Monday, April 20, 2015

Memorial Service Details / Obituary (or Framework)

Memorial Service 

3:00 pm on Sunday, April 26, 2015
Reception to follow
Evergreen Museum & Library
Specific location:  Carriage House
4545 N. Charles St.,  Baltimore, MD  21210
Located just north of Loyola University campus on North Charles St.
(For information on the mansion house and grounds, please visit


Elizabeth Bliss Randolph was born on January 18, 1965 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Andrew B. Randolph and Deborah B. Randolph. Her family moved a few times in her early childhood, eventually settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1974.  She attended The Blake School for middle school and ninth grade. She petitioned her parents to attend boarding school for the remaining three years of high school. She won and went to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. She always considered this one of the best decisions she ever made. She thrived at Exeter  - the academic challenge, the dialogue, the exposure, the secret parties and the life long friends she made. She wrote an essay in her senior year titled, "E. Bliss and Me", which can be found under Title Track, in the reference section on this blog.

After Exeter, she went off to a humanities honors program at Stanford University, her father's alma mater. It was another good choice, allowing her to embrace the west coast, and all ways it differs from other places.  Majoring in English, and loving poetry, she found time to play ultimate frisbee, attend many Dead shows and other concerts,  study in Paris for a year, enjoy communal living at Phi Psi, protest the expansion of nuclear arms and expand her circle of life long friends.  

After graduation in 1987, it was off to an apartment in San Francisco. This was a time when a humanities major could find a roommate and live in that special city.  She landed a sales job for a small publishing company. Her territory included the Pacific northwest and east to Colorado. This afforded opportunities to hone her downhill ski skills, back country hiking,  see even more live music, continue her personal writing projects and make yet more friends.

On a  Sunday morning in 1991, in a sunny apartment in Noe Valley, Elizabeth decided to accept a promotion to become an editor at Williams and Wilkens, which is now part of the Wolters Kluwer publishing congolmerate. This is what brought her to Baltimore, Maryland. She worked for a wonderful mentor, and professionally it was a very good move.  Her first year in Baltimore was hard, as it often is in any new place.

Elizabeth threw herself into her new city.  She was an early member of the Fed Hill Tuesday Night Dinner Group, took mandolin and aikido lessons and found an ultimate club, the Baltimore Banshees.  Elizabeth and I were team mates, which is how we met in 1993.  We started dating in the spring of 1994.  The beginning of joint friendships
By 1996 she  started imagining new professional possibilities, which meant  creating an opportunity to head back to school for a Master's degree. Seeing how much she LOVED learning, I cannot believe she ever left the academic environment in the first place. The Publication Design program at the University of Baltimore provided a nice balance of writing and design, focusing on the then still  newish "world wide web."

Her new degree in hand and a wish to change professions,  created a nice jumping off spot for a 9 month "walk about."   With the support of our friends, at home and abroad, we left in September 1997 for a backpacking adventure through New Zealand, Australia, Asia,  and Europe.  

We were lucky to return when the US economy was booming.  Elizabeth was hired by a local start-up, GR8, as a Information Architect.  She was one of the first anywhere in this new field of web user experience and design.  She gathered enough experience and contacts that when GR8 became a casualty of the dot com bust in early 2000, she had options. She did some consulting work and quickly realized there were plenty of organizations that could use her assistance.  She founded out of an office in Woodberry.  She was so busy with clients she didn't even put up her own website until 2007.

During this period, a few other important events occurred.  We moved to Alonsoville.  I'm not sure we would be in Baltimore today, if it wasn't for our uniquely wonderful neighborhood, especially our immediate neighbors.  Lyla Bliss was born on August 25, 2002 and Finn Hogan was born January 5, 2005.  Elizabeth also became a regular attender  at Stony Run Quaker Meeting during this time.  Somehow she also found time to complete the Baltimore City Community Mediation training and provide service as  volunteer mediator.  Each Monday night during all these summers she was off  to play ultimate in the co-ed Monday night league in Catonsville.  

In January 2012, she accepted a position as an Information Architect with M&T Bank.  She was looking forward to working with a team to see a web redesign through to completion.  As a consultant her work was focused on the front-end of the project and generally she was on other projects when the site finally launched.  

We finally got around to getting legally married on January 18, 2014. 
I miss her.

