Elizabeth’s 24th Birthday

Dear Elizabeth,

it’s your 24th birthday, and you’re not here, and you’re very much here.  I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to spend the day, but I knew I wanted to do some ritual to honor you, and also something to nurture myself, some way of tending to my body – my “flesh and blood holder of humanity” as you wrote so eloquently.

Then a couple of days ago I saw someone announce on Facebook that she had an opening for an ayurvedic massage today, and that seemed perfect – it showed up and presented itself, so I said yes.  Next I realized this was the day to take some of your ashes up to Mount Lemmon. I know you loved it there and it was the other place I knew I needed to leave some of your ashes before leaving Tucson.

First thing though, I shared one of my favorite poems of yours on FB, A Lifetime.  It feels to me that it says so beautifully what you wanted to do, and what you did in this lifetime. It makes me happy to know you even thought about all of those things, and then that you got to experience it all…it’s quite extraordinary.

After my relaxing massage, I was ready to drive up the mountain. I packed up your bundle of hair, carefully wrapped in one of your scarves, and a shovel.  I still had the hair you’d saved from when going through chemo the first time, and I know you’d intended to do some kind of burial ritual, so I wanted to complete that for you as well.  I took some flowers, and then filled a small glass bottle with some of your ashes to offer to Mt Lemmon.

I drove up with Tilly beside me, wondering all the way where the hell we were going, and both of us were relieved when I found the right spot to bury your hair.  Tilly was happy to walk around under the pine and oak trees, and I easily dug a spot for your hair in the soft ground, covered it with dirt and pine needles and put the flowers on top.  It felt like there were bears nearby, maybe watching me, and I am certain they’ll come and sniff around at some point.  I could feel their presence in the trees…

Mt Lemmon, Elizabeth Blue,

burial of Elizabeth’s hair

Elizabeth Blue, ashes, Mt Lemmon,

ashes on Mt Lemmon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got back in my car and drove further up, looking for a place with the really incredible stacks of rocks.  I asked you (and I’d been feeling your presence all day of course), where you wanted me to place the rest of the ashes – did you also love those rocks, or was I just imagining that, since I love them…? I heard you say that you do love them, and, to remember that where the ashes go is about what I want, that it no longer matters to you, you’re not in those ashes. You said that you love that I’m taking the time to do this ritual, but it’s for me, not for who you are now…I could also feel the ways that we were, and are, so merged.  That there are times that I can’t tell whether it is I who likes or experiences something, or you.

I trusted that I’d just know, and sure enough, I saw those rocks, with a parking area, and with Tilly leading the way on her leash, I realized there’s a beautiful area to walk down and among the rocks.  I’d been there before but somehow never saw that, even though there were many others walking down that way! I meandered down a path, down to where there was just the view of Tucson desert I’d been envisioning, and placed your ashes in the corner of some huge rocks. It was out of the wind, though I know not for long. And slightly off the main path, but there will be plenty of people coming through.  Along with the immense natural beauty, there was also graffiti and cigarette butts, and it seemed the right place for some of your ashes to rest.

You were such a combination of the ethereal and very much of this world. When you were little, making up words and dances (like the “hatdeck” when you were 3, and fufia and kufia – were they unseen friends?), seeing spirits, writing poetry and loving the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child. Now you seem to be truly at peace, in the angelic world of the ancestors, and yet, you come down and play Angel from Montgomery today on your birthday, which I haven’t heard in months! “To believe in this living, is just a hard way to go…” yes, sometimes it is.

So, my sweet girl, though I miss you deeply, and can still hardly believe you’re gone, I am mostly feeling at peace these days. I hear that you want me to be happy, and mostly I am, though I know it’s fine to be sad too, and that crying actually makes me happy at times.  I was afraid that this second year, and now your second birthday after you died, would be harder, as some experience that.  I’ve found thankfully, that it’s easier with time.  I can feel your presence ever closer – almost merging, and yet further away, as you’re more diffuse, more spread out, though still very available when I need to connect.

I know that you know all of this, but I wanted to put it into words, to help me remember this day, and share it with others.  You make my life so beautiful, along with your sister, and I’m so grateful!

love,Mom

Notice the orbs and the lights (including purple ones) that showed up in these photos.

orb, Elizabeth Blue, spreading ashes,

One View

orb, Elizabeth Blue, spreading ashes,

The View from Mt Lemmon, where Elizabeth’s ashes were placed – note the orb and lights!

Elizabeth Blue, ashes, Mt Lemmon,

View from Mt Lemmon

Elizabeth Blue – the photoshoot by Jade Beall (part 1)

Click on any image to see them larger.

