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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Kneeling in the Ocean

Kneeling in the ocean
I feel you in the clouds

I see the rain coming from far away
A big grey cloud of darkness and tears

The rain coming down so hard it hurts my skin
My arms reaching above the ocean water
In the in-between of fresh and salt

Exactly where they meet

My red toes rise up like bright greetings
My face in the rain

I kneel and the waves float me
Rising and falling with me and around me

Staying in the warm water and the cool air I balance,
Out of my element and yet no fear today
No sharks imminent
Only leaves bumping my arm that make me jump and laugh out loud

~ Lucia K Maya 7/17/15 ©

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

Ghost Cats

I’m in the process of moving to Maui at the end of this month, and I’m selling my home and many of my belongings.  It’s been keeping me busy and full of a mix of emotions.  Yes, of course I’m happy and excited to be moving to Maui – paradise as everyone calls it…Now don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful, and know that I am truly blessed. I feel grateful for my nearly 9 years in Tucson, and the many gifts I’ve received, the opportunities, the community, friends, and how my work has blossomed and grown. I know it’s time to leave, and am grateful that my time here is complete, and the universe has “assigned” me to such a beautiful new home, one I’ve been waiting for for many years. It is time.

And, it’s hard, this leaving. Part of the process of clearing out means I’ve been going through all the rest of Elizabeth’s things and and giving away much of them: clothes (she had a LOT of them, as anyone who knew her is aware!), jewelry (also a great deal of jewelry she’d bought, been gifted, and made herself), personal belongings, art, and writing, as she was always a journal keeper and saved all her writing, which I’m so grateful for, and ALL of which I keep!

Going through her clothes has been the hardest, as they are possibly more intimate aspects of her even than her writing. Elizabeth had expressed herself through clothing since she could first crawl to the shelves and pick out her outfits! Her many personalities were expressed, and she still had her shredded pink Converse high tops from her punk days, her many pairs of high heels, and then clothes. Clothes to dress her school self, out dancing with friends self, going on a date self, getting chemo self which she also wrote about here…As I was despairing about how to find a home for all her clothes (that didn’t fit either me or her sister), I got an email from Felice, a friend and teacher of Elizabeth’s, who is about the same size, and whom Elizabeth adored.  I asked if she’d be willing to take them, and she said she’d be honored, and would also distribute them to friends who might like some! I felt Elizabeth at work behind the scenes helping me…

Everywhere I go in Tucson I am reminded of time spent with Elizabeth, from the cafes where we often met for coffee and conversation, to the hospital, cancer center, naturopath’s office where she received treatments…it is bittersweet, these memories and this leaving. As I leave behind the places with sad memories, I also leave behind reminders of our time as a family, of our closeness, of her homes, her friends, her jobs.  I know the memories are with me, and Elizabeth is alive in my heart wherever I am, but those tangible reminders will not be part of my daily life – a relief and a loss, at the same time.

So today, while my house was being held open, I went to a movie, a chance to rest that was much needed. The only one playing that appealed was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which I’d heard nothing about. I believe Elizabeth was guiding me to see it, and I’ll tell you why.  First, it was wonderful – funny and moving, a movie about transformation and Life, just what I needed. I really felt her presence, and started to cry during a scene towards the end.  An amazing photographer has climbed high in the Himalayas, waiting patiently for an elusive Snow Leopard to appear so he can photograph it. He speaks of how hard they are to see, and that they are called “ghost cats” because of this. I was immediately brought to Elizabeth’s fascination with and love of snow leopards, (all cats, but especially them), and a video that she had had shared with me, that we’d watched together over and over, delighting in the play of snow leopard kittens in a zoo. In an amazing reading someone had done from Elizabeth’s photo, the woman had said that she is “still drinking mint juleps (a line from one of her poems) out of silver goblets and is finally with her snow kitten”.  In the film, the photographer chooses not to capture the moment on film after all that, saying that sometimes he prefers to just take in the moment…beautiful!

I felt that Elizabeth had guided me to this film, as a way of connecting with me. I’d been feeling like she’s been far away, but also feeling like I’ve been SO busy that I haven’t had time to be quiet and notice her.  This was the first time in a while that I was not engaged with others, and she showed up.  Thank you Elizabeth, my ghost cat – here’s the video for you, though I imagine you can now enjoy snow leopards anytime you like!

Elizabeth’s Gifts

Elizabeth loved clothes. From before she could speak (which was early!), she was in charge of what she wore, and as soon as she could dress herself, she did, always with several changes of outfits, sometimes before we even left the house in the morning. This theme carried throughout her life, with her love of spending hours in thrift shops and used clothing stores, searching out the perfect pieces, always combining them in ways unique to her.  She would often select items that seemed way out of style, or really unattractive (to my eye), but then she’d put an outfit together that was truly a beautiful form of art.

