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.

The Shadow Side of Love

I’m crying before I even start to type. I’ve been avoiding this blog for months, knowing this post needs to be written and holding off as long as possible. It’s hard to write about the difficult aspects of my relationship with my first-born daughter Elizabeth, and yet I feel compelled to paint a full picture, to give greater context for our unconditionally loving relationship at the end of her life. Even more, to show that this spirit who is now so loving and who assists so many from the other side, had many facets and was incredibly complex. Ours was a mother/daughter relationship that encompassed unconditional love, hate, compassion, need, affection, and a deep soul connection unique to us.

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall,  Lucia Maya,

Elizabeth Blue and Lucia Maya, when she was in remission and I was crying tears of gratitude. April, 2012 (photo by Jade Beall)

Of all the people I love, she was the most challenging in my day-to-day life.  I miss her so deeply, I would give almost anything for her to be here, to be hearing about her new job, new relationship, her friends, her dreams…. And here is the “forbidden thought” (as my teacher Brugh Joy would say) – I don’t miss being pulled into her drama, into the tension that she wore like a cloak, that arose with each decision, each new beginning. I don’t miss being part of her angst.

Any of you who knew Elizabeth, either in person, or learning about her through our writing, knows that she was not all angelic. She was an incredibly wise, loving, loyal, girl and woman, and she also carried a lot of shadow, darker aspects that are less accepted. She could be fierce, mean, arrogant, “bratty”, self-centered, and hurtful. (Of course, I can be all of that as well!) Always mature for her age, from about age 9 to about 13, she was in full teenage angry-rebellious-needy-push away-pull me close mode. At age 21, when diagnosed with cancer, she and I were only about 3 years into a still-developing, sweet, mutually supportive, lovely relationship.  I had imagined that our relationship would continue to grow, deepen and soften, with less tension, and greater forgiveness. And it has, just not how I envisioned it…

Traveling to visit my younger daughter recently, I was reminded of a time when I was flying with both my girls, and Elizabeth was around 11 or 12. She was so sassy, so mean, so stubborn and hard-headed, so disgusted with me (and me with her). I remember seeing a mother with her teenage daughter across the aisle, and I still remember how sweet they were together, talking like friends, kind and appearing to enjoy each other! I longed for that, and at the time it seemed like a far-off fantasy that I could barely imagine.

Elizabeth Blue, punk rock, blue hair,

Elizabeth Blue at 13

I am well aware that I gave her some good reasons to be angry with me. In many ways, her anger and rebellion came from wanting to be closer to me, wanting me to herself, wanting all of my attention.  Somehow, at the same time that she was needing me more than ever, I was experiencing my own time of learning independence and exploring my own wilder side for the first time.  I was not a wild teenager. I was a very responsible, good student, good friend, then good wife and mother. After my divorce in my mid-thirties, I finally wanted to play, and wanted time on my own, separate from my kids. This was a fairly abrupt change for them, as I’d been a happy, devoted, stay-at-home mom up til then.  My world started to broaden, my priorities shifted, and they knew it and understandably, resented it.

From a very young age, Elizabeth did not want to share me – first with her dad, then with her younger sister, and especially when I fell in love with my new partner after I was divorced. This created an extremely challenging triangle, between me, Zelie and Elizabeth.  On the one hand, Elizabeth adored and admired Zelie, at least in the early years. But anytime I appeared to choose Zelie over Elizabeth, whether it was in a decision about discipline, rules around the house, or just when she felt left out (which was often), she was devastated and angry. Then, she’d become “bratty” (her word), manipulative, argumentative, disrespectful…

There were a couple of sweet years when she just wanted to hang out with us. This was in her early teens, just before and after we moved to Tucson and she had left behind the intense punk rock scene of the Bay Area.  She had shifted into a deeply spiritual aspect of herself, and was lovely to be with. She was writing gorgeous poetry, attending spiritual workshops, working at creating a new persona, and enjoying Tucson.

Then everything changed. Partway through our first year in Tucson, she decided she had to move back to Berkeley to live with her father, sister and new step-mother. She felt lonely and afraid she couldn’t fit in. After months of debate, she convinced us all, and we made arrangements for her to move back – I helped her apply and she was accepted at a new school, her dad rearranged their home for her, etc… About 3 weeks before she was to leave, she changed her mind. She had finally made friends and realized she wanted to stay in Tucson. She had always been able to talk (and manipulate) me into pretty much anything – she could always wear me down. I was terrible at setting limits, especially with her.

This time I said no. There was so much tension in the household, I was in a place of fear, and I couldn’t handle it. I listened to my head, rather than my heart, and told her that she had made this commitment, all of us had worked hard to set this up for her, and she had to follow through. She was furious, enraged and desperate to change my mind. She felt I was choosing Zelie over her, betraying her, and was devastated. For a variety of reasons, it was the one time I didn’t listen to my heart with Elizabeth, and it’s the only decision with her I deeply regret. I still can’t write or talk about it without crying.