These are just a few of the photos taken by the amazing artist Jade Beall, of the Beautiful Bodies Project, in April of 2012, when Elizabeth was in remission from cancer.  She had finished 6 chemo treatments, and we were celebrating that she had no sign of cancer in her body.  I was delighted that she’d agreed to be photographed, wanting to document this time, this transition time in her life, showing all aspects of herself, with hair and without, with clothes and completely naked. We did not know that just 2 months later she’d find that the cancer had recurred, spreading to her brain, and that she would die 3 months after that, on September 23, 2012.

I am incredibly grateful that we have these beautiful, revealing images of Elizabeth Blue – a beauty inside and out.

Coming Home to Die

I heard an excellent story on NPR the other day, about How Doctors Die, and how even though the majority of people in the U.S. say they want to die at home, surrounded by loved ones, less than half do and most die in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In Tucson, where I’ve lived the past 8 years, only 10% die at home.  This is partly because when we are very sick, doctors are not likely to tell us the whole story, and we are not willing to ask the important questions – what are the implications of this treatment, what will be the quality of my life, how much time might this treatment add to my life, what are the risks and benefits…?

it reminded me of how difficult it was for the doctors to tell us what was really happening when Elizabeth was in the ICU.  She’d had 2 chemo treatments when the lymphoma had spread to her brain, that had not shrunk the tumor.  She’d had brain surgery to “debulk” the tumor, which had reduced the size of one tumor, though now we learned there were two in her brain, and probably more in her spine.  The surgery had increased the swelling in her brain, necessitating a 2nd surgery to remove part of her skull, and then a stroke left her paralyzed except for her right arm and head.  She was intubated, meaning she couldn’t speak, and it was so painful that she tried to pull the breathing tube out if her hands were free.

Elizabeth had told me clearly when going through her first chemo treatments: “Mom, I don’t want to go through years of treatment for cancer only to die of it. I don’t want to live like that.”  I looked at her and I said “you won’t”, knowing somehow, that it was true, she would not.

But the doctors were still coming to the ICU each day and telling us she could go to rehab, learn to walk again, she’d need radiation to her brain, a different chemo drug…and I was a believer still, not yet seeing what was in front of me. Powerless, and still hopeful. Around the 6th night she was in the ICU, in the hallway, our favorite nurse said to me “I heard from your friend that you’re starting to talk about hospice.” I was shocked.  That was the first time I’d heard the word used in relation to Elizabeth, and we had NOT started to talk about hospice! I was angry at her, felt violated and that she’d crossed some line.  Only later was I incredibly grateful for the one brave woman who would dare speak the truth.

The next morning, after some time had allowed this idea to sink in, I asked the oncology team to tell us what was realistic. Did hospice make more sense than planning to continue treatment? Only then, when confronted, did they say yes, hospice was probably the way to go, that the treatments being discussed weren’t likely to be successful. They also passed it off to Elizabeth’s specialist, who had never come to the hospital, saying he’d have to talk to us for the final word. He came that day I think, and sat with me and Greg, and told us that she could try more chemo, or radiation, but it would likely only add days or weeks to her life and he didn’t recommend further treatment.  There was no question in my mind that Elizabeth wouldn’t want that, and I didn’t want that for her either.  All I wanted then was for her to come home, be out of the ICU, in a beautiful, peaceful place where we could care for her ourselves.  Dr Miller also told us that if he let himself, he’d be sobbing along with us, but he couldn’t.  That he wanted to be the hero who saved her, and he hated that this wasn’t the way the story was going to end. I know he didn’t want to be there either, having this conversation. No one wants to be the one to tell the parents of a 22 year old young woman that she will die soon.

We still had to fight hard to get her breathing tube removed, as she had a hard time passing their breathing test, though she was breathing on her own. The ICU doctor was afraid they’d have to intubate her again, if she didn’t have the strength to continue on her own.  I knew she’d be fine, that she needed to get the breathing tube out, so we could take her home.

Elizabeth Blue, ICU,

Elizabeth in the ICU

Finally, after days of promises and disappointments, they removed the tubes (partially because her dad had a rare, but necessary, blowup at the ICU doctor). She breathed fine, and she could speak again! I then told Elizabeth what Dr Miller had said, that there were no more treatments to try and she could come home.  She looked at me and said, “I’m relieved.” I looked in her eyes and said, “I understand.”  Elizabeth said, “I’m so glad you understand! I was afraid you wouldn’t.” I told her of course I understood, that she had done everything she could possibly do, and I just wanted her to come home where I could take care of her, and she wanted that too.

