did he take his tea, with milk like you? with sugar? Both? Neither like me?  Did he read the paper everyday?  What did he sound like when he laughed?  What kind of people did he like best?  How would he have loved me?   I don’t want to know how smart he was, I want to know about his humanity.  I want to know him as a person, as I want to learn about her as a person, maybe I want to learn her enough for the both of them.  I want a Grandfather with stories of youth grown old.  I don’t want to hear how smart he was.

“Oh yes very smart.  Probably the smartest person I have ever met.”  She ticks off his on-paper accomplishments, “University of Chicago, graduated in two years with honors.  He was on the tennis, football and riflery teams.  After he wanted to go to law school but no one would take him because he was so young, so he went to Dartmouth for a masters in business instead.  After that he wanted to become a lawyer still so he went to Harvard and graduated top of his class.”

I look her in the eye, nodding, not wanting to miss a beat.  I wonder what she is trying to communicate by repeating all this information I already know, and I think it has something to do with legacy.

Elizabeth Blue,

Jane/Grandma and Elizabeth Blue, Sedona, 1/12

Somewhere between the years I know they met in Italy when they both spent a summer abroad, somewhere between the years my Grandmother fell in love for perhaps the first time.  Somewhere between the years she became a wife and he became a husband, somewhere between the years he became a lawyer, she became a college graduate and took a job working under the head of the African studies department at Boston University.  Somewhere between the years my mother’s life began and somewhere between the years his illness became much worse.

Sitting here looking at my Grandmother, with her, I eat my chocolate cake and she finishes her salad and I observe how different we are.

She possesses a certain quickness to her small body, at 67 she does not look her age and prides herself on getting carded for a senior discount.  She is, as usual, dressed in black with perhaps a bit of gray trim showing for her socks or sweater.  This constant state of dress makes me wonder if she ever truly stopped mourning my Grandfather.  Her hair, short and silver gray, clings close to her head.  Her eyes are green gray hazel and narrow when confused or pretending to be.  (I have learned to look away when she does this or find myself babbling to try to answer an unspoken question which she can always back out of.)

She is always doing something — a quality I find increasingly annoying as we spend more and more time together.  Though over time I realize that it is not so much this constant need to do something which bothers me, as much as her constant need to try to make me be always doing something.  This nagging at the back of my mind which she vocalized telling me that I am unworthy of rest, that there is always more to do, more to see and not constantly doing or seeing such things equates laziness.  A most abominishal quality.

She reminds me of the quick short black lines she loves in art so — quick, definite, to the point.  Always suggesting movement.  Never resting for a minute’s peace of ‘look where we are, how wonderful, how  glorious, how blessed we are to experience this!’  But constantly wanting to see what is just around the corner of a bendy pass.  (I begin to wonder if this is not a defense technique always wanting to see what might be coming.)  After a while I find it intolerable to walk or do almost anything with her.

If when I think of her I think of quick, sharp, black, lines, when I think of myself I think of drapery, of rich soft velvety antique sofas.  Of meandering circles, or pearls hanging from ivory carved light fixtures.  I think of green fields and white lace dresses under the shade of willow trees having tea parties on bone china with scones and biscuits, soft butter and sweet jam.  I think of a soft buddha, monks in red dress bowing to a  deity 30 times their size.  And I don’t know how to relate to her lines of movement.

This is why I am trying to see the connection through love.  Trying to see how we are both human, both women, both feel.

I try to imagine what it was like for her when he died.  All I’ve ever heard her say specifically was overwhelming.  He left her with my mother at age three and the second baby which she so desperately felt she needed — my aunt, not yet walking.  I try to imagine and try to imagine and yet what repeats in my head is, “I didn’t go back to work until three years later.”  This woman who is constant lines of movement to me was unable to go out in the world doing and seeing things until three years later.  Her passion for life was put to rest alongside grief for my Grandfathers death.  She gave herself over to the wolves, to the children, to the taking care of the remains of a life so hopefully started.  She of quick lines gave over — sacrificed — her womanhood, her interests, her movement to live to stay alive and to survive.  And I wonder, if  perhaps this is not the legacy she has meant to pass on.  Whisper in the wind, “I did not go back to work until three years later, but you, young one, can.”

Elizabeth Blue, lymphoma

Elizabeth and Jane/Grandma, Tucson, during her recurrence of lymphoma, 7/12

elizabeth blue

Jane/Grandma and Elizabeth Blue, Tucson, at home in hospice. 7/12

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.