She was miserable, calling me almost every day, talking of depression and begging to come home. By the end of the first semester I relented and Zelie agreed. Though in the big picture I do trust that everything happens as it is meant to, and I can see good reasons why this needed to happen, it was very damaging to our relationship.  It took years for her to trust me again, and some part of her hardened from that time. This protection around her heart only really started to soften after her cancer diagnosis, and finally released in the months when she knew she was dying.

Jade Beall, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya,

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

Elizabeth and I had one of the deepest soul connections I can imagine. When I look at photos of her now, I feel like a part of my soul left with her. I hear that many mothers feel this when their child dies, so perhaps this is simply part of this process. I hear often how much she looked like me, and I can see some resemblance in photos, but she had a kind of beauty that I used to long for. And yet, it feels like we were 2 sides of the same coin, that we made a whole in some way, and now I’m missing some part of myself. It’s very hard to put into words, but I imagine many of you can feel what I’m describing.

I mourn the years that feel like they were lost, before she died. If I’d known she would leave her body at age 22, that’s one thing I would have done differently. I know she forgave me, but I still haven’t completely forgiven myself. I am working on it, with her help and guidance. Being able to share it helps to bring healing as well.

 

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

Moments

It’s been so long since I’ve written, and I have much to share, but I’ll start with now, with today. The first email I opened today was from Jade Beall, saying her new book Bodies of Mothers, was being shipped, and had this photo of it fresh off the press.

Although I knew these gorgeous photos of Elizabeth (and me) would be in the book, it was a bit overwhelming still to see the reality. My emotions ranged from delight to deep sadness, for she’s in a book about mother’s bodies, but she didn’t get to be a mother herself, and I wish she were here in her body, dammit, instead of memorialized in this way.  I had to laugh too, as I’m sure Elizabeth had something to do with this page being opened!

bodies of mothers, beautiful bodies, elizabeth blue, jade beall,

“The Bodies of Mothers – A Beautiful Bodies Project”

The next email was this blog post, from Tric, about the shocking and sudden death of the 24 year old son of her friend. More tears, and another reminder that “this day is the most precious thing possible”, as Elizabeth wrote while in high school. It is so easy to become complacent, to take it for granted that we can breathe, that our heart beats, that we can walk and see the ocean and mountains – which I’m fully enjoying every day, by the way, now that I’m living on Maui, which is a whole other day’s story…

Baldwin Beach, Maui,

One of my walks on Baldwin Beach, Maui

So I do my best to stay present. This is one of the greatest gifts I received in being with Elizabeth during her last two months of life. Noticing every time I started to play out a story in my mind, of what the future might look like without her, or what could have been different in the past, that I wasn’t being present with Elizabeth, in what I knew to be her last days here.  There’s nothing like truly knowing that this moment is unique and finite, to bring us present in each moment.

Of course I struggle with this too, preferring at times to distract myself in various ways, from movies to Facebook or reading – being present in other people’s worlds, but not my own.  When I do though, I usually notice, and do it consciously, giving myself permission to take a break.  And then I come back, doing a quick meditation or really loving my dog, Tilly, and feeling her love for me, or going for a walk and appreciating the beauty around me with all my senses.

Next, I saw that the movie “Heaven Is For Real” was showing, so headed out to see it.  I’d wanted to see it since seeing a preview months ago, as it’s about a 4 year old boy who has an experience of being in Heaven, and comes back with stories of people who died whom he’d never met or heard of.  It was quite moving at times, and reinforced many stories I’ve read of people who’ve had near death experiences (though this boy doesn’t actually die, but somehow had a similar experience). It wasn’t great as a movie, but it’s worth seeing for the story of this little boy.

It helps me a great deal to learn of these experiences, such as Dr Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven”, his story of spending a week in a deep coma, and coming back with clear memories of a wondrous, beautiful afterlife.  He had previously not been spiritual, nor a believer in life after death, as he was a scientist who didn’t believe what he couldn’t see or touch. This experience completely changed his life, and many who’ve read his book. I’ve always believed there is life after death, and it’s comforting to have some validation, helping me to trust more deeply that Elizabeth is at peace, is doing a great deal of work on the other side, and is present with me, and with many who love her, bringing gifts and blessings to each of us.

Elizabeth has been so present with me these last couple of days, and I’ve been feeling this new wave of disbelief.  As time goes by, it is easier to feel her spirit everywhere, it’s also harder to remember her in her body.  I look at photos of her and still can’t comprehend that she was even here, and that now she’s not. It’s such a mystery, a profound mystery.

Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya

Elizabeth Blue, September 2, 2011

I was reminded again of her poem “Seeping Back” written at age 15, which speaks of this mystery and the eternal, beyond my comprehension, a good place to end for today:

“Devotion, my mysterious master
I saw the crossroads, one forever movement of light
Seeping back to the river of eternal life…

…I am waiting for our hearts to be conjoined in the endless breath
Why can we not meet at the simple movement, place of undying peace and satisfaction?
Whisper of eternity that says I love you
For if we were to meet in that place there would be nothing left to live for.”

~ Elizabeth Blue, ©2005

 

 

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!

Update on NPR Interview

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

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

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