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

“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

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

this week

This week, I am crying at every little thing. Even sitting down to write a blog post makes me teary, and there’s nothing I’m particularly sad about in this moment.

This week I am staying up late watching full seasons of shows I like, family dramas especially, and sobbing through them. So much emotion – from marriages, to deaths, to new babies…and of course the scenes with the mother and her 20-something daughter having her first baby just put me right over the top…

This week I just want to stay in bed all morning reading Facebook updates on my phone, laughing and crying at silly videos and other people’s lives.

This week I want to eat chocolate for breakfast. And lunch and dinner. (Though I did make a great lentil soup last night to supplement the chocolate.)

This week I am angry at Elizabeth for dying. I am still stunned. Shocked that she left. Shocked that this fierce, stubborn hard-headed young woman, stronger-willed than I her whole life, could be gone. Taken down by something that wasn’t supposed to kill her. All kinds of people survive cancer. How did she not?

This week I rediscover Elizabeth’s Tumbler “Freshly Shaved Legs”, and smile at her posts the last months of her life – about fashion, music, deep thoughts, love, worries about her phone not working and being out of communication (little did we know she’d be communicating in a whole new way so soon…).  I forget how funny she was, in her sly, kittenish way. I admire her writing style, wish I could emulate her, and know that she is unique.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher,

Elizabeth Blue, ~2010

This week I reread some of Rachel Remen’s book “Kitchen Table Wisdom”, which I loved when I read it years ago. One story is of a man who had survived cancer, and reading it this time, it seems she believes he survived only because he was able to move through and heal some deep emotional woundings. As Elizabeth’s mother, I feel responsible for ALL her emotional woundings (which I know intellectually isn’t true), and feel myself sink into self-blame.

This week I delight in the yard being cleaned and feeling brighter, more spacious, open; in adding a pump to my little pond so I hear running water from my bed when I wake up in the morning; in a basket full of oranges I picked from our backyard.

This week I cry tears of love and my heart opens as Zelie listens to her inner calling and attends a voice workshop for 10 days, being challenged and loved and supported in her soul’s work.

This week I listen to Julianna with pride and deep love as she prepares to graduate college and move out into the world at large, making her way with such grace, determination, focus and wisdom.

This week I despair at how little I’ve been writing, and feel my heart crack open when I discuss taking a writing workshop, and how I feel called to write a book about Elizabeth’s life and death and our journey together.

This week I feel the full-body Yes to this call, and know it’s not in my timing, any more than the timing of this post today, this week.

Second Anniversary

9/18/14

I am over the Pacific Ocean as I write, traveling from my home on Maui to Berkeley, California. My mother, in her wisdom, proposed the lovely idea of gathering in the Bay Area, inviting me to join her there, along with my sister who lives close by. My oldest friend and Elizabeth’s godmother lives nearby and will be joining us for some time as well . It was my longtime home, one of my favorite places, that now holds many memories, joyful,  bittersweet, some sad.  It is where both my daughters were born and where I transformed from a young 19 year old at UC Berkeley to a slightly wiser and more experienced 41 year old mother of two, when I was told by the Universe that it was time to move on.

This Tuesday, September 23, 2014 marks two years since my daughter Elizabeth died. It is still hard to fathom that this has even happened, let alone that it has been two years since I heard her voice or touched her hand. It has now been longer than two years since I listened to her laugh, argued with her, met her for our weekly coffee dates to hear what was going on in her classes, with her friends, the guy she was dating or maybe someone new she had her eye on. She would always ask about me too, whether from being taught that it’s the right thing to do, or from genuine interest, I don’t know, but I was always touched and happy to share my life with her as well.

What do I miss the most? I miss sharing a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato scone at Raging Sage with her, both of us wanting the other to eat more than half, and giving the crumbs to the little brave birds that would gather round our sunny table. I miss her texting me to let me know her weekly schedule, making sure we found a time to get together every week.

I miss Mother’s Day when she would always give me a card and a thoughtful gift, and write a beautiful message of how much she loved me and how grateful she was that I was her mom.  I miss her so much that just writing of these memories makes me cry on the plane, and yet I’m so happy that I have them.  I see some photos of her and for a moment see myself, knowing simultaneously that it’s her. I am starting to understand how merged we were, and perhaps still are.

We are meeting for this anniversary with no plans except to be together. I hope to do some things that Elizabeth would have loved. I realized this morning that shopping for second-hand clothes in some of her favorite stores would delight her, and buying some makeup (which I barely wear) would make her happy too. I’d like to get another tattoo, but think this next one will take some planning… Probably we’ll create an altar. Perhaps we’ll have a picnic on the beach, eating delicious foods, taking full advantage of our embodiment, enjoying the sensations that she no longer gets to experience and sharing with her our pleasure and our longing.

birthday altar, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher

The altar on Elizabeth’s 1st birthday after she died, 1/12/13

I look back at these two years since she died, and the year before that when she was dealing with cancer, and in some ways it’s a blur. I find myself having moved to Maui, in a most amazing and beautiful new home, being supported with such grace, and some challenges. I find that I’ve been supported financially throughout all this, somewhat miraculously. I see that my work continues in the ways that I love, supporting others through healing work, teaching, facilitating and writing…and I see that it is shifting in ways I cannot yet know or envision. Another metamorphosis is at hand, being guided and supported, with massive faith and trust, and I can’t explain how or why.

I frequently talk with other mothers who’ve lost a child, or a beloved spouse, who ask me why God would do this? How can they have faith in a divine source who would cause such pain? It is hard for me to answer, because it is simply a feeling I have, a deep belief that I don’t remember being taught, but which has emerged in me through necessity – that there is a purpose to each tiny (and huge) event in life, that each moment is truly as it is meant to be, and there are no mistakes. I know that can sound like superficial cliches, but to me it is not. A quote from our dear teacher Maria Elena Cairo (Zelie’s, Elizabeth’s and mine), that I found in large print in one of Elizabeth’s journals from age 14: “The soul does not fuck up.” That’s one wonderfully succinct way of saying it.

carl jung, jung, coming to consciousnessAnd this just floated across my screen, as photos from my computer ‘randomly’ do: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain…” from Carl Jung. Juxtaposed with that is one of my favorite teachings of the Buddha: that pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is optional, and that has stayed with me since I first read it many years ago.  It is what I choose to do with that pain that matters to me. I can feel it fully, allow the rage to move through, so immense that I want to pull up huge trees and destroy forests with my hands… I can allow the grief to pull me to the floor, sobbing, and then sometimes merging into laughter as another wave comes in, seeing the humor in the self-pity or tragic beliefs I was just holding…Sometimes now it lasts for moments, sometimes I move into days of sadness, but I don’t feel that I am suffering and I am certain that Elizabeth is not suffering. I still feel her sense of humor, her playfulness, and her love when I tune in to her presence.

I am blessed.
I have been blessed.
I will be blessed.
I know grace.
I have felt the touch of grace.
I have seen it encircle and emanate from my daughter while she was dying.
I have experienced unconditional love.
I am moved to tears by what a rich life I have lived these fifty years.
And I will be blessed with each day I am given.