She’d had a feeding tube in, and as soon as her hands were free, she tried to pull it out. I explained that she might not be able to eat, as we didn’t know if she could swallow still, and asked if she understood what that meant. The doctors advised against it. She said yes, she wanted it out, and got it most of the way before a nurse could help her. Once that was done, and she wasn’t attached to the machines, we arranged quickly with hospice for a bed to be delivered to our home, and she came home the next day, after 10 days in the ICU.

Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, hospice,

Elizabeth at home in hospice

If that nurse hadn’t spoken up, if we had been compliant and unquestioning, if we didn’t have great family support, a friend who is a doctor…Elizabeth might well have lived her last weeks in the ICU, hooked up to LOUD, painful, machines, with ICU psychosis (an actual condition they acknowledge there) from bright lights 24 hours a day, nurses waking her up every few hours, not able to speak, eat, laugh or just be.

roses, altar, Elizabeth Blue,

roses on the altar

As it happened, she came home and lived two more extraordinary months. The most beautiful, grace-full, love-filled times I’ve known.  There was healing and completion in many relationships. Time with her sister. Visits and laughter with family and friends. Singing bowls played. Silence. Books read. Poetry listened to. Soft sheets. Daily massage. Cuddling. Favorite foods. Music of all sorts – from Graceful Passages, Beyonce, Ashanna and Wu-Tang Clan. Fresh roses and altars with sacred objects. Soft light, birds, flowering plants and trees outside the windows.  We had time to talk of fear, of death, of love, of acceptance, of regret and loss, and joy and peace…It was so beautiful. And I am so blessed to have shared that time with her, and so immensely grateful it happened the way it did.

If I’m very lucky, I will die as she did (except for the Wu-Tang Clan), surrounded by love, being loved, and being Love.

Elizabeth Blue, hospice,

Elizabeth and Lucia’s hands

Elizabeth Blue, hospice,

Elizabeth with her Grandma, at home

I recommend filling out 5 Wishes, a living will written in plain language, that gives great options for how you might want to be treated if you can’t speak for yourself. Take some time to think about how you want to live and how you want to die…

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.

Beginning to Leave the Hospital by Elizabeth Blue

(One of Elizabeth’s essays when she was almost done with her first (and we thought only) round of chemo, followed by her musings on titles and structure for the book she planned to write about this experience. God I love her mind and and am so grateful to have these writings…)

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, lymphoma

Elizabeth Blue, Spring, 2012

Beginning to Leave the Hospital

March 5, 2012

I feel like I’m only now beginning to walk out of that hospital.
UMC, the day after they diagnosed me.  The day after they told me it was cancer.

I was lying in the hospital bed drugged up on morphine right after surgery (my first surgery) and my biopsy.  I looked at my mom all swollen with makeup running down my face and said to her (smiling) “If it is cancer its going to be ok.”  And she said “Yes.”  And then a few hours later they/the surgeon came to tell me it was indeed cancer.

I feel like only now, approaching treatment six, (the last one please god).  Chemo round one, round two, round three, round four and round five are done.  Whew.  I still feel like I’m in the hospital.

The shock: the utter senselessness and cruelty of being beautiful and twenty-two and having cancer is just starting to wear off and the feeling has begun.  The feeling of having had cancer.  I feel like the shock and senseless and sudden, unprovoked tragedy of it all kept me mentally in the same room it all happened in until now.  Now, six months later, my mind is beginning to catch up with the body that gathered her things from that room, left the hospital, went to school and told her family and teachers she had cancer.  And got on with it.  Took the treatment like a grinding kick in the face and a wet cold punch in the stomach, week after week and sat there quietly and didn’t say anything.  And didn’t yell at god or the world or the doctors for A: letting this shit happen and B: letting the treatment, the cure be so goddamned miserable that it destroyed her feeling and her heart and her youth and made her lose her hair and the oh dear god, fucking pic line.

They called the thing they put in me a Pick Line.  THEY CALLED IT A PICK LINE, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?  They put this tube into my veins and all the way down into my heart and I didn’t want it and I didn’t understand what they were going to do until they already were doing it. They exposed me to way too much radioactivity in the process and sewed it up into my skin like it was no big deal and it hurt, it fucking hurt.

Then there was this big gaping wound and a tube sewn into my body permanently and they forced a long tube into my heart and I didn’t want it and it wasn’t necessary and that was the worst rape I’ve ever experienced.  And I never cried.  I sat there and was good and quiet and cooperative because I trusted that they knew what they were doing and that they could save my life.

And they did.

