Graduation | Maya's Gifts


I remember when I began to come up for air after Maya took her life.  I began to think about all of the landmarks that I would miss.  Learning to drive and getting a license, graduating from high school, doing work in Nepal, college, exploring career opportunities, relationships, perhaps marriage, a family.

I also remember that first autumn when Maya left us, sunset after sunset, each was more extraordinary.  How could this be?

Since October 2015, I have ridden many waves.  Many came when I expected them; birthdays, anniversaries and Mother’s Day.  I anticipate these with so much anxiety.  Others pulled me under in ways I didn’t quite expect, like now, when I am slammed by a tidal wave that knows no bounds.  Although I was not prepared, in my darkness, I had an “ah ha moment.”  Of course.  This is when Maya would be graduating high school. She should be among her friends, many of whom were with her since preschool.  But she is not here.  We should be rejoicing together now.  But “should” does not work.

The only thing I know is that I am being pulled under.  I am thinking, “This is it.  I am done.”  For those long moments, hours or days, I am done; I allow myself to fully feel the doneness.  A part of me understands, in those times, why people turn to substances, exhibit unhealthy behaviors or retreat into depression, as it is so deeply painful.  I know this pain now.  It has been over two and a half years.  I am learning that in time, the current will calm.  I will surface and exhale again and may even enjoy the water.

I noticed this spring, that the fragrances from the blossoming flowers have been more fragrant than ever before.  How can this be?

photo on top taken on Mother’s Day, 2014 at Bonticou Crag


  • I love you, Elise. Your words remind me of this quote that my beloved mother kept over her desk from Maxine Hong Kingston, in “The Woman Warrior”: “I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.”

    I am thinking of you and your family,
    Rabbi Jonathan

    • Phew! I am taking in that quote! So many paradoxes.
      Thank you to your beloved mom, Rabbi Jonathan, and thanks to you, too.

  • dear dear Elise,
    Even before you wrote this, I’ve been thinking of you as we parents of teens make our way through graduation season. I was afraid to say anything, imagining this would be a difficult time for you. I’m not surprised to hear of this upwelling. I’m very relieved by the strength and breadth of your perception . . . yes, it will pass; it is already passing. Yes, the sunsets, the flowers, all of it. Remember our walk by Cooper Lake, and the perfectly lush, unripe pink blueberries?

    Sending love and hopefully a hug tonight at dance class.


  • My dear Elise-
    One can not even imagine. You so candidly express your thoughts to let us in. We are here for you; just like yesterday when you happened to call me at the right time. I admire your strength and resilience.Reach out and let us be your shoulder to lean on.
    With open arms, warm embrace, many kisses. I love you my old friend. 💕💕

    • Your response is my shoulder to lean on. I am taking in your warm embrace. Thank you, Wendy.

  • Elise,
    My heart is touched and tender as I read your words and feel your pain. To ride the waves like you’re doing . . . . it takes humbleness and courage and a commitment to be fully alive. I so respect your choice. The aliveness of pain will also support the aliveness of once again feeling joy, smelling the sweet spring fragrances and enjoying the water. I think of you often with so much love. Love, love, Cindy

    • I really do believe this. I likely have said it on these “pages” in the past. It is because I allow myself to feel the depths, that I can experience the joy. It is more challenging than I can express right now. Thank you for holding the space for me, Cindy.

  • Oh Elise, as graduation approaches I think of you and Matthew daily. I watched the student life video the other day and was so moved by the photos and short video of beautiful Maya. I have no comforting words, but I am holding you tightly in my heart. Thank you for your honesty. Much love, Rebecca

    • It is nice to know that you were moved by the student life video and seeing our daughter in it. I am so glad that they chose to include Maya. It was important for her class to do so. I have not yet seen it (I have a link). I don’t know when the right time will be. I’ll keep my finger on my pulse. Thank you Rebecca, for reaching out.

  • I am embracing you as I read your post, feel your vulnerability, the depth of your love, the everlasting connection to the tides of your life and Maya’s, so intricately connected forever. I am still embracing you.

    • …”the everlasting connection to the tides of your life and Maya’s”…
      Precious words, Lucy. Thank you.

  • Oh Elise. Eyes filling with tears. Feeling a tiny portion of your pain yet so strong…hopefully easing this wave for you in some way. Sending love…..

