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.

 

Praying ~ Mary Oliver

elizabeth blue, bird tattoo,PRAYING

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

~from Mary Oliver’s collection of poetry, “Thirst” (Beacon Press, 2006).

Thank you to my wonderful mother for sending this at the perfect time. I’m mostly without words these days, while I’m resting and recuperating from my move and all that was involved. I expect they’ll be back soon, and Elizabeth will have more to say too…

Ghost Cats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth 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.

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.

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.

Leaving Her Body…

Elizabeth Blue, Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Elizabeth Blue ~ April, 2012 by Jade Beall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One year ago today, the email below I sent to our close friends and family. Now I share it here, with those of you who have joined me on this transformative, healing journey.

As I prepared for this first anniversary of my daughter Elizabeth’s death, I anticipated it would be challenging. I’ve been learning how to care for myself, my needs, better and better throughout this time, so I asked close family and friends to gather, a very small group who knew and love Elizabeth (and me!) dearly, to come and spend time together.  We’ve spent the last couple of days telling stories, looking at photos, doing art projects with Elizabeth’s image, eating, laughing, resting, loving Elizabeth and each other…

We plan to begin the process of releasing her ashes today, spreading some in one of her favorite places in Tucson, with plans to spread more in Berkeley and Hawaii later, two of her other favorite places. I honor her and remember her every day, and oddly, today doesn’t feel as momentous or intense as I expected – I’m wondering now if the emotion will come when everyone leaves and I’m alone again…in this first year, even the hardest days have been fine, as I’ve watched myself experiencing emotion like never before, and always able to be aware that it will pass, that all I need to do is be present and keep trusting my heart. Thank you all for being here with me in this first year. Your presence from near and far, old friends and new, strangers and family, has meant so much. I am so grateful for each of you. Thank you.

Leaving Her Body

September 23, 2012

Dear Ones,

Elizabeth left her body this morning around 4:30 am.  She was peaceful, she knew I was right with her, holding her hand, talking to her and loving her. Something woke me at 4am, and I went to check on her. As I heard her breathing, I knew she was very close, and sat down to be with her.  I was thinking it could be a few hours still, so was about to lay down on the couch, when I heard her take one breath, and then realized it was her last one.  Her heart continued for a while…

Since yesterday morning her breathing had changed, and Greg (her dad) and I had spent the whole day sitting close, talking to her, telling her how much we love her, and how many people love her and have been affected by her.  She was mostly in another world, but every few hours would open her eyes, and was still so clear, with the same love and grace in her gaze.

I am so grateful for the gentle waves of these passages, that each new wave has washed over, giving me time to adjust, to accept, to move into the next stage gracefully, diving in deep and emerging with an ever more cracked open heart, and knowing there’s still more and still more….

As usual, we are doing something a bit unusual – we are keeping Elizabeth’s body at home for a few days, having cleaned, anointed and prepared her body ourselves.  We will have a visiting time here, for anyone who is in Tucson, if you want to say goodbye to her body, and connect with me and family.  She will be cremated in a couple of days.

We are also planning a large, public memorial service in 2-3 weeks.  We will honor and celebrate her life, with music, stories, photos and her poetry.  Do not feel you need to come and see her body,  it is simply a possibility if you want to say goodbye in this way.

More to come…

love and blessings,
Lucia

This photo is of her last night, still beautiful and at peace.

Elizabeth Blue, Elizabeth Meagher, hospice

Elizabeth Blue her last night, 9/22/12

Elizabeth Blue,  Jade Beall, Elizabeth Meagher

Elizabeth Blue, April, 2012 by Jade Beall