Elizabeth Anne Wood’s mother, Judy, had been enjoying her sexual prime (that started in her 50s) when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Elizabeth’s book, Bound: A Daughter, a Domme and an End-of-Life Story, explores the last eight months of Judy’s life and highlights the importance of sex-positivity.
In this Girl Boner Radio episode, you’ll hear:
- A few of Elizabeth’s childhood memories, including the “pecker head story”
- How Judy began to embrace kink, BDSM and Domme life
- How BDSM helped Judy navigate aspects of her cancer treatment
- What was missing, sexuality-wise, from Judy’s care
- How Elizabeth and Judy found moments of pleasure amid hardship
- Elizabeth’s relationship with Judy (and her ashes) since her death
“A Domme’s Daughter and an End-of-Life Story”
a Girl Boner podcast transcript:
And when you’re in that kind of a situation, there’s not a lot of privacy and, and not a lot of room, I think for, for thinking about sex.
But she did talk about what she missed once in a while. You know, she would every now and then feel good enough to talk about wanting to get back home and, you know, why did she wanna get home? She wanted to get home so she could have her relationship with Kenny back and travel back to Brooklyn where he lived, you know, back and forth.
Elizabeth Anne Wood told me she wishes she had more distinct memories of herself as a kid.
She has snapshot memories, she said, most of which are pretty happy.
I remember being shy, but I loved being around people that I knew.
And a lot of her memories revolve around her mother, Judy.
Elizabeth: My mom was this really playful, open, not very structured parent. One of the things I loved about my mom was that I knew all the time that we could ask her anything at all.
For instance, she remembers a time when she was about 8, and her sister, about 6…
…and we were playing outside our apartment with a bunch of other kids, and some of them were older, one of them called my sister a peckerhead. And I had no idea what it meant. I remember running inside and my mother asked what was going on and I said, you know, “So-and-so called Becky a peckerhead. What’s a peckerhead ?”
Judy sat them down on a bed and said, “Well, pecker is a slang term for penis.” And peckerhead?
Elizabeth: “It’s just a crude thing that people say, and you don’t have to worry about it.” But the way she handled it was just as this very unremarkable moment. And it’s one of the things I anchor my sense of being able to talk to her about anything.
That ability carried over into Elizabeth’s teens, when she approached her mom with a request.
Elizabeth: I had a boyfriend, I was a senior in high school. We had gotten kind of serious and it was just toward the end of the school year, I remember.
And we had gotten to a point in our relationship where we wanted to have sex, and it would’ve been my first time having like penis, vagina intercourse kind of sex. We needed birth control and I wanted to go on the pill. And I went to my mom and I told her that this boyfriend and I wanted to have sex and I wanted to go on birth control.
And she reacted really calmly and she told me that she thought I was too young. You know, I was gonna be going off to college and that she was probably kind of skeptical about the relationship lasting in general. but that if this was important to me and I wanted to do this, she would take me to Planned Parenthood. And she did.
I remember her taking me, I remember her telling me what an exam would be like. There was no fuss about it.
Then there was the time her mom expressed feelings about Elizabeth’s boyfriend’s choices.
Elizabeth: My boyfriend was coming to pick me up for a date. The last time he had dropped me off he had come in and sat down for a little while and talked with, my mom and a receipt from a motel we had been, must have slipped out of his pocket because she had it.
Judy presented the receipt to him at the door, advising:
Elizabeth: ” The next time you take my daughter to a motel, take her to a classier place, , something like that. Cause this had been one of these like, you know, off a, off a highway exit kind of places.
And she had this kind of amused, but sort of strict tone to her voice that she couldn’t really hold for very long. She ended up laughing about it and he looked pale as a ghost at first , and then realized she was joking with him.
I first met Elizabeth, and learned about her mom, Judy, at a Woodhull Freedom Foundation conference a few years ago, where Elizabeth read from her memoir Bound: A Daughter, a Domme, and an End-of-Life Story – which chronicles her mother’s last 8 years of life.
In the book, Elizabeth wrote about the exchange between her mom and her then boyfriend. She wrote that her mom made that comment with a “sharp-edged smile that clearly convened ‘you have my permission’ but also ‘you’d better treat my daughter well.”
And looking back with a deeper understanding of how secretive many young people need to be, she understands what a gift the ability to be free in her sexuality was.