    • Thank you for sharing the tears, Bonnie. I believe, in some way, it helps to know that I’m not alone.

  • So sorry Elise for your loss! Thank you for reminding us to treasure each day with our children! So glad for the internet that we have been given the blessing of being able to see and share Maya’s life from your early postings! And may the love of friends and family near and far and connected to you through your sharing of your joys and sorrows help comfort you on this difficult day of graduation from high school that my son just experienced as he too was born in 2000! High School kids of their generation have been so troubled and our world has been so troubled as the teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas also had to face graduation without seventeen of their love ones lost to gun violence. Sending our love and caring to fill the void that this 2018 year has for you. Thank you Elise for all you have been doing to prevent future suicides through providing teen support and inspiration to help others and hopefully the spirit of Marjory Stoneman Douglas post gun violence teens will help to create with all of our help a generation that will change the world to be a kinder and more loving place for life and living things!

    • Yes, Te. It always has been challenging to be a teen. But my sense is now, it more challenging than ever. Thank you for your support. ~Eh

  • Dear elise,
    I am here and reaching out to hold you as you feel yourself being pulled down into the dark waters of empty milestones. Your written expression of your pain is exquisite. i love you dearly my friend.

  • I have thought of you often as I wrestle with my own grief and have almost called to ask how you manage knowing your losses have far out numbered mine. I love you dearly and continue to hold you in prayer and light.

  • Every time I read these my heart breaks all over again. Always thinking about your family and Maya

  • Oh, my dearest Elise. There truly are no words in my experience that will bring you comfort. Only the feeling of love, the feeling of tight yet gentle hugs, the feeling that the endless people who know you, care so very very deeply and admire you so profoundly for who you are and the way you live and give, might help you to breathe.
    I hold you, Mathew, Adin and Maya in my heart everyday.

  • If only, if only…………..but I can’t change what’s happened to you and everyone who knew and loved Maya. All I can do is send you hugs and love and feel helpless to help you. I know the pain comes in waves and you have to keep your head above water until it subsides, at least for a while. Hopefully, the waves will come less often and you can remember Maya without losing your breath. I can only imagine just how angry you must also feel from time to time.

    • Thank you Deb, for your hugs, love and ongoing support. I do go to angry places at times, but that is not a place that I visit too often. By the way, you are not helpless. Your words really are a gift.

  • Of course. How could you feel otherwise? Thank you for sharing how you are feeling. I can only imagine and even that feels pretty unbearably painful. Sending you a hug.

    • Yes, Eve. This is a big one. I have been carrying the words to share for a while. It was time. I am touched by the love that I am feeling when reading everyone’s comments. Thank you.

  • Elise- I want to hold your hand as you slide under, until you emerge again and regain footing. Oh the emptiness and the fullness of life. How could so much time have past? Love to you and Mathew.

    • You are holding my hand. I am being held by many hands. That is what is making it possible for me to be here. Thank you.

  • Dear Elise, always moved by your openness and depth of connection. Keep on smelling. Sending light in the dark. And let the shadow guide! With love

    • Elayne, being open is my life blood. It is allowing others in. I need this. Thank you for being here with love and light.

  • Elise,
    Thank you for your teaching, your sharing, your honesty, your courage. And your insight, your depth.
    Each day I have moments that I think about how it is for your and your family, and the wish to ease your burden.
    I am here, by your side.
    Love you, Claire

  • thank you, dearest Elise, for sharing the tidal wave.
    Sometimes one might think that to surface from the wave is too hard. Maybe part of the raw pain, being on the edge of bearable, opens your senses to the sunsets and flower scents.
    It reminds me again of Maya’s pleasure at the beauty of nature.
    love always,

    • Hmm, generally when I am in it, it doesn’t seem hard; surfacing seems impossible.
      I do believe that allowing myself to go there ultimately does open me to the wonders of the sunsets and extraordinary fragrances.
      Sweet memories of Maya’s pleasure in nature…
      love always

  • Reading your honest heart open post, then others comments and then your absolutely gorgeous replies – I am so moved. Elise, you are such a beautiful, generous, wise and powerful soul!!!…awake. It’s a blessing and honor to know you! Thank you for sharing yourself as you do. May love always hold you!

    • I am soaking this in Diana, thank you!
      I am really looking forward to some balafone time with you.
      That goes along with the sunsets, fragrances and love, Elise

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