Memories and dreams | Maya's Gifts

Memories and dreams

When I think of “grief”, I think of so many emotions swirled into one. Grief carries me in so many different directions. The most familiar one is a place of sadness. Then there is the depth of the sadness. It can be a tap on the shoulder or it can go deep. But grief has so many other layers. Anxiety, regret, longing, and anger. All of the faces of grief are inextricably tied to love. It is because of the love, that the grief lives.

Anger is not a place that I frequently visit. About six months ago, I was in Maya’s room, and I forgot what it was, but anger came knocking on my door. I was very angry. Very angry at Maya. Angry at her not being here. Her choice. My missing, my regret, my should haves, my longing, and even Maya’s room. I spiraled.

I looked around. Over the years, the room has undergone mild transformation. We rearranged some wall hangings, I brought more plants in, and during Covid times, I even created a little Zoom station for myself. Through the intense times of the pandemic, I felt comforted among Maya’s art, plants and the light. It was still Maya’s room. It has been her room from birth through the day she died. We still refer to it as “Maya’s room.” I have a sense that will never change.

The anger I experienced of a few months back, had a certain activation. It landed in her room. “What are we even doing? How is it that we are keeping this room as Maya’s room?” The bed spoke to me. There it was. Beautiful, solid wood, bathed in many sleeps and dreams. So many memories of me putting Maya to sleep there, and then slinking off and like a snake, silently slithering on the floor out of her room in the hopes that I wouldn’t wake her. This was the only bed she ever had. In my angry place, I realized this precious bed is just taking up too much space. It is defining the room. I felt it was finally time for it to find a new home.

Giving away a bed in New Paltz has too much charge. Everyone would know whose bed this was, and it would not be comfortable for whoever claimed it as their own. It was in such great condition, we could not bring it to the dump.

Our mission began. Our first impulse was to donate it to the local Tibet Center. They have a thrift store; funds from the sales support people in Tibet. Given Maya’s connection to that region, how poetic that would be. But no, the Tibet Center was not taking furniture at this time. Next stop was FAMILY. Again, serving people in need. Perhaps someone moving to a home or apartment could use it. Yet again, they were not taking furniture. We then reached out to another nonprofit. This organization serves victims and survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual violence and other types of crime victimization.

Their response is that they did not have anywhere to store a bed, and no way to pick it up, but on occasion, there is a need. Could we bring it to the place of need, when a call is made? “Absolutely!” In time, we got the call. We could not bring the bed on that Saturday, but Sunday would work. Before the day came, I spent some time in Maya’s bed. The last time. Fifteen years of memories and dreams played before me. Tears streamed and I was feeling ready. No longer angry. Just tender. Tender for this powerful layer of good-bye and tenderness knowing that this bed will have a new life.

The case manager had arranged for the bed recipient to meet us in front of the building at a given hour. For whatever reason (perhaps being human), I had imagined delivering the bed to a mother with her young children. “The bed would go to a child” was my story. My image of a child was close; she was a child with a twist. The person standing before me was barely out of her teenage years navigating a challenging moment that should be beyond her years. She was so grateful, and actually shared that “we saved her life’. I shared with her, “no! You saved your life!” I can only imagine the situation in which she left. I honor her courage and strength. As we were leaving, she was tuning into her online GED class. We noticed post-it notes including affirmations on the wall by the doorway.

My anger drove me to act. The action became compassion and now I have hope. Maya’s room in time will take on a new life. We do not have any plans for it right now; we are allowing the plants to enjoy the light as they spread into the space. I feel grateful knowing that Maya’s bed, is now giving this brave survivor some comfort, a safe night’s sleep and allowing for new memories and dreams.

Photos of Maya in her bedroom were from January 2008. She was a bit over seven years old. Last photo is of her bedroom in transformation.


  • Thank you for sharing your grief with us, Elise. Grief, requires two things; community and ritual. You have cultivated both as evidenced by this beautiful story, and how you choose to share it.


    • Thank you for being part of my community in which I can share ritual, Rebecca!
      This “beautiful story” is now part of your story and our community’s story.
      I am grateful.

  • Elise. I just love your writing. It brings me into your moment. Even though I didn’t know Maya personally, I think of her beauty and light. May her memory always be for a blessing.

  • These words make real sense to my grieving and often angry heart. These words are a gift. I thank you

    Diana (your wild bee balm sister)

    • Oooh, Diana, you bee balm sister, you,

      You’ve got me curious here. We’ll have to share. I’d love to hear your angry heart story. I am barely in touch with mine. Though as challenging as it is for me, I think it’s a healthy place to go.


  • Please know, dear Elise, that you are witnessed and acknowledged with love. Thank you for your courage

  • Elise, I am always so moved and inspired by how present you are with yourself and your feelings. You always move me, every time you share. Thank you for enriching my life by allowing us to see your pain, and joy, and life through your eyes. A warm loving hug to you.

    • Sara,
      From following me along my hiking travels, to sitting close at shul, to holding me here as you read my journey of grief, I deeply appreciate your presence, support and love.
      Warm hugs back, dear one.

  • Dear Elise, I am holding space in my heart for you, for memories of Maya and for the brave young person navigating through this ever changing world.

    • Dear Diana,
      That means so much to me, thank you. Gee, those memories at times feel like yesterday, don’t they?

  • Elise,
    I am touched, humbled and feel graced by your tender heart, your words of deep truth, your braveness and compassion. Feeling gratitude to be included in this circle of community, surrounding you with love. ~ Cindy

    • Dear Cindy,
      Thank you deeply. This circle of community is most certainly my oxygen. Still. I appreciate your part of it!

