Honoring your voice | Maya's Gifts

Honoring your voice


July 2006.

Dear Maya,

Elated! Completely thrilled!  High!  These are some words to express your experience while you were in the Shapers Hair Salon getting your hair cut for the first time.  You were looking forward to the moment for a long time.  You initiated the idea of having a haircut.  What has been driving you has been the desire to look like a boy.  I had some letting go to do, as I love your long hair.  It’s been quite beautiful.  In fact, I have been resisting getting my hair cut short, as I thought you might want to follow suit and cut yours.  But no.  You surprised me and came up with the idea on your own.

IMG_2771     IMG_2809


As Kelly was snipping your hair, your grin could not have not been bigger. You did not have one ambivalent bone in your body.  Kelly suggested a bob, as that would be a good transition, but I felt the need to honor your request.  Short is what you wanted and short is what you got.


Not only did you love the process of getting it cut, but you love having short hair. You love running your fingers through it to “brush” it.  You like peeking at yourself in the mirror as you pass and you still hope people mistake you for a boy!

As for me, I think you look great in short hair. We’ll be donating your hair to “Locks of Love”, and organization that makes wigs for kids who’ve lost their hair due to medical conditions.  We’ll also save a little for sentimental purposes.

Locks Lots of love, Mommy

December 2015

Maya, dear Maya.

Oh, how I honored your voice and your self-assurance. You often danced to the beat of a different drummer.  You would be outrageously and authentically you.  What a gift; this started at a young age and continued.  Dad and I are trying to weave the threads together that have dreadfully been unraveled in the months before your death.  We are learning about a shift.  Your voice changed; you did not have the same self-assurance. What happened?  We have a strong belief that it is the teen culture.  You could not be true to yourself as the pressures were/are too strong.  We are burdened with so many “what-if’s.”   For now, that does not serve us.  We are looking forward to making shifts in the teen culture in your name, our dear daughter.

Love you always, Mom


  • It is so deeply poignant that Maya, the voice of independence and self-assurance, the girl who publicly drew attention to the sexist language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the age of six, would eventually be overwhelmed by the pressures and cruelties that can rage among teens. It’s a measure of how huge those pressures are, I think much worse now than they used to be. The shifts that you and Mathew are working towards are so needed.

  • Hi Elise,
    Thinking about Maya often and you and Mathew and Adin, remembering that self-possessed, sprightly, almost first-grader who came to my art class only one summer, many summers ago.

    She authored one of the most memorable paintings ever to come from a child I worked with, and I worked with many hundreds of kids over the years. I don’t know if you saved it or what became of it, but it was a painting of a feather. Feathers symbolize ascension and evolution to a higher plane. I knew this kid was special, ‘on a mission’, if you will.

    To hear of her passing many years later, to know nothing of the details of her life or why she made the choice she did, I was left only viewing what massive impact she had on a community and beyond in an instance, that sparkling little Maya Gold, a girl so full of spirit.

    In many ways, what Maya did broke through the ‘maya’ – in Hinduism, as I am sure you know – the illusion of separation. She offered up a painful mirror to our numbness – our disconnect from our own spirit and from each other. She showed us the depth of suffering our current way has on our children and our teens. And, in my tears for her own loss, and for the pain it causes you, Mathew, Adin and your family and friends and community, I thought to myself again… yes, this was a child with a big soul mission.

    I know there are many dimensions to this, many levels, many things to think about and understand, but as unthinkable as it was, Maya served love. And you are carrying on that legacy by openly sharing your story. I cannot thank you enough. You light my heart, Elise and Mathew. You give me hope, hope that we will rise, remember who we are, love ourselves and one another again with the fullness that Maya once expressed in her living. And if I could take away your heartbreak, I would want to do that, as I know there are no words for the pain you feel. But, it is also clear to me that she chose parents who ultimately could hold her big soul.

    She is truly special. I am grateful to her and I love her and she won’t be forgotten. I am sure she is carrying on with her mission, with her activism, her hopes and dreams…in some other form or way. May your hearts heal. May all hearts heal. May love give you the strength to carry on. May she inspire your mission and may all beings be uplifted by your tears, your reflections, your loving choice to share rather than seclude. You are shining a much needed light as a result of your experience, and I know you will continue to do that.

    And please know..’I’m right up the road, I’ll share your load, If you just call me…’ I am here, if I can serve in any way, tea, talk, anything, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

    Holding You All With Great Love,
    Mana ‘olana Namaste,
    Amy McTear

    • Thank you dear, dear Amy.
      For all of your precious words. You really saw Maya, and still do see her. I embrace this.
      I will flip through my journals to find an entry about the time she took your art class and share it. I’m ever-the-saver, so I’ll be sure to find the painting of that feather (unless she gave it away).
      And of all days…I’m wearing a pair of sweet earrings that she made for me in your class. I haven’t put them on for years but I’m wearing them today. I loved coming home to read your comment. It’s something, isn’t it?
      Namaste, Elise

  • Dear Elise, thank you so much for your posts. As the year draws to a close, I am grateful to feel connected to you and Mathew through your generous writings and reflections. Each story is so touching and captures an essence of Maya and of your loving family.

    We are with you in heart and spirit.

    Sending so much love your way, Sarah

    • Dear Sarah,
      Thank you. The “loving family” gets to me. We were a loving family. We are a loving family. I just don’t understand. I don’t understand.
      Thank you for holding us in your heart and spirit with love. I know that you and so many others are carrying us.

  • My fingers press, my fingers erase…

    Flying to ny tmrw, hoping get to hold you, see you. Holding you now, seeing you now. Seeing Maya through your eyes, Mathew’s, Jo’s…

  • I didn’t remember it being quite so long as in your photo, Elise. It was beautifully wavy, and golden when she was little.
    I remember Maya’s amazing hair design, very short with a star shaved into the scalp and dyed blue! and especially her glee and satisfaction to express her new vision of herself.

    • Yes, dear Leslie. Maya had fun with creative hair design . She’d grow it out and then at times practically have it shaved. Now, having blue hair is common place, but all those years ago, she was ahead of her times. And the star, oh yes, the star!

  • I am in awe of Maya’s determination and service as I am in awe of your sharing and working so hard to make sense of what you are faced with, along with your caring and love, as always.

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