That sense of permission continued to serve Elizabeth well after her teens, too.
August: So did you feel like your mom’s openness was helpful to you when you were blossoming in your own sexuality?
Elizabeth: It really was. And, and not just in relationships with men, but later in college, when I came out first as queer and as lesbian, and then sort of that developed into a more pansexual identity. My mom was really encouraging and supportive of all of that.
Though she was heterosexual, she was really no fan of men for most of my growing up and, and much of my adulthood. So she was actually very excited when I ended up orienting myself more toward relationships with women and then became disappointed again when men became a part of that story some years later.
So yeah, I would say her openness had a lot to do with my feeling very safe and very secure in exploring all kinds of sexuality. Like there was never doubt in my mind that I would be accepted and not only by her either, but by most of my family.
Like most families, though, not all aspects of their lives together went smoothly. Many of Judy’s hardships revolved around her personal struggles with alcoholism.
Elizabeth: I don’t think I knew that my mother was alcoholic until she started to get sober. I think it’s very likely that I knew things at the time that I don’t remember now that I knew. I remember her as just being very fun and playful and affectionate. But I have been told stories about how even in that early period of childhood I was taking care of her in ways that I don’t remember doing.
For example, her father’s mother tells a story that took place when Elizabeth’s parents were going through a divorce.
We were asked where we wanted to live, and I said that we wanted to live with our father, but that our mom needed us. So if that is a true story, then that would’ve happened when I was about seven, and that’s something you wouldn’t expect seven year olds necessarily to, to think of on their own.
Later, Judy shared openly, too, about her active drinking days.
Elizabeth: She told stories about how when we were little kids, we lived in this house that had a pool in the backyard. She would have her pitcher of vodka and Tang while she was the parent responsible for watching us and our neighborhood friends play in the pool. She would talk about her awareness that she had driven during blackouts. She told a story about waking up in a closet one day cuz she had gotten lost at night on her way to the bathroom.
But what I do remember really clearly is her sobriety. So she got sober around that time and stayed sober the whole rest of my life. But the early period of her sobriety, probably like the first five or 10 years, involved really intensive attendance of AA meetings and I experienced that as a lot of absence.
But at the same time as she was getting sober, it was clear that whether from alcoholism or from other just sort of internal psychological stuff that she dealt with, she was very disorganized. Her memory was a problem, and there were just constantly things that she seemed unable to do, whether it was paying bills on time or keeping things orderly at home.
Now mind you, she was also a solo parent raising two kids without solid income. She was struggling financially. She was dealing with a lot of stress on top of everything else. So that is a part of the story. But what I remember is she needed a lot of support and care as I was growing up while she was sober.
That involved a lot of my taking care of her emotionally as well as just kind of organizationally and that characterized our relationship for the rest of her life.
[soft jazz riff]
In her late 50s, Judy experienced a profound sexual awakening. By then, Elizabeth had studied gender and sexuality in college and grad school — she’s a sociologist by training. And she and her mom already had a relationship that involved talking about sex, both intellectually and about their personal experiences.
As a skillful editor with journalism experience, Judy even helped edit Elizabeth’s dissertation on the interaction and power in strip clubs.
So given those open conversations related to sex, Elizabeth wasn’t surprised when her mom talked to her about something spicy and intriguing she had learned about, thanks to a job interview.
Elizabeth: And so she had gone on this job interview for a freelance job, and it was an editorial gig and it turned out that it was for an adult magazine.
So she called me and she said, “Did you know that you can get paid to hurt men and you don’t even have to have sex with them?” And this was like this revelation to her.
Judy had always had a kind of dislike for men, Elizabeth said, thanks to some pretty negative relationships.
Elizabeth: She hadn’t had a really good one up until this point.
So when Judy spotted a dominatrix ad — she had to edit some ads during the interview as a sort of test — she was fascinated by the whole concept.
Elizabeth: So I gave her a copy of Jay Wiseman’s book, SM 101, for Christmas that year. She sat it on a shelf and didn’t seem to have anything come of it for a few years or so. And then one day she called again and she said that she was having trouble with her profile on alt.com. Did I know alt.com and I thought, I know alt.com.
Back then, alt.com was probably the biggest online place for matchmaking for BDSM and kink fans.
Elizabeth: And, she was having trouble cuz she didn’t like all the penis pictures she was getting from men. so we made some adjustments to her profile and that is how I became aware that she was actively dating and seeing men.
