December 9, 2015

A personal response to terrorism

Filed under: Memory Eternal,Random Thoughts — Tags: — Ann @ 6:44 am

Do Good Blog

Two for one.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, clients are sometimes encouraged to come up with two positive thoughts in response to every negative thought. I’ve been deeply distressed about San Bernardino (and Paris and every rage killing), and this morning it occurred to me that for every violent act that occurs, we should engage in TWO peaceful, loving nonviolent acts in return. I’ve decided that this is going to be my personal response to terrorism.

And yes, I know that giving blankets to the needy and baking cookies for a neighbor (for example) aren’t going to begin to make up for the slaughter of innocents. Nonetheless, I’m going to take on these random acts of goodness, and I’m going to carry them out with INTENTION. “This is to bring balance.”

I invite you to join me in this campaign, starting now. ‪#twoforone

September 7, 2015

Dear Dad

Filed under: Memory Eternal — Tags: , , , — Ann @ 9:40 am
Celebrating Dad in the 1970s

Celebrating Dad in the 1970s

Dear Dad – I didn’t forget your birthday yesterday. It was the first one without you. I was aware of it in so many ways, some trivial: at the card shop several weeks ago a thought formed, “First time I won’t be picking out a card for Dad.” Walking by my 2015 calendar, looking at the “Dad’s BD” and red heart that I drew in the box marked September 6, remembering my way back to January 1 when I painstakingly drew hearts on all my family’s birthdays, never dreaming you’d be gone less than two weeks later.

Then, yesterday morning, logging in to Facebook, the “one year ago today” algorithm flashed your smiling face, your unexpected face, and I swear my body went numb. I thought of posting a tribute to you right there on my Wall but I couldn’t picture myself writing, “First Dad birthday without my Dad,” and I couldn’t have borne up under friends’ responses, so loving, so empathetic. Too much hurt, still.

I called Mom, not just because I wanted to but because I knew you’d want me to. We talked about how we both still talk to you, in our different ways. She retains the privilege of the loving-tender wifely scold — “where on earth did you put that?” — and I’m more inclined to tell you how much I still need you.

The family didn’t get together yesterday as on previous September 6th “Dad’s Birthday” days, but no doubt each of us felt your absence, thought about birthdays past. I remember when you turned 64 and I printed off the lyrics to the Beatles song, handed them around and made everyone sing, “When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now…” I’m not sure it went over all that well but no regrets because every time that song pops up on my Pandora it means one more link to you in a chain that already stretches from my heart to heaven in infinite strands of love and remembrance.

September 6th is still and forever your birth-day and it can never be eclipsed by your death-day because what you gave us over a lifetime is so much greater than what can ever be taken away by your transition to spirit. You live on in countless ways. The children and their children and their children who make the annual trek to the family’s holy stomping grounds of Hat Creek and Mt. Lassen; the songs you loved that pop up on my Pandora (and I still hear you say, “Oh, that’s so pretty” whenever “Shenandoah” plays); the “Clark face” that pops up in family photos shared on Facebook. It’s you, Dad. All around us, everywhere, every day.

I’m not missing you any less today because it’s September 7th. And we still have Thanksgiving to get through without you and dear god in heaven: Christmas.

But yesterday, because it was your birthday, I pulled your memory a little closer to me, like a warm comforter protecting against a sudden chill. I will never stop celebrating you.

June 24, 2015


Filed under: Memory Eternal,Rants! — Ann @ 3:34 pm

So many words have been and will continue to be poured on the wounds left in the wake of the Charleston murders. Many of my friends have written and/or shared articles and videos expressing reactions ranging from sad and bewildered to angry and outraged. What I’m feeling, however, was evidenced in the voice of President Obama: weary. Because every time this happens, we go through the same series of motions (and emotions). We huddle together, the tragedy is the focus of our thoughts, prayers and posts, there are millions of words written and spoken calling for every appropriate reform and change — and then nothing happens. Until it happens again. According to Mother Jones, there have been almost 80 mass shootings in the U.S. involving four or more victims in the past 30 years. And didn’t we all think — at least hope — that Sandy Hook, where 20 little children were massacred, would be the mass shooting that would finally spur permanent change? We say, “This must stop!” and we seem helpless even to make it slow down. I’m sick to death of this all-too-familiar ritual. The news. The outrage. The outpouring. The funerals. The “one year later” stories. And then, another mass shooting. The news. The outrage. The outpouring. The funerals. The “one year later” stories. If you really want your heart to break, Google “mass shootings” and you’ll find many articles entitled, “How To Stop Mass Shootings” — all dated several years ago….after one or another of America’s mass shootings. I feel like we can’t go through this one more time — all the while knowing that we will.