  • Elise,
    Thank you for sharing this chapter’s end and the next chapter’s beginning.
    Your strength/vulnerability is inspiring.
    God is near to the broken hearted. May He continue to comfort you. May He build up the recipient of Maya’s bed.
    ❤️ Judy

    • Dear Judy,
      Thank you for being with me in my vulnerability and strength. I am grateful to be supported through all. My sense is that is what keeps me here.
      Sending love,

  • I love this so much. Beautiful writing, beautiful sentiments and beautiful transformation. I could see it all so perfectly in my mind. So much love to you.

    • Thank you Theresa, for imagining this experience so clearly.
      I appreciate the community here, that can imagine and share these stories with me.
      Glad you loved it.
      Sending love to you, too.

  • dear Elise, this is so beautiful and so moving. Seeing those photos makes me miss Maya fiercely.
    The last verse of my song Listen and Remember is “There are memories and dreams, memories and dreams/ They might be yours, they might be mine/ Our stories weave together/ This is the place, this is the time.”
    I’m glad that another young woman, perhaps close to the age that Maya would have been now, is now sleeping safely in her bed.

    • I am with you, Jo.
      The photos stop me in my tracks always. “Listen and Remember” was constantly played in our household. Perhaps on some subconscious level, I had that beautiful verse humming in my head as I wrote.
      Thank you

  • Beautiful. I learned about “glimmers” recently. They are triggers of memory but instead of trauma, they are moments of love, peace and joy.
    This post read like a real life fairytale. Thank you.

    • Yes, KT, Karen!
      I’ve learned of “glimmers” recently, too. It delights me to know that this story shared a glimmer.
      Thank you.

  • Beautiful, Elise. Just beautiful. Lovely photos. Thank you for sharing. A lot comes through between your words.

  • Dear Elise,
    Thank you for allowing me to share your grief, joy, sadness, love. You and your family’s courage help me put one foot in front of the other.
    Please let me know if I might give you a few chrysalids to watch and release.
    All of our emotions need to be felt, savored and set free to fly. I would be happy to give you some this week. Just give me a call.
    I think about your trip to India. I know Carol and Philip went with you…
    I do thank you for your spirit and life.
    Much love to you.

    • How kind.
      So much kindness right here, Betty!
      I’ll reach out about the chrysalides!
      Thank you for all,

  • Life, loss, and love. So intertwined, always. Thank you Elise for sharing yourself so openly. Sending you love.

    • Yes, Cynthia!
      All so intertwined.
      Thank you for reading and taking the time to share a comment.
      Sending love right back to you.

    • Dear, dear Anne,
      The reality is that my strength comes from a huge circle of support. Thank you for being part of it.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I enjoy your writing. My tender mother’s heart can barely imagine this kind of grief. Thank you for sharing your journey in such a relatable way. I am grateful to know of the blessings you continue to create with Maya’s spirit.

    • Hi Harmony,
      It is challenging to describe but I am in this place of unbearable grief and I still can barely imagine being here.
      Thank you for being with me here.

  • Incredibly beautiful. My heart s and died of cancer 3 years ago. In the last month, I’ve begun giving away some things that majorly defined him: his piano to a family for their 7 year old daughter; his extensive camera equipm not to our daughter-in-law who he was teaching; and this weekend his lathe to a friend who has a friend who has expanded her woodworking. I know I could sell these items but yet they hat doesn’t seem right. And yes I’ve been angry—at cancer, at his dying, at my aloneness now. Thank you for expressing this so graciously. My heart goes with you.

    • I am so sorry for your loss, Ann.
      Wishing you ease and tenderness as you find homes for your loved ones belongings.
      My heart is with you, too.

  • Elise Greetings it’s Nathaniel. Have not shared a good amount of time lately. In the precious moments we have and w the blessings of the creator. May the times be short or long there is something we are blessed to exchange in this life. The Love,compassion soul touch of another human. Keep these essentials as they are our real food of spirit . Enriching out beings for one another time and love will heal.

    • How beautiful, Nathaniel,
      Heartfelt gratitude.
      A question that I have had to do with “….love will heal”. I always wonder about the word, “heal”. Are we ever healed? Or always in a state of healing?
      Blessings your way

  • Thanks for sharing your story, Elise. Been thinking of you and thinking of Maya and of your home, and am grateful to hear a bit more of your journey and to hold it in my heart.

    big big hugs,

    • Hi Dorothy!
      That is interesting! I wonder how the thoughts of me, Maya and our home came to you! Glad to know you’re grateful to hear this part. The journey continues to unfold.
      See you soon,

  • What a beautiful, poignant and powerful story Elise !
    May this young woman who is the recipient of Maya’s bed sleep many peaceful nights and prevail in her life. May your tender heart continue to be held by so many loved ones!

  • Hi Elise. Spoke to my son Max on the phone today and he told me he and his roommate Porter had lit a yahrzeit candle for Maya today. I lit one too. I wanted to write to you to let you know and that you are in my thoughts Really appreciated this post. 🙏🏼

    • Dear Michelle,

      I am reading this with such a tender heart. Thank you for letting me know that you, Max and Porter are remembering our Maya (and when I say, “our”, I mean she touched us all), by lighting a yahrzeit candle. I appreciate knowing how we’re in your thoughts.

      Interestingly, last night when I couldn’t sleep, was the first time that I missed having Maya’s bed here. It’s really okay. I am at peace with its new home!

      Gratitude your way, Michelle, for your kindness.

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