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.

img_8284

img_8286

dime from the ashes

img_8287

img_8288

hiding pheasant

img_8289img_8293img_8302img_8307img_8317img_8320img_8323img_8326img_8337

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

IMG_6546 Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar Marin Headlands, Elizabeth Blue, Lucia Maya, altar

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

What Would Be Elizabeth’s 25th Birthday

I have been remarkably quiet here for some time. Not that I don’t have anything to say, but I’ve felt somehow paralyzed. There are some days filled with joy and gratitude – full and hopeful, and I don’t have much to say about them. There are days filled with deep sorrow, my eyes filling with unspilled tears with nearly every breath, as the past two weeks have been, and I don’t quite know how to express in words what is in my heart…I am grateful for these anniversaries and birthdays as it gives me an absolute knowing that I will sit down here and write, and there is much that wants to be written.

Today, January 12, 2015, Elizabeth would have turned 25. She would have been here in Hawaii these last couple of weeks with me, with her sister and my partner, with her aunts and her cousins, her grandmother…we would have all celebrated her birthday together, at least in my imagination. And she’s not. And we’re not celebrating with her. I know she’s here in spirit, I’m feeling her laughing at me, and I don’t care, I just wish she were here. Her bossy, sweet, appreciative, wise and beautiful embodied self.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher,

Elizabeth, ~ age 8

I know I’m not alone in missing her. It’s possible I’m not even missing her and hurting the most (though it’s hard to imagine that). I know the rest of our family and her close friends, maybe even people I never knew, are missing her terribly, their hearts hurting and throats filled with tears. And yet, even when I’m with others, I feel alone in this. Ironically, I’ve barely been alone these past 3 weeks, and perhaps that’s part of why I feel so separate from Elizabeth. It’s when I have more time alone that I can most easily feel her presence and connect with her spirit, and then I feel more connected with everything.

I do sense she’s farther away these days though – tending to bigger things than just me and my grief. She feels more diffuse nowadays, more everywhere and less anywhere. So I will celebrate her birthday without her, with family, and mostly within myself.

Her birthday is deeply important to me. I gave birth to her 25 years ago on this day. I knew her intimately from the time she was conceived. I fed her from my own body for over two years. I watched her joys and her sorrows and her loves and her fears. I watched her take her first step, discover her love for avocado, dress up in clothes with delight, eat her first and her last, bite of food. I watched her take her last breath. Today, she will be honored and loved, celebrated and cried for. I carry her with me and all who are reading this carry her as well. Thank you.

Happy birthday my sweet first born. Happy birthday Elizabeth Blue.

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher,

Celebrating our birthdays, January, 2009

Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, Lucia Maya, Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher,

These photos are from 2009, on a family vacation when Elizabeth and I celebrated our birthdays together. Mine is December 24, and hers January 12, and we were all together sometime in between.

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.