Dr. Carolyn Saarni

Dr. Carolyn Saarni

Last week I learned of the death of one of my grad school professors, Dr. Carolyn Saarni. In addition to being a world-renowned scholar and author specializing in developmental psychology, Carolyn was much beloved by us, her students. Personally, I admired her so deeply for the life that she crafted for herself: she had a beautiful home in Berkeley, was very close to her family, was fit and trim and healthy (until she contracted lymphoma, relatively recently), and bicycled and traveled all over the world, taking gorgeous photos with which she would grace her PowerPoint presentations for our enjoyment. She was dating and would make sly references to her love life during her lectures — always in a classy fashion. She was SO young and vibrant and full of life. She had just turned 70 three weeks ago. Carolyn was my professor through two really rough courses: Developmental and Clinical Issues with Children and Adolescents, and the Research and Design course which resulted in my master’s thesis. I was so fortunate to learn from her and to be touched by her lively spirit and love of adventure. I am deeply saddened that someone so keenly full of life was robbed of additional years that likely would have been just as vibrant and exciting. Thank you, Carolyn. Your memory lives on in the lives that you have changed.

June 21, 2015

Father’s Day 2015

Filed under: Memory Eternal — Ann @ 9:44 am
Stan 1960s

My father, 1960s

First Father’s Day without you, Dad.

There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them. If you can remember me, I will be with you always.

~Isabel Allende, “Eva Luna”

June 13, 2015

Six months.

Filed under: Memory Eternal — Tags: , , , , , , — Ann @ 4:44 pm
My father.

My father.

Six months to the day since I (we, all of us) lost my Dad. I’ve received loving support in abundance, for which I’m grateful. Another reason to be grateful: my Mom’s friends and neighbors have stepped up completely to bring food and company. They show up at her door with a container of soup or a casserole saying, “I made too much last night; here you go,” and I know the “too much” was intentional and I love them for it.

In the past six months I’ve learned more about loss and mourning than I ever really wanted to know. Because words are my conduit to understanding — whether I’m writing or reading them — in these months I’ve studied dozens of articles and essays on grief, looked at countless quotes, and pored over my counseling books. The truest quote I’ve discovered to date is this one: “Grief does not change us; it reveals us.” The experience of loss becomes itself a question, and the answer rests in the lives we choose to lead in the midst of unspeakable sorrow.

My life is different now. How could it not be, without my Dad? And not just in ways we would expect after losing a parent. For me there is a deepening of the spirit, a desire to be closer to my truest self to honor my father and his memory. A part of who I am is set aside forevermore, dedicated to the role of living eulogy.

It’s so like my father to figure out a way to inspire me to try harder and strive more earnestly on a daily basis, even after his death. Six months since his passing and I think I’m a better person, or at least a wiser one. I want to say I wish he were here to know it but, first, even if he were here he would wave off any attempt on my part to convince him I need to improve (he thought I was perfect as I was). And secondly, more importantly, I think somehow he knows that I’m trying. Wherever he is, he knows. It’s my spiritual journey, it’s my path, but there’s a sense that Dad is walking with me, every step of the way.

April 5, 2015

Life: Mourning and Celebration

Filed under: Memory Eternal — Tags: , , , , — Ann @ 11:06 am
The light is always there.

The light is always there.

After my father died on January 13th of this year, my mind began to process thoughts and images at an accelerated rate. Some mourners describe feelings of “blankness” or “going numb” but for me it was the opposite: thoughts and visual streams were spinning their grief triggers at maximum speed. At times I felt as though I were experiencing the clichéd death’s-door experience of seeing my entire life flash before my eyes: childhood memories were a constant slideshow…things my Dad said, did, things we said and did together, images of he and my Mom, the family, vacations, conversations…thumbnail reminders of his presence in my life. And, of course, all of that re-experiencing was accompanied by a sadness so heavy that I felt pinned to the earth by Jovian gravity.

But among those thoughts and images, others emerged as well: happy memories in the making. Weddings, picnics, barbecues, engagement parties, baby showers, reunions — and these images had nothing to do with my father or my family. Instead, I was imagining strangers together, smiling, laughing, drinking Champagne, raising glasses, opening gifts, celebrating. It was as though, in the midst of unbearable grief, my mind wanted me to remember that somewhere out there, far away from me but out there nonetheless, there was joy. I needed to remember joy. And to believe that I’d be in the midst of it again someday.

