My Mom Died Today. ~ Anne Clendening

Via Anne Clendening
on Sep 7, 2012
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It happened two hours ago, at 4:15 a.m.

I get the call. I ignore it. The phone rings again; I answer it this time, and hear the words of finality. And now I find myself wondering what the hell to do. Should I stay up? Should let myself drift back to sleep, like I did after the 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994?

I call my brother.

Brother: Hello?
Me: Hi…
Brother: Hey…
Me: Brace yourself. She’s gone.

The entire city of Los Angeles was in chaos the day the city rumbled and shook 18 years ago. It was 4:30 a.m. when it hit. And while people were putting their lives back on shelves and in cabinets and sweeping up and making phone calls, I went back to sleep.

What can I say? I’m not one to panic.

When you have a sick, elderly parent, you learn how to stay calm pretty much all the time. The constant hospitalizations, the emergencies, the barrage of medical information, the guilt, the horror… The anxiety of it all will fester inside you like toxic sludge if you let it. I think hospitals should have the B-52’s playing everywhere, and the ice cream man should be there, ringing his bell and selling bomb pops in the hallways. Your dog could be at your side, and maybe a trio of jokesters.

I decide to stay up. One should ponder death at a time like this… instead, I grab the remote while my boyfriend gets up to put on a pot of coffee. Maybe there’s a good Twilight Zone marathon on.

I start thinking about all the crappy phone calls I’ve gotten in my life.

Your test results are positive.
I have to fire you.
Your father died.
I want a divorce. (That was actually a text.)
We have to send your mom back to the hospital.

No wonder I hate the phone.

The hospice nurse calls again. I have to decide what my mom is going to wear when we send her off. I say “a Juicy tracksuit and a pair of Uggs.” They think I’m a lunatic. We get off the phone, and I Google what-do-people-wear-when-they-get-cremated. Apparently, a lot of people wear their PJ’s. It never even occurred to me that one might need a cute outfit in which to enter the unknown.

The hospice people tell me how sorry they are.

I’m flipping channels, and waiting until the hour the mortuary opens. Briefly, it occurs to me to just go to the gym. My dog Shamus stares at me. He knows something bad is happening.

My mother was gorgeous. Her eyes were grey and her hair was naturally dark. Everyone says we look alike, which makes me smile.

My father passed away 15 years ago last month. He was a probate attorney, beared more than a slight resemblance to William Holden and had a bona fide Capra-esque perspective on life, with a certain kindness and respectability. He was the kind of man who would sit at the bedside of the dying, in the middle of the night, with no concern regarding extra billable hours. He had a heart attack while walking up the Santa Monica courthouse steps on the way to a trial one morning, and died before he hit the ground. That’s what the autopsy guy said.

If you ask me, a quick death is the only way to go. And I don’t know if it’s wrong to not want to be in the same room as my mother when she’s “actively dying,” as the nurse put it. The woman lying on that hospital bed with the dark companions they called dementia, stroke and aortic aneurysm on her chart wasn’t my mother anymore. She had slipped into a coma.

I start looking at the yoga schedule. I need something life-affirming. My brother says he has to go to work this morning and fire someone. I start inappropriately laughing.

Look what’s on TV everybody, coverage of the presidential race! Distraction! Marvelous! Brilliant!

I get a call to sub a yoga class later today. I say no, but I don’t say why.

We’re at the mortuary. It’s not at all what I expect. Picture cerulean colored walls, inside a store front, decorated with rosaries and crosses and operated by Cheech and Chong. My mom would be laughing her ass off.

When we sit down, we’re given options from a guy named Alex, including, but not limited to: purchasing an urn for the cremated remains; infusing the ashes in pretty, multi-colored “art glass;” burial at sea, á la the Neptune Society and an underwater, enchanted garden-like graveyard; and fashioning the remains into a actual diamond. We are made of carbon, after all.

I’m riveted by this, albeit temporarily—there’s paperwork to fill out. (I make a mental sticky note to Google that diamond shit later.) Alex launches into a series of stories that we have no desire to hear, one of which has to do with people who spread the ashes of their loved ones at the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. I don’t know why the hell you’d want that to be your final resting place, but whatever. The Disneyland folks apparently thought it was a large amount of dust mysteriously collecting. Dust? Nope, think again.

All I want to do is go home and see my dogs.

My friends show up at the house, and cook dinner. They want to offer solace, even though I’m not crying. They were all psych majors, you see.

My boyfriend went back to bed today around 2:00 in the afternoon. I never did.

I’m a California girl, I’ve been through a lot of earthquakes and (here I explain the obvious metaphor) I know it’ll all be OK.

The dogs need a walk.

Two weeks ago, when my mom was still coherent, I sat with her and watched movies and had a lovely one-sided chat, because she had lost the ability to talk. I let her know I was happy, and I loved her, and all that stuff we say when we need to say it.

Death is a part of life.

It’s past midnight. I’m sitting on the floor, writing and eating strawberry shortcake. It’s been almost a whole day. I can’t help but think about the day my father passed. I didn’t want my mom to sleep alone that night; my parents had been married almost 40 years. I remember when I crawled under the covers next to her, she uttered, “I have a stomach ache.”

“Me too, mom. Go to sleep.”


About Anne Clendening

Anne Clendening is the author of the upcoming memoir, Bent: How Yoga Saved My Ass. Born and raised in L.A., she is a yoga teacher, a writer and occasionally slings cocktails in a Hollywood bar. She could eat chocolate cake for every meal of the day. She has a gigantic fear of heights and flying. And fire. She wishes she could speak French, play her guitar better and make cannoli. She's probably listening to The Dark Side Of The Moon right now. If you’re not easily offended, her darker thoughts can be read at Dirty Blonde Ink. She’ll be kickin’ it with her boxer dog and her hot Australian husband. Be her friend on Facebook if you dig. Her website is Anne Clendening Yoga. Peace, Love & Beatles.