Elizabeth Blue, style, Elizabeth Meagher,

Elizabeth Blue in a favorite outfit, self-portrait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was one of her greatest artistic expressions, and one she had innately, but was also enhanced by her adoration of her godmother Victoria, who has a similar gift.  I think Elizabeth’s also came through her genes, but skipped a generation or two, as I have never cared about clothes in this way, though my grandmothers did, and Julianna, my younger daughter, has an equally unique and artistic style, though quite different from Elizabeth’s (she used to dress in British school boys’ uniforms in public middle school in California…but that’s another story!)

Last night I took a bath, and searched my closet for a bathrobe to put on after.  I found this white, silk, kimono-style robe that was Elizabeth’s.  I put it on and realized that it fits perfectly, is incredibly comfortable, flattering, and the robe I’ve always wanted…and I remember well the day she bought it.

In June of 2012, Elizabeth’s cancer had recurred, in her brain, and she was receiving high doses of chemo in the attempt to cross the blood/brain barrier, that is there to protect our brain from toxins that can harm it.  She was on several medications to prevent seizure and reduce swelling in her brain, and we had some idea of how serious this all was.  I can see now, in hindsight, that she understood, or knew, that she was most likely going to die.  I did not. I was steadfast in my optimism, only allowing in what I needed to get her the best possible care she could have. With the recurrence and spread of cancer, in addition to the allopathic treatment, Elizabeth was open to adding all complementary methods as well.  She was seeing an oncology naturopath, who prescribed many supplements to be taken throughout the day, on a strict schedule, to enhance the chemo regimen. She was scheduled to do a hypnotherapy session, and had started physical therapy to maintain strength, as she couldn’t do much yoga, being weak and dizzy. As it turned out, the cancer was growing too quickly, and nothing could change what was her ultimate path.

Elizabeth Blue, raw food, Kathleen Bowman,

Elizabeth and Kathleen sharing some delicious raw food, with that bag full of supplements to  enhance the chemo regimen. June, 2012

So our dear friend Kathleen, who is an amazing healer and has an advanced understanding of the healing power of raw food, drove from Colorado to visit us for a couple days, and share some of her knowledge with us.   Elizabeth adores Kathleen, was thrilled that she’d come out to help, and was aware what a loving and generous gift it was for Kathleen to drive 2 days each way to visit! The first day she was here, we made a big list of food we needed, and headed over to the food coop to shop.

Across the street from the coop is one of Elizabeth’s favorite vintage clothing shops.  Well, there was something she HAD to look for that day.  Kathleen and I were at first agreeable, and wandered around the store for a bit, but didn’t see anything we needed, though I think we played with hats for a while…After half an hour or so, we told Elizabeth we’d go to the cafe next door and get some iced coffee, but she needed to finish up.  It was over 100 degrees that day, and we were tired. After a while, I went back to check. She was still trying clothes on, and I was really annoyed. I felt she wasn’t being respectful of Kathleen’s time, that we only had a couple of days to learn as much as we could, and she was “wasting time” by spending so much of our afternoon trying on clothes…This was always a favorite activity of hers, and I didn’t have much patience for it, though I now wish that I could have found a way to spend more time with her doing the things she loved.

Finally, she made her purchase  – a white, silk robe, that she felt she really needed.  We went across the street, did our food shopping, and went home, all three of us tired from the heat and the outing. Kathleen continued to teach us and share her wisdom, and it was an amazing few days we spent together.  Elizabeth diligently ate raw foods even while in the hospital, up to the time she came home to hospice care, when she went back to eating cooked foods, all her favorites…

She only wore the white robe a few times. When I put it on last night, I felt her presence, and felt that she’d perhaps picked it out for me, as well as herself.  I’d almost given it away, but something had said to keep it, even though I thought it wasn’t my style or size, and I remembered so clearly the day she bought it. As I was wearing it last night, it felt like it was custom made for me, the size, shape, texture, color…I love it.  I just heard “it’s an early birthday present” – my 50th birthday is in a month, and Elizabeth always bought or made me very thoughtful presents, and wrote me beautiful cards.  I will miss her especially on my birthday.

When I hung the robe up this morning, and was thinking that perhaps she’d had me somewhere in her mind when she chose it (selfishly, I know), the tag caught my eye. “Esme” is the name, and I caught my breath – that is a name Elizabeth considered for herself for years, and used for her email address, though she spelled it Ezme, with wonderful layered meanings. It felt like another sign from her, and it’s lovely to feel her close as I wear this robe, for many years to come. Thank you Elizabeth, for this gift.

Deconstruction and Re-creation

“Death is not a separation but a different form of communion, a higher form of connectedness with the community, providing an opportunity for even greater service.”  ~ Malidoma Somé

I’ve not written here for a long while, and I’ve been missing it, but also dreading it, for a few reasons.  One is that I want to write about Elizabeth’s death, and how we cared for her body, and that has felt difficult to begin.  Another reason is that I’ve been afraid of “running out” of Elizabeth’s writing to share, as it is a finite source. Though there is an abundance of her essays and poems still unearthed, some part of me feels that she will die again once all of her writing has been shared here…I feel a need to savor each piece. And I know there is no hurry from all of you, but there is an internal message to continue, and when I ignore it, it gets louder and creates more tension, so I am listening.