I would go visit her and she would have post-it notes all over her computer to try to keep track of different usernames then their actual names if she had seen them and then what they liked. Cuz like I said, she had a really poor memory and she wasn’t good at organization. So I think she was really nervous about confusing people.
And so she would just have all these post-it notes around and, and it was, it was just very funny.
So that is how Elizabeth came to realize that Judy was enjoying steamy adventures and a whole sexual awakening – which led to what Elizabeth sees as the best period of her mom’s life.
Elizabeth: You know, when she discovered that there were ways to interact sexually with men and be in control and only do the things you really liked and, and that she was sought out. It was amazing.
I think it must have been incredibly healing for her. It really gave her a sense of power and control, that I don’t think I had seen her have in pretty much any area of her life so that she could have it that way, with men and in this sexual context. And it did, in some ways, kind of bleed out into the rest of her life. I think it made her a stronger, happier person.
That metamorphosis was very evident in Judy’s living space, too. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, with high ceilings and big windows.
Elizabeth: It was a really nice space in a kind of rundown building. But so you would walk into her apartment and because she was the kind of person she was, it wasn’t as if she had like one playroom or that her bedroom was designated for where sex and all its related activities would occur. Evidence of it was everywhere in her apartment.
If you would have walked into her living room and taken a seat, you’d very likely have seen handcuffs that were over her closet door, you know, from an over the door restraint system. You would possibly encounter a dildo or a butt plug on the windowsill or on the coffee table.
There was also a St. Andrew’s Cross. In Bound, Elizabeth described it as bondage gear that “bore witness to [her mother’s] power, strength, and willingness to defy convention.”
Elizabeth: It was basically in the shape of a very tall letter X. And so you could imagine a person being attached to it with their arms up above, their head spread out and their legs spread out , you know, so they look like a big X. It had eye bolts along the arm and leg pieces where you could attach cuffs.Or in her case, often she used scarves cuz they were easier for her to work with.
But basically it’s a very large device to which you attach somebody, so you can do whatever you want to them. You can whip them or cane them, you can tickle them, you can torture them, you can do whatever it is that you and they have agreed to.
August: And she was really creative in her sessions. I know BDSM in, in general can be, but her kind of writer spirit — I really felt that when you were talking about the sessions she would craft.
Elizabeth: Yeah. A lot of her relationships were kind of long distance with people that she would see maybe for a weekend or for an overnight, but they didn’t live right there. So a lot of their interactions went on through email. And my mother loved to write, one of the things she told me that she always required to test how serious somebody was about spending time with her was that she would make them memorize a poem.
So she’d assign them a poem and they had to memorize it. And when they would meet for the first time, they had to recite the poem. I think part of that was a challenge so that if they messed up, she could punish them. But it was also a way of saying, this is, you know, this is part of who I am, this is, I am a literary person. These things matter to me.
But she would also develop these really elaborate scenes with them through email interaction. There was a particular partner she had who was from England, and he was a pilot and he would fly over periodically. He was here a couple times a year, but he had really elaborate fantasies about hospital scenes and about prison scenes. And they would develop these over many email exchanges and then essentially act them out.
He would sometimes send her devices she needed or, or equipment she needed to carry out the scene.
Not long before things changed dramatically in virtually all ways for Judy, she met Kenny – the man who bought her the St. Andrew’s cross and other kink supplies: a dog cage, a foxtail buttplug, a sensory deprivation suit.
Before Elizabeth even met Kenny, she knew he was madly in love with her mother.
Elizabeth: This was a very special partner to her. He was part of her life right through the end of her life, and I really don’t know how we would’ve managed the last eight months of her life without him.
He was incredibly special and loved her enormously and, and she felt very loving toward him too.
The diagnosis that led to Judy’s death wasn’t her first brush with cancer. A few years before Judy’s sexual awakening, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. And BDSM seemed to help her navigate that.
Elizabeth: That is a long story that I’ll make very short by saying she ended up on dialysis, and the dialysis process is really draining to people, but there’s a kind of dialysis that they switched her to, which you do at home overnight and it doesn’t involve draining the blood out of your body and filtering it. and it’s a much gentler process. It doesn’t sap your energy like hemodialysis does. So that was ultimately the kind of dialysis she did, and I really believe that the BDSM she engaged in, allowed her to be more open to transformation to her body like the implanting of this tube. Partly because the kink community is often much more body accepting.