Most of you who know Elizabeth, know of her deep love for the Adirondack Mountains, especially the high peaks area.  She spent time almost every summer since she was 3 in those mountains and on the lakes.  In childhood, she was there for several weeks.  Her blog post from last August speaks of this deep connection.   Her remains will eventually rest in a small cemetery in Keene, NY.   Her spirit is already in those mountains and now, in all of us.

By Louisa A. Peartree

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nurse Log

April 15, 2015

My friend, Becky Foster, wrote me  that my cancer is like a rotting log in the forest of my body, but wonderful things happen in the ecosystem of a rotting log: mosses, mushrooms, lichen, flowers and even fungi that harden into little canvasses, the ones we use to document Adirondack hikes. These logs are known as "nurse logs" because they nurture  along so many growing things.

Becky wrote, "If  anyone could turn this rotting log into a miraculous corner of the forest, you can! I think of you now as a force for generating the most lovely and most green things in the forest.  You've actually been doing that all along, now that I think of it, but now your power is increasing."

Well, I don't know about that power. Maybe. I hope so.  Now I am recycling so much love coming in to me. And I must admit that this cancerous rotting log in me - while it saps my energy and strength - has certainly engendered loads of loving kindnesses that have bouyed me along this journey.  There are many beautiful growths sprouting from this nurse log. You can hardly see the log.

I always encouraged Finn to "focus and finish" his homework.  As I focus and finish my time here, my nurse log brings me the comfort and joy of all of you,  green and growing.  I am part of the circle of life and I am with you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Mobility is the key physical factor in my health right now. Immobility is my greatest fear and anxiety point. I try not to feed this fear, but that is hard. The signs press on me:  the mental delay between thought and action, loss of muscle mass and weakening of the feet, light headiness etc.  Meanwhile, an incredible amount of care giving from all quarters is flooding in.  I am turning to that. 

So, even as my body is weakening, my spirit is actually starting to soar.  This is part of the wonder, part of what is

being revealed.  Thank you everyone for the soaring.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Meadow

Medical Oncologist Reconsidered as a Bush Pilot

My doctor is the very model of a medical oncologist, in a city, in a highly industrialized country. She has trained at top universities; works at the best hospital; has access to the latest data, techniques and treatments; and conducts and publishes her own cancer research. She is the medical equivalent of an elite jet fighter pilot. 

Staying with the metaphor, clinically her job is to help wounded planes fly the furthest and best they can, considering the damage sustained by cancer. In a few cases the planes fly normally on their own again. She does all this using sophisticated diagnostics, specialized drones, fluids, and other treatment repair tools. 

When I became her "patient plane" last May she was faced with an aircraft that flew well but had serious internal damage. After trying two different techniques that did not succeed in making any repairs, we had a conversation about the next options. 

Finally I asked if she could please just help fly me home. So she agreed.  Armed with her own escape method to get her back to the jet fighter, she finds herself sitting in what amounts to a sturdy, early-model bush plane. All the controls are analog, no electronic systems per se. Some of the controls simply don't work, some labels are worn off, or nonexistent, or in some antiquated foreign script. But it is a machine with soul.  

So that is how my doctor became the very model of a tough, canny bush pilot in a remote land. She has to rely on her fundamental knowledge of flying -- wind, direction, altitude, a sense of orientation, basic physics -- and the naked eye. She is keeping her eye out for a meadow. 

The Meadow

We are looking for that meadow --
How will we know it?

It's...golden. Have you been here before? 
The light on it it glows
but does not throw a glare.

It smells…well, it smells of earth. 
Or like your forearm as you walk outside 
on a warm day, just starting to perspire. 
It smells good.

The ground is solid,
neither dusty nor bumpy nor muddy.
It's big enough to land a small plane in.

And small enough to recognize you.
Call you by name.
Call you home. 

-Elizabeth B. Randolph               

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Previously I  have alluded to the rollercoaster this whole cancer journey puts you on, including "glints of anger." One of these glints takes the form of what I call my "punk rock song." It's a short, throaty howl of rage, lashing out at the biggest unknown: when is "it" going to happen?