Last night I attended a community celebration of Passover. The room was packed, the music was loud, the wine was freely flowing, and I was surrounded by the dearly loved faces of friends old and new. As I sat taking it all in, I remembered. My mind formed a thought: “This is joy.” I greedily drank in every sensory aspect of the experience; I needed to memorize it in case I forgot it again.

This morning, I penned a thank-you note to the person who sponsored my attendance at the celebration. I ended by writing, “After my father died, I craved the other side of grief. Last night was that experience, and I’m filled with gratitude.”

January 14, 2015


Filed under: Memory Eternal — Ann @ 8:55 am

Dad And Me-smaller

My father died yesterday morning. He left this world the way he lived his life, with dignity, and without fuss. No drama — that was Dad. At 91, his life force had been ramping down in recent years and he often spent his days sleeping in his favorite chair under the watchful gaze of my mother, his bride of 69 years. Yesterday, as the family gathered around her at the home Mom and Dad shared for some 50 years, we agreed that Dad’s timing was right. He was tired.

And yet, nothing about this is easy. So much ink has been spilled through the millennia on grief and loss and death and bereavement that there is scarcely much to be said that hasn’t already been set to poem, book, song, theatrical piece, film, opera and blog. Yet we know that every loss is unique. There was no one on this Earth, ever, exactly like my father and his loss leaves an enormous void. Also, he and my mother both have — had — an eternal quality about them that prompted my long-time friend Bonita to weep into the phone to me yesterday on hearing the news, “I just sort of thought your parents would live forever.” We all did. And even a 91-year life span goes by too swiftly.

It feels terribly wrong to sum up Dad’s life in a series of words and phrases because he was so much more than devoted and deeply loved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; Depression-era survivor; Pearl Harbor veteran; life member of the VFW; career Bank of America employee; and serial hobbyist whose passions hopscotched him from trout-fishing to raising pigeons to playing pinochle to building model airplanes to archery to bridge to Ham radio and probably many more I’m forgetting. Those are only roles and reflections of his joy of learning; they don’t reveal his steel-hard integrity, his commitment to a moral and ethical life, his unwavering determination to always, always do the right thing — by his country, his community, his wife, and his three children. There was much more of Atticus Finch in my Dad than he ever would have acknowledged, because such comparisons would have flown in the face of his insistence on simplicity. Dad didn’t like complication or complexity.

With that in mind, he probably wouldn’t like knowing about the turmoil of emotions his loss has caused. Though death is inevitable, it always comes too soon. Even at 91 years old — too soon. I got to have my Dad for fully two-thirds of his long life and yet it all feels like a slideshow set on high speed. He was my anchor; I am unmoored. We all are, and no one more than his grieving life partner who in a final sigh transitioned from wife to next-of-kin. Nevertheless, she and all of us proceed now to Take Care of Things, which include writing an obituary we never wanted to read and planning a memorial service we hoped never would be necessary.

I know from my sister’s memorial just over two years ago — when I couldn’t even look at her “life celebration” table without falling apart — that I’m not the family member most likely to deliver the eulogy after such unthinkable loss. Dad’s memorial is set for Saturday and if I could speak then, I’d want to talk about all the gifts my father gave me in the form of a good upbringing, education, countless joyful memories including camping trips to Hat Creek, life lessons, Dad wisdom, his caring concern to ensure I was okay (always, always asking if I had bridge fare to cross the Carquinez when I left their house after a visit, even well into my fifth decade of life), and too many more to list. But my father’s greatest gift to me was last year, when we were talking on the phone and he told me, quite out of the blue, “I know how much you love me.” Until my father handed me that peace of mind, I’d never realized how much worry and stress go into wondering how much more we need to do and be and say to prove the depth of our devotion to the ones we cherish most. My Dad, the practical one, who had all of his “pre-need” arrangements taken care of well in advance, was letting me know that I didn’t need to worry, that I didn’t need to be more than I was. He knew the day would come when I would need to cling to that knowledge as fiercely as I’d clung to his hand as a little girl.

That day was yesterday. Thank you, Dad. For all you were, for all you left us, and for every single moment, thank you.

December 17, 2012

Lessons from Linda

Filed under: Memory Eternal,My Sister Linda — Ann @ 5:49 pm

My Sister Linda

As I write this, my 64-year-old sister, Linda, has just been taken off life support (or, as the medical team called it, “transitioned to comfort care”). In what is probably a most extraordinary case of more fortune than I deserve, I have never before experienced the loss of someone deeply, profoundly close to me, and never before a member of my immediate family. My parents, thankfully, are nearing 90 years old and (knock wood) quite strong and healthy.