And there’s a piece of kink that is almost like an a, a cyborg, android kind of thing. Like where people are just much more inclined to modify their bodies. And modifying the body allows an openness to other kinds of experiences. So I think kink was part of why she could accept that more readily than maybe some people would’ve been able to.
Also, that dialysis process changed her relationship to her body and gave her a lot more control over it. She actually had a period of years where she felt much healthier than she had. Her diabetes cleared up, and lots of things got better for her for a few years, which was an enormous blessing.
That period of her life, that three years was her most sexually active, her most powerful feeling. And oddly it happened in conjunction with this kidney cancer and the dialysis she was doing.
But then, Judy was diagnosed with cancer again.
Elizabeth: We don’t know the original site, it was a really aggressive, small cell cancer, which by the time it was diagnosed, had spread to her liver, her lungs, her bones, and had a really poor prognosis.
The goal of treatment wasn’t to cure the cancer, but to improve Judy’s life quality for whatever time she had left — best case scenarios, about two years.
And that changed everything.
Elizabeth gradually took on the role of caretaker for her mother. At the time of Judy’s diagnosis, Elizabeth was a college professor.
Elizabeth: …and early April is about a month before the end of classes. So for that month, I was back and forth to Philadelphia as often as I could be.
My aunt was doing a portion of the caregiving. Kenny was doing some as well, but those were also really uncertain, uncertain days in terms of getting the chemo started and, and figuring out whether she was gonna be at home or in the hospital and, and how all that was gonna go. And that was really hard.
I was really, really lucky to have supportive colleagues who helped cover classes when I needed to be out. My students were really understanding and my family was obviously also really, you know, pulling together and, and shipping in. So my sister was helping as she could from farther away.
Then, when the semester ended, I shifted to a schedule where I was really with her during the week, and my aunt would take over, you know, Friday as a transition while Kenny arrived on the weekend. And then my aunt would come back on Monday as a transition, while I’d be getting there. And then I would be there for the remainder of the week.
And that was what we did pretty much for what turned out to be the last eight months of her life. So caregiving really became central to my life.
During those months, Judy’s focus understandably shifted from things like sex to things like dealing with her nausea and pain. She only returned home once during those 8 months, spending most of her remaining days in the hospital or rehab facilities.
Elizabeth: And when you’re in that kind of a situation, there’s not a lot of privacy and, and not a lot of room, I think for, for thinking about sex.
But she did talk about what she missed once in a while. You know, she would every now and then feel good enough to talk about wanting to get back home and, you know, why did she wanna get home? She wanted to get home so she could have her relationship with Kenny back travel back to Brooklyn where he lived, you know, back and forth.
But not feeling well and lacking privacy were not the only factors keeping Judy from talking about sexuality.
I think a big reason was that we don’t as a society and our healthcare institutions don’t make sex part of a person’s life, don’t acknowledge that sex is part of a person’s life unless the medical issue is specifically sexual. So if you’re in the hospital and you have cancer, it’s unlikely that doctors or nurses or pharmacists or whoever’s working with you are going to ask you questions about like, well, how is this affecting your sexuality? And, and what could be better? Or, or how could we help in that way?
Had those conversations happened, Elizabeth said, they might have helped Judy profoundly.
Elizabeth: Because sexual pleasure and sexual connection are integral to our lives. They can also be tools for managing pain, for managing illness, for making us feel more connected to people, for giving us hope. There are people trained in sexual health, but they tend to be isolated in that silo of sexual healthcare.
Ordinary practitioners in other specialties, oncology, pain management, nephrology, all those specializations, they are not trained to even think about how sex might be part of this story. And so it just isn’t mentioned.
And I think when an institution or a group of people or a set of practices make something seem irrelevant or invisible, we start to see it that way ourselves.
August: Absolutely. I found it so endearing that your mom, at one point, I believe it was a rectal tube, was being placed and she called it a butt plug?
Elizabeth: Yes. She could not call it anything other than a butt plug. Now, she was a little delusional at the time too, from shingles infection and from antibiotics and from from chemo and all of that. But she just could not think of it as anything other than a butt plug. And she called it a butt plug every single time that it needed to be called anything at all. And I never once saw a doctor or a nurse or anybody bat an eye about it as if they weren’t even going to acknowledge that that was what had been said. Or maybe they didn’t have a frame of reference for that phrase. Maybe that didn’t mean anything to them.