41 Responses to “My Mom Died Today. ~ Anne Clendening”

  1. Annie, I am so sorry! I feel like that's an incredibly insufficient phrase right now. Thinking of you.

  2. So sorry for your loss, Anne. I didn't expect to chuckle while reading. Beautifully done. My thoughts are with you and yours.

  3. Little Orphan says:

    Thank you Kate, you guys are awesome. xoxo

  4. Little Orphan says:

    Thanks Lynn, you have to have some levity even at times like these, right? You guys have all been amazing. Big hug.

  5. ronna26 says:

    I don't even have to say how much I love you or your mom….do I?

  6. lorilothian says:

    I'm glad you chose to post — this is a moving piece Annie. Be sweetly gentle with yourself. hugs. Lori Ann

  7. lorilothian says:

    btw, your mom was BEAUTIFUL! (just like you).

  8. Little Orphan says:

    You're the best. Thank you. I'm loving elephant <3

  9. slsimms says:

    You just truly have a way of reflecting the real deal Anne…and death is not always the wailing wall. Sometimes it's a patchwork of inappropriateness, melancholy, and normal.

    I love you for your rawness and willingness…hugs to you…

  10. yogawoman57 says:

    I don't even know you or your mom but feel your pain and think of my mom every day and miss her at times I can't explain. Blessings for comfort and joy in her memory.

  11. laydowninthetallgrass says:

    Oh, Anne…sending you much love…what a beautiful tribute and I love that you shared the weird humor that sort of appears and makes sense in the land of nothing-makes-sense anymore. Bryonie xo

  12. Karen says:

    Perfect. Sorry for your loss. You've spun it into gold. At the dumping of my mom's ashes into the Pacific at Maverick's, I and my 2 siblings burst into convulsive sobbing, mourning more for ourselves and our lost childhoods than for the loss of this mother who was barely enough. Since then, we've never been closer.

  13. Little Orphan says:

    You couldn't have said it better, sister. Hugs back.

  14. Little Orphan says:

    Thank you so much, I feel the exact same about my dad 🙂

  15. Little Orphan says:

    Thanks Bryonie, my family and me all have a pretty weird sense of humor! Really sweet. xoxo

  16. laydowninthetallgrass says:

    I hear ya, sister. xoxo

  17. Little Orphan says:

    So sorry Karen, that you were robbed of the childhood you probably wanted, but how amazing is it you have your siblings. I'm so glad I have my brother. Be well 🙂

  18. Megan says:

    I wish I'd known when I saw you today. You are so courageous. This is a beautiful thing you've written. Thinking of you. xo

  19. Little Orphan says:

    Megan, you are so sweet. Thank you, lotsa love <3

  20. Lory says:

    The yoga goddess has looks, a sense of humor and a knack for writing well. I'm sorry….for your losses. They must have been an enchanting couple.

  21. Michaela says:

    This is so beautiful, I thank you so much for writing it, it's so real and so raw and so helpful.

  22. Tara says:

    Thank you, Anne. I hope that love and humour will buoy you through this most difficult of transitions. My parents are both very near the end of their lives, and your piece made me chuckle and sigh. Peace to you.

  23. learningstillness says:

    You are amazing. Thank you for sharing this.

  24. Jill says:

    Anne, my condolences on the loss of your mother. Thanks for this. I was surprised how much my family laughed in the days following my mother's death. Looking back, it was such a comfort, a balm on a wound that hadn't really started hurting yet. I hope you will take it easy and continue to experience your grief honestly and openly, in whatever form it takes.

  25. Sherri says:

    Sorrow couples with laughter. I am so sorry for your loss and I thank you for the lovely lesson – my sorrows do not compare at this moment, but your article reminds me to find light wherever I can, because why not?

  26. Little Orphan says:

    Enchanting is pretty accurate. I've been very lucky in life because I had the parents I had. Thank you for such kind words.

  27. Little Orphan says:

    Thank you Michaela, I kept myself very busy writing when this happened the other day. Thanks for the sweet compliment 🙂

  28. Little Orphan says:

    And peace to you Tara.

  29. Little Orphan says:

    Thank you so much, and thank you for reading 🙂

  30. Little Orphan says:

    It's all surprising, isn't it? Well put Jill, thank you.

  31. James says:

    Anne, sincere condolences. "The glorious chariots of kings shatter. So also the body turns to dust. But the spirit of purity is changeless, And so the pure instruct the pure. – Buddha
    "Your work is to discover your work, And then with all your heart To give yourself to it." – Buddha
    Thank you for your "pure" words of sharing, may you continue to follow your heart, for it is right.
    Much love to you and your brother.

  32. Little Orphan says:

    Yes Sherri why not? Nicely put & thank you so much.

  33. Little Orphan says:

    Thank you so much, and I love the quotes. Exactly perfect.

  34. yoga bear says:

    sorry for your loss-thanks for sharing this beautiful article.

  35. Little Orphan says:

    Thank you Yoga Bear. Peace & Light

  36. Carrie Hura says:

    This is so great, it really shows being in the moment with what is. I appreciate you sharing. Shanti

  37. Little Orphan says:

    Thank you Carrie, Shanti to you as well.

  38. kathy terzian says:

    Oh Annie, We are so sorry for the loss of your Gorgeous mom. We were neighbors for 13 years, and what wonderful years they were! I loved your article, what a beautiful tribute to your parents. Lots of Love, Kathy T

  39. George Harbaugh says:

    Anne, glad we just reconnected after all these years. I'm enjoying reading all your entries. I'm sorry to hear of your Mom passing. George