You have to supply your own imaginary soundtrack of wailing guitars, smashing drums, and crazy snarling vocals:


I don't know when.
I can't tell you when!
No one can tell you when!!
And I don't

Photo of British punk band The Sinyx, found on

Friday, February 6, 2015

Twinkle Passage

In the late fall I started visibly noticing how much muscle mass I had lost. This was not surprising given the fact I'd basically stopped exercising. But besides my legs being smaller and me fitting into all my skinny pants (a girl's dream, right?), it was the arms that got me. I lay down in my bed at night and held up my arm, only to see the skin on my forearms and upper arms sag with wrinkly, grandmothery skin. For some reason this really bothered me. I would have to do something, maybe arm weights. 

One night before bed I was semi-reclined, and tried to swallow an Advil pill in this position. It went down the wrong pipe and I almost choked, setting off a vigorous coughing fit. This set off a chain reaction in my mind. I saw the many steps of physical decline that lay ahead of me, and wept. "I'm not going to like this," I said aloud to myself after a few minutes. "I'm not going to ike this one bit." 

Gogo appeared, sitting at the edge of my bed, and patted my feet. (Gogo is the me-30-years-hence alter ego I introduced in my very first blog post). She sat quietly, not needing to say anything. I stopped crying, and sniffled. I knew she was right. Don't worry about it. "And I suppose you'd say don't worry about the arm skin." Gogo smiled, and shook her head. "Don't worry about the skin." She tapped her finger to her temple, pointing to her eye. "Worry about the twinkle." I knew what she meant. Focus on that sense of aliveness, of being, perceivable in the twinkle of an eye.

Often I have experienced disease and healing through images and imagery -- whether in dreams at night, or semi-lucid states (yoga nidra sessions, for example), or just daydreaming.  One image in particular has helped me through some tough times, and I'll try to conjure it: 

The Passage

What it is, is a hole,
an opening,
a tear in the fabric of the planetarium,
a flap in the actual sky.

I have seen light from it.
I have held onto it
with my fingertips,
and dangled there.
What I don't know is,
where does it lead?

I imagine squeezing between table and chair
in a crowded restaurant.
Or threading a needle,
outside, in the cold.
Or holding onto a rope that pulls me
from the water to the deck of a boat.

A passage to…
Survival. Arrival.
Even now, even now!
I don't know for absolute certain.
But I keep an eye on it.

-Elizabeth B. Randolph

Friday, December 26, 2014

Late Stage

I just want you to know I do not think of myself as a "dying person." You may call it dying, but I call it living -- until I am not. I am an accepting person. Today, I'm alive. Tomorrow, who's to say? I accept that. I accept the unknowing. 

Yes, it's unfair that I have a stage IV cancer and am not yet 50. Yes, there are sighs of sadness (cf., Joni Mitchell, "River"), contractions of grief, glints of anger. But my life has been rich in experience, not to mention protected from war, violence, famine, natural disaster, preventable disease. I have love, children, family, friends, community, freedom, security. All in a general context of blessings. 

I try hard every day to accept things as they are. Sometimes I'm extra tired, or have to acknowledge another limit, or trip over the fact that this is actually happening. Yet, as my daughter floated across the stage as a party child ballerina in the Nutracker, I was able to enjoy it with pure delight. I smiled when my son proudly helped make the sets and played Rudolph in the neighborhood play. Hardly a drop of maudlin then, or during the other rituals of Christmas. Best of all, my muse seems to be coming out of hibernation, or at least poking her head out. One night recently as I was lying awake, a practically whole poem came into my head, like a moonlit pearl. I'll share it with you now:

Late Stage
It's as if, each morning
the makeup artist comes
to render me a little
older, tireder, sicker
a line, a shadow, a waxy contour
in a cool palette
of bruise and moon
"What scene is this?
Where is the script?
What role do I have?
And how -- how should I
play it?
Someone! Whisper the cues…"
I may remove this mask
I may push against the pallor
with a steaming hot cloth,
or a walk in the brisk air
but it settles once again.
It's as if, each morning…
Rehearse, rehearse
one more rotation
around the axis
one more clatter of blades
around the frozen pond.
Day with its peopled rhythms,
night with its endless pockets
and muffled train song
Three sharp knocks
on the dressing room door
I rise from the chair at the mirror.
Tongue over teeth,
breathe in -- breathe out
I go on
-Elizabeth B. Randolph

So, do what you must for your own journey but please, do not despair over mine. Do not fuss over my itinerary or my seating arrangments. Just be with me, wherever I am.