And that story, like a story later about catheterizations, are really good examples of where not only is sex not acknowledged, but really in many ways consent isn’t handled well.
And there’s little discussion, if any, about past sexual history or trauma that could make particular medical care challenging. So she had to have this rectal tube because she was having a lot of diarrhea because of an infection. And that doesn’t sound sexy, and nobody’s gonna be likely to look at that and say, oh, hmm. How is sex part of this story?
But the fact is, if you’re inserting a tube into somebody’s body, a rectal tube or a catheter, you’re dealing with parts of the body that are often parts of sexual activity, may have been parts of the body that experienced trauma, and it would be very helpful if we asked about that before going ahead and shoving another tube in.
So the fact that that was missing really made me think a lot about how doctors and nurses could stand to learn a lot from sexuality educators about talking about sex, but really also just about basic consent practices. Because the kind of consent that you are asked to give in a hospital is pretty meaningless.
You’re there, you’re sick, you need the treatment. What are you gonna say? But that doesn’t mean the interaction should be treated as if it’s meaningless. The interaction should be treated with a lot more thought and care to make the consent much more meaningful, and so that people really know much more clearly what they’re consenting to.
August: Hmm. Yes. So well said. It seemed to me like if something like butt plug is part of your language to ignore it, you know, I just kept wishing that there was, like you said, a sexual health professional who was also a nurse who was in the room who could banter with her or maybe like use more sexy terms because this could have also been at times maybe a coping thing.
Elizabeth: You know, there’s another story in the book, we were talking with a palliative care pharmacist, when there was a chance that she might actually go home and the pharmacist was talking about non-pharmaceutical pain management tools that she might use . So she went through a list of things like massage and, and reiki and, and other kinds of stuff. And then she said, and some people like to use a TENS unit.
TENS stands for transcutaneous, electrical nerve stimulation.
Elizabeth: A TENS unit basically involves wires that attach to a couple of pads that you can put on your body and a little current goes through them through the body, and it stimulates the nerves and it can be used pretty successfully to combat nerve pain and other kinds of pain, but it’s also often used in kink play.
She had one for kink play and When the pharmacist said, “you know, in a TENS unit.” And she said, “what’s that?” And she looked genuinely confused. I felt really surprised. Then the pharmacist started describing it, and I saw this little mischievous look on my mother’s face. Like, oh, she realized what it was, and she actually said, “oh, I have one of those, but I don’t think mine has those kinds of pads you’re talking about.”
Cause of course hers had all kinds of like nipple clamps and stuff like that. But the pharmacist just skipped right over it. Didn’t ask her what she used hers for, and I didn’t raise it in the moment though I, I did have a glimmer of thinking about it. But I knew my mom was concerned about being judged harshly for unconventional practices, so I didn’t bring it up since she didn’t push it further.
And I kind of wish I had. I kind of wonder what that interaction would’ve been like. Cuz this palliative care pharmacist was this really vibrant young woman who I think would’ve been very open-minded and I’ve always thought of that as a missed opportunity.
Amid all of the hardships during that time, both Judy and Elizabeth were able to have moments of pleasure — if not sex-related. I found myself savoring those moments while reading about them, too.
This snippet for example: “When I arrive, I make a stop at the coffee shop for one of their ultra-gooey cinnamon rolls and a cup of mocha for Mom. I get a latte for myself. The barista knows me by know. She asks about Mom and makes a double heart in her chocolate sauce on the whipped cream for her.
…and there were these moments of like…delight. I mean, sometimes coffee is more like fuel. [both laugh] But were you able to find pleasure? Anything you’d like to share around those topics, I’d love to hear.
Elizabeth: Yeah, sure. Well for one thing, I think many caregivers will relate to the idea that caregiving is exhausting and that often, sexual pleasure probably just disappears for a period of time. It’s hard to have any kind of real energy for yourself.
But with my mom in particular, I did definitely experience some pleasure around food like that. Food became An issue for her in that she was having a hard time eating very much, partly because pain medicine was making her very sleepy a lot of the time. But my mother really loved sweet, sticky, gooey treats.
And because at this point in her life, and this point in her illness, all we were really concerned about was getting calories into her diet restrictions kind of went out the window. So I would often take great pleasure in going to get her, uh, mocha latte kind of drink with a really gooey cinnamon roll.
