FALL 2007

Dedication to Elizabeth Low Webster Shillington (1962-2006)

This issue of OCHRE Journal of Women’s Spirituality is dedicated in memoriam to Elizabeth Low Webster Shillington (1962-2006).

Elizabeth was among the initial group of CIIS students and alumnae who gathered to consider publishing a women’s spirituality journal, in the fall of 2004. As we deliberated the foundational issues and intentions of the journal, Elizabeth brought her reflective and insightful voice to the discussions. She had a way of seeing through the various perspectives to ask the essential, underlying question, bringing us back to the heart of the matter.

The tragic loss of Elizabeth to cancer at the age of 44 on October 11, 2006—a loss to her family, our Women’s Spirituality community, and the larger world—is greater than we can say. We miss her! And yet, her memory, good works, and loving presence continue to live on among us. One way is through her writing. Her doctoral dissertation, titled “The Moon in Her Womb: An Organic Inquiry into Women’s Menstrual Stories and Spirituality,” shows that she was a superb scholar, gifted storyteller, beautiful writer, and enlightened theologian.

While Elizabeth would have liked to stay longer with her family, friends, and communities, and to have seen her dissertation published as a book, she felt very lucky to have had the life she did. She finally became reconciled to and at peace with her dying, and then helped the rest of us to try and do the same. In this way, she became for us a priestess of the Mysteries, a priestess of the Mysteries of death and rebirth. Bless her soul!

Her love of life, her spiritual journey is beautifully and powerfully expressed in this poem that Elizabeth wrote as a young woman while in Greece:

Inside me burning, exploding
My inner core tries to break through its limits
Free the emotions too wild to be contained
I want to hurl myself from cliffs in an ecstasy of joy
Tumbling and hurling through space
To drown myself in a sea of misery
With a bottom that can never be reached
I want to leap over rainbows with unexplainable excitement
To run through mountain forests with my hair streaming
Tearing up the sky with my screams of rage
Ranting and raving like a bacchante
I want a star to sear through me with excruciating heat
Making me explode into a thousand fragments
As I spin through infinite galaxies
I want to crush the earth with my palm
To cleanse it with my tears
I want to lose myself in a vacuum of time and space
While I leap, run, scream, explode
Only when my core burns out will I allow myself to rest
Stretched out on a distant shore
With the sun beating down on me
And the waves washing over me
For thousands and thousands of years . . .
Until my body becomes a part of the sand and sea
And my face is etched on the cliffs
My heart expressed by the wind and tides
Until I am earth, sun, sky, sea
Until I am the thunder, the lightening, the clouds, the rainbows.
Until I am me,
infinite and eternal.

~Elizabeth Low Webster Shillington
Greece, 1983