But me, the real me who talks and has feelings and still can’t comprehend the fact, that cancer was inside of me, that it even could be.  The me that still can’t wrap my head around something so unfair and unpleasant could happen to the blessed child who led a charmed life.  She (that me) is still in the hospital.  Because the shock, the pure and blessed numbing shock of the news that cancer was in me froze her in time.  It froze her so the me who is numb and unfeeling and quiet and detached and removed could take over.  Take the chemo, take the treatment, take the tragedy.  And hold space for the sadness of others.  The me who I generally associate with is just beginning to de-thaw in that hospital room, shake her head and wonder how the fuck did I get here and where do I go now?  I’m hoping, I mean I think, she can come join me now.

(Musings on her future writing…)

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, lymphoma

Elizabeth Blue, with Blue, Spring, 2012

The Stories We Will Tell Our Children
The journey of a 22 year old cancer survivor

By
Elizabeth Blue

Why this title is important:

Dr. Miller told me on our last meeting that all this would just be a story I would tell someday (an unpleasant one)
The realization that I want children came with having chemo and being told I couldn’t.
My children will exist because I had cancer not the opposite (strange)
This is my history
Buildings, ie hospitals and doctor offices are going to be the transitional and pivotal star points for this experience.  THIS IS THE STRUCTURE FOR YOUR STORY ELIZABETH.  IT HAS ALREADY BEEN GIVEN.  THIS IS LUCKY.  BUILD THE STRUCTURE/SECTIONS/CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK AROUND CHEMO ROUNDS AND HOSPITAL VISIT AND DR. VISITS.
Interview Mom, perhaps others as an example of how narratives vary
talk about trauma theory and troubles with perception
there is a lot here.
Now, should it be a biography or just this story?

Other ideas include:

“High Tales and Desert Winds”
“For My Mother”
“Coming Home”
Mama: How having cancer brought me back to my mother  (The journey of a twenty two year old cancer survivor.)

©Elizabeth Blue, 2012

The Enormity of it All

The Enormity of it All

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

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

Yesterday I was having lunch with a dear friend, who is very insightful and intuitive, and has two sons the same ages as my two daughters.  She asked me, with concern, for the second time in two weeks, if I was really taking the time and space to allow for the enormity of what has happened.  It felt like she was asking if I truly grasped the magnitude of what has happened to me, my daughter’s death a year ago.  I didn’t really know how to answer her and I still don’t.

On the one hand, I started to feel like maybe I wasn’t doing this grieving “right”, which I’m sure was far from what she intended.  As a mother, it’s such a familiar place to go: if this looks different, or is not what is expected by others, maybe I’m not doing it right.  Though much of my mothering has looked “different” (as is how I live my life), and I can see things I could have done better, overall I’ve mothered the best way I know how, following my heart and modeling that for my daughters.  Still, it’s easy to be vulnerable as a parent, to question if we’re doing the right thing. Guilt seems to come along with parenthood and the enormous responsibilities we’re honored with in bringing someone into the world.

What I said to my friend is that I feel like my main work now is healing through grieving, and taking the time to heal in whatever ways I can.  For me, this means a lot of time alone, listening to music where I often receive messages from Elizabeth, meditating, reading, watching tv on netflix for hours when I need to (all of “Orange is the New Black” during 2 really hard days). It means getting acupuncture and bodywork, talking to good friends, asking family to be around for difficult times, like birthdays and anniversaries, asking for support…It means saying no to many invitations and events, listening deeply to what I really want to do, and leaving when I’m tired and feeling full. It means spending time with my younger daughter, visiting her more often, connecting with her and wanting to be closer with her.

It also means seeing clients, offering the healing work I do, which I love – it helps me to focus on someone else, listening with my full presence, feeling like I’m in service and contributing, and it makes me feel better as I receive the Reiki as it flows through me to my client.  Teaching Reiki and facilitating healing circles and retreats also brings me joy, and is another way that I feel Elizabeth’s presence, sitting with me and supporting me, as I ask to be the clearest channel for the teachings to flow through. It also allows me the opportunity to share some of what I learned from Elizabeth about living and dying with grace, which helps bring some greater meaning to this intense journey of transformation.

It means writing, combing through my emails and journals, Elizabeth’s writing and photographs, and sharing these with all of you, listening for the guidance about the timing. Receiving feedback about how this affects you has been an amazing balm for my heart.

But, am I able to absorb the enormity of what has happened, that my adored and beloved and challenging and worrisome and beautiful and smart and difficult and adoring and creative and wise 22 year old first-born daughter has died? No, absolutely not.  Do I cry as I write these words? yes. There is no way I could absorb or take in all of this, even one year later it continues to seep in, little by little, day by day, and I do my best to stay present to it, to grief, stay present to Elizabeth’s spirit, stay present to my living daughter, Julianna, stay present to my partner, and mostly, stay present to my heart.