And I would get a latte for myself and I’d bring it up to her and help her eat bits of it and, and just enjoy that connection.
I also have a very sweet picture of her at a sandwich shop across the street from the hospital. At one point when she was well enough to be taken out in a wheelchair, I took her over to this sandwich shop, which I knew she really liked, and she got this milkshake.
And the milkshakes come with straws that have a little cookie around the straw, like a little cookie with a hole in it. And she just has this look of real delight, like childlike delight on her face about this big chocolate milkshake with this cookie on the straw. And I love that picture because I don’t think she was getting much pleasure in any way at that point in her life.
To be able to be part of that and, and enjoy that kind of pleasure with her was a really sweet moment.
Near the end of “Bound,”Elizabeth wrote that she doesn’t know when she first began to think of her mother as someone who was dying, rather than someone who was struggling to die.
But as death grew near, Judy ate less and slept more. And when the actual moment arrived, a very apt song was playing in the room: Simon and Garfunkel’s “American Tune.”
[acoustic folk pop music…]
Elizabeth: And that recording is a recording that was really special to me because my mother had always loved this album and we had played it a lot at home. So it was very familiar music and, and I love many of their songs. That particular song and the fact that it was playing when she died felt for some reason incredibly, it was meaningful…and perfectly situated. It has lyrics in it that just pulled together so many of the themes I felt like were important in my mother’s life.
It refers to feeling confused and battered and, and it refers to shattered dreams and it refers to feeling mistreated. And I know she had spent a lot of her life feeling like nothing had ever really gone her way. It had not gone the way it was supposed to. And, and so it, it touched on those themes, but there’s also this verse, it says something, I dreamed I was dying and I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly. And it was looking back down at me and it smiled. And there was this very kind of sweet feeling of kindness and self-love that I hoped she felt that came there.
It talks about acceptance and it talks about pain and it just really drew all of these themes together in a very familiar voice with a really kind of poignant and comforting sound.
It was actually playing the moment she died, and I let the song finish and my friend Ricky was in the room. And I looked at her and I asked her to put it on repeat. And I let it play through one more time. I’d been sitting on my mother’s bed just holding her hand and kind of rubbing her head as she was dying. And I continued to do that through another entire iteration of the song before I really kind of acknowledged that she was gone and, and that this had happened. And so I, I will always hear that song with her in mind, I think.
Since Judy’s passing, Elizabeth has found comfort in photos of her mother, including one in particular. It was taken when her mom was healthy, around 2008, when she visited Elizabeth in New York.
Elizabeth was having a big party for a website she and a friend had launched called Sex in the Public Square.
Elizabeth: And the two of us are standing together. I have a T-shirt on that says, This is What a Feminist Looks Like. And she’s smiling and laughing and I’m smiling and laughing. And that picture makes me feel very close to her because she was just so celebratory of me and what I was doing.
But then later I got to be celebratory of her and what she was doing. And that picture to me just sort of captures all of that.
Elizabeth found another photo she loves after Judy’s death while going through her computer.
Elizabeth: I had to go through her computer because we were going to give her computer to our grandson.
So I spent a few nights in December that year just going through and looking at her files and I saw a lot of pictures that she had probably shared with men on her dating sites, but some of them were just really, really sweet and captured her spirit.
There’s one of her standing in a little red negligee, and she’s kind of a plump short woman with dyed hair. And, and she looks older, you know, she’s, she was in her sixties at the time, and she’s had kind of a rough life and she kind of looks like it. But she’s got this grid on her face and she’s got this little flogger with a little heart at the end .
And she’s got it kind of up to her lips and it’s got this very mischievous, almost elf like, look about it. And I love that picture. I think that really captures her in a particular way.
Another part of Judy’s spirit was captured in a photo that shows her wearing an orange t-shirt from a donut shop in Michigan called Cops and Doughnuts.” The shirt reads, “Cuffed and Stuffed.”
And it had these handcuffs on it and it just seemed like it was made for somebody in kink. And she was in the hospital and she was sitting with this t-shirt on. And she has a scarf around her head, but it’s all kind of lopsided and she’s not got very much hair and she looks kind of beat up and bruised from all the IVs.