One thing I have learned from the past few days is that you learn from death, or near-death, from the moment it enters your awareness. I’ve been on this planet for many years and yet, in the span of over 48 hours, since I first found out that my sister collapsed and was in a coma, I have grown in awareness at exponential rates. Some of the lessons learned — in fact, most of them — are too personally painful to discuss.

But one thing can be revealed: I now know what I will no longer say to others who are grieving. Because for most of my adult life, when someone I knew lost someone they loved, I wrote on the carefully chosen sympathy card, “May sweet memories bring you comfort” or variations thereof, believing that would actually be the case. And maybe that is true for others. But for me, I’m learning that memories of Linda do NOT in fact bring comfort — they only bring fresh pain, a new wave of tears, and a ferocious stabbing sensation to the heart. Who could have known this? Please don’t misunderstand: I don’t mind if people say it to me, because I know the sentiment is manifested love and shining intention, which I accept with a grateful, humble heart. But it’s something I will no longer be writing or saying to others because now….well, now I understand.

Perhaps someday memories of Linda will indeed bring comfort. Right now, the only thing that gives me comfort is, well, nothing. Nothing except the fantasy of turning the clock back a week when I was certain I’d be seeing my sister on Christmas Eve, and we would be exchanging big hugs and how are yous and I love yous and all of the comforting rituals.

I’m just beginning to learn, and this is one thing I know now that I didn’t know before. It’s something my big sister taught me.

May 19, 2011

SRJC Ya Later

Filed under: Memory Eternal — Ann @ 6:29 pm

A Photo Opp Waiting to Happen

I’m exceedingly pleased that the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat published the Close to Home piece that I recently submitted for publication, in which I express my gratitude for my time at our local community college. What follows is the article in its entirety.~Ann

GUEST OPINION: A bittersweet farewell to SRJC


Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 6:26 p.m.

“Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them.”

— Jonas Salk

On Wednesday, I walked away from the Santa Rosa Junior College campus for the last time, ending an almost 20-year relationship with that institution. I’m already missing the school I fell in love with from the first time I laid brains on it, in August of 1992. But it’s time to move on, time to “exercise what’s been taught” to me there.

In the early 1990s, my husband, Neal, and I moved into a cottage two blocks west of SRJC. I had long harbored dreams of a college degree so I enrolled in Psych 1A and was instantly hooked not just on the subject matter but on the entire SRJC experience. I was charmed by everything about it, from its oak leaf logo to its lush tree-rich grounds to its quality professors and high standing in the academic community.

After successful completion of the Psych 1A class, I kept going. The next semester I took 13 units, which included another psych class, stellar astronomy and pre-algebra. The late Jerry Waxman was my astronomy professor, and he coaxed from me a previously unrecognized awe for the magnificence of the natural world and cultivated in me latent, surprising skills: I never imagined that my math-challenged brain could triangulate the distance to a star.

I have specific and wonder-filled memories of practically every corner of the campus and every moment of my experiences there. Both my personal world and the larger world have transformed during my tenure there.

It was at the phone booth in front of Plover Hall in 1993 — then the library — when I discovered that my son’s wife was in labor. And in the spring of 1995, when I had to give an informational speech, I chose “the Internet” as my topic. It was so new then that I was one of the few JC students with a modem. My visual aids were posterboards explaining domain extensions such as “dot gov” and “dot edu” and predicting that “within five years the majority of households in America would have a modem in their homes.” Now, of course, we’ve essentially outgrown modems and most students are connected online, wireless or otherwise.

The highlight, however, was my May 1996 graduation where, as a valedictorian, I stood under a canopy of oaks on a hot May morning, quoting from Robert Anton Wilson’s essay “Ten Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Morning” and telling my classmates how critically they are needed. I truly felt like a child of the college, wanting to honor my “parent” by doing her proud.

I was away from the college for a few years, but in 2007 I returned to add some general education classes for my bachelor’s degree and two psychology prerequisites I needed for my desired graduate program. Now I’m finishing a social psychology course at the JC, I’ve been accepted into the graduate program, and in August, I’ll be going back to my other beloved alma mater, Sonoma State University, as a graduate student. But being forever finished with SRJC is bittersweet indeed.

“Alma mater” is Latin for “nourishing mother,” and SRJC has indeed served as my educational progenitor — my starter school, my training wheels, the “parent” institution that gave me roots and wings. I leave forever changed and eternally grateful.

Ann Clark is a Sonoma resident.

Copyright © 2011 — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress Hosted by