And last, I’ve been very busy, as I’ve been getting my home ready to sell, and planning to move to Hawai’i. I’ve known for a long time that I would be leaving Tucson, but didn’t know when, or where to.  During the first year after Elizabeth died it became clear that the time was approaching, but that I needed to stay here, in the city that she loved, and in the home where she last breathed, at least until the one year anniversary of her passage.  First though, I had a revelation – I realized that some part of me believed that if I left here permanently, Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to find me.  Now, I know that she is with me wherever I go, and she lets me know that she’s with me often, answering questions when I ask, and showing me signs that are clear it’s her presence.  This felt like something else.  I’m not entirely sure about past lives, but this felt like it was from another lifetime, a long-ago memory that surfaced: that of being a mother in a home that had been under attack, perhaps had been bombed, and it was time to leave or else risk dying myself.  But in this memory, my child had left the house, and I was afraid that if I left, she or he would never be able to find me again, and would be in great danger and feel abandoned.  It is still a vivid “body memory” and moves me to tears, and it feels like possibly a past life that Elizabeth and I shared.  Once I realized that some part of me was carrying this belief, it started to loosen its grip, and I knew that I could leave this home, and not be abandoning my child.

So a couple of weeks before the one year anniversary, it became clear that the time has arrived for me to move to Hawai’i, and that there is great energetic support at this time.  (This has been discussed for years, as my partner is from Hawai’i, and we’ve spent a lot of time there, as it is where we have a second home and offer our spiritual retreats.) Once the anniversary date passed, on September 23 (and that is another post!), I set a date to put my house for sale, and started readying it.  This meant giving away anything that I wouldn’t be taking or putting in storage, and putting away most personal photos and spiritual images – and there were a lot!  I did it in stages, and it was many-layered.  Each round I’d think I was done, and then realize there was a whole other layer to clear…  I’d had an altar set up for Elizabeth since she came home from the hospital into hospice, that now held her ashes, along with some of her most precious belongings, things from her altar at her home, gifts from friends and family, and several photos of her.  I knew that I could leave it up, but over several weeks it seemed to take itself apart, bit by bit, until I realized that it was no longer needed at all.  She is with me always – sometimes so close I can’t believe she’s gone, and at the same time farther away, my memories less vivid, my sense of her presence as more diffuse…

Elizabeth Blue, altar, Lucia Maya

One Year Anniversary Altar – 9/23/13

One of the ways Elizabeth sends me messages is through music.  In my recent busyness, I find that my grief is present less often, but emerges from a deep well of emotion. When I’m alone, and quiet, and still, it emerges, often from a connection to Elizabeth through music or an image. I listen to Pandora, with about 25 stations on shuffle, including a wide variety of musicians.  Every once in a while, when I’m missing Elizabeth to the core of my being, and talking to her, asking how is it possible that she’s not here anymore, and a song will come on. A few songs in particular: Here Comes the Sun, and Angel from Montgomery are two – songs that I know Elizabeth loved and that she knew were my favorites as well, and I am brought to my knees, with sadness, gratitude, and joy, as I feel her letting me know she is there, seeing me, connecting with me, and comforting me.

A Lifetime – by Elizabeth Blue (poem)

From

“Moksha Natya – Liberation Dance:

For where but in self-expression do we find the liberation that is the dance of the soul?”

by Elizabeth Claire Kurland Meagher (aka Elizabeth Blue)

A Lifetime

I want,
To quote Rumi.
I want to say one thousand words of thanks.
I want
To throw
One million rose petals in the air.
I want
To kiss the sky.
I want God to know that I am grateful
I want to be humbled by the sheer knowledge of what is.
I want to blow into one million pieces, and dedicate myself to the world.
I want to say thank you,
And mean it.
I want to tell the world,
The universe,
That my Indian lover is
The sky
The moon
And the sea.
I want you to know that beauty is everlasting,
And that I am only a temporary placement of outer beauty.
I want you to know that the beauty inside me is everlasting.
And I want you to know that I did not create this.
And,
I created some.
I want you to know that eternity is forever, and then more.
I want you to know that ‘me’ is just a figure of speech.
I want you to know that I love you.
And that life,
Today,
Was one of those days worth living.

©Elizabeth Blue

Elizabeth Blue flying rose petals

Today I was planning to share something else entirely, but I believe my daughter Elizabeth’s spirit guided me to find this.  It is from a collection of writing from her freshman year of high school, 2004-2005.  This poem was written when she was 14 or 15. It feels to me that she has received everything her soul desired here…

In her introduction, she has this to say: “A quick note on poetry:  I would like to say that I can hardly take any credit. It is my hand that writes the words, but it is something else that comes through me to deliver these expressions and words to you.”