And she’s got an e-cig around on a chain around her neck. And she’s got this grabber, which is a tool that the occupational therapy folks give you to help you pick up socks off the floor when you can’t bend over, you know, that kind of thing. And she’s got that and she’s raised it kind of like a rifle.
And she’s pointing it at me. I’m taking a picture of her so you can’t see me, but it looks like she’s shooting at the person opposite her. I swear it looks like she’s in some kind of prison gang or something. And cute.
August: You’re such a beautiful writer. And I think one of my favorite scenes, your writing just moved me so much and put tears in my eyes, was when you were talking about the scattering of her cremains.
Elizabeth: Oh yeah.
The chapter in Bound is called “In Which the Disorganized Domme Scatters Herself.”
Elizabeth: That was very interesting to me because I had never had a relationship with anybody’s remains before.
Elizabeth’s friend Ricci, and Ricci’s husband Richard, had arranged for the creation and were keeping Judy’s cremains in a box in their house. A week or two after Judy passed, Elizabeth went to pick them up.
Elizabeth: And I really didn’t know what it was gonna feel like. I had a lot of trepidation about what it was gonna feel like to encounter this box .
As Richard led her to the study where the box sat on a shelf, Elizabeth wrote, she was “caught off guard by the image of [her] mother’s remains struggling to breathe.” She shook the image off, pulled the cremains from the shelf, and…her feelings shifted.
Elizabeth: And I remember driving back to New York with them. I sat her on the front seat. I talked with her half the drive home, I think. I found her place in our apartment.
And I felt very anxious leaving her alone at home. It was very funny, you know, it was a very personal relationship that I felt.
So scattering her was actually really hard for me to do. There was a sense of wanting to create a ritual around this and do this.
About six months after she died, we had a memorial at a park in Philadelphia. Some of her friends, my sister and her family were all there.
The day before, a smaller group of loved ones scattered Judy’s cremains in a private ceremony.
Elizabeth: And we had had all kinds of discussion, my sister and I, back and forth about how to do this because this was in a public park and we had, it was there because we had donated a tree in a bench to the park as a memorial to my mom.
So we wanted to do it there, but we didn’t wanna be super conspicuous about it.
And we had decided, ultimately we would scatter some of her ashes in a little circle around the tree. And then we would take the rest of them over to this waterway, where there was a little waterfall.
And we would let the rest of them go into the water. So that’s what we were gonna do. That was the plan.
And planning is something that Elizabeth and her sister do well. As Elizabeth put it, they are “planning kinds of people.”
Elizabeth: My mother was very much not a planner and did not really love it when other people planned out her life for her.
And I won’t reveal the end of the story, cuz I think it’s funny and I think it’s worth reading, but I will say if you opt for a biodegradable urn, then you probably should not do scattering on a rainy day .
[music, birds, flowing water…]
Elizabeth still feels a connection to Judy today – not unlike the relationship she felt with her ashes.
Elizabeth: It’s interesting because I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but I do feel like I feel her around me quite a bit.
I feel a closeness to her that is very much like the closeness I felt when she was alive. And in some ways it’s a much simpler closeness. In some ways a happier closeness than some of the times when we had challenges in our relationship because it’s easy now to just basically feel the positive feelings toward her.
And so I talk to her every now and then. I feel particularly close to her when I’m working on a writing project. I’ve been working on another book project and I’ve felt like I could share that with her. And I feel like she’s just part of the universe now.
So whatever there is of her, that energy is still there. It’s just free floating. And I still feel connected to it.
Elizabeth’s book, Bound: A Daughter, a Domme and an End-of-Life Story, is available most anywhere books are sold – in ebook, print and audio formats. As an author myself, I know what it means when folks purchase and read what you’ve written. But there’s a deeper reason Elizabeth hopes you’ll read Bound, too.
Elizabeth: I think when we share stories about sex and death, we are more likely to have the kinds of lives that we wanna have for the length of time we can have them.
And I don’t think we get a lot of practice at sharing those stories. So I think this is one way to begin by encountering my story and my mom’s story, and then sharing that story with other people as a lead in, perhaps, to sharing some of your own stories and to talking about the kinds of concerns you have around aging or illness and your sexuality and the kind of death that you want to avoid, or the kind of death you want to have given that we are all going to die.
And how you wanna prepare for that. Because we can’t live our fullest lives, I don’t think, without acknowledging those things.
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Thanks so much for listening.