Remembering my mom after losing her to cancer

[EDIT 4/24/15: I still field emails and questions about the Gerson Therapy from people, and I was surprised to find the posts about our search for a natural cancer cure are the most frequently read posts on my blog, a sign that many others out there are looking for holistic alternative treatments. I certainly don’t regret our time spent at the Gerson Clinic, and there are several elements of what we learned there that I still practice regularly. I do also recommend to those inquiring about Gerson Therapy and other alternative treatments to look into Optimum Health Institute to see if it’s something that feels like an option for their healing. (Several BIG differences: OHI is incredibly more affordable and is far less invasive, in my opinion, and going there doesn’t require any international travel from the U.S.)]


Mom’s eyes closed forever last night around 10:30pm, and her last breath in this life was full of peace and relief. I had just left home about 20 minutes before, but said a good-bye just in case she passed while I was out.

As difficult as it was at times to see her fighting against cancer, my good buddy Chris Cochran gave me some really nice perspective on my Facebook page:

“Not quite sure what to write and what to say Randy… and you know that’s not like me. However, you know it’s been almost two years now that I lost my Mom so unexpectedly, and I know what you’re experiencing. I think about the recent times you’ve shared with her, and how you two must have bonded like never before. Hold that dear and close to your heart. I never had that in my Mom’s last days and regret that she was here one minute and gone the next… but obviously her spirit and life live on, and always will in my heart.”

I actually sat across from Chris when I worked at Stone Brewing Co., and remember when he got that awful phone call nobody ever wants to receive. I’m so fortunate that I was able to spend these last few months with my mom. I got to witness her strength, and lend a lot of support, in some small way returning some of the care she showered upon me these past 28 years. Because we were so close, in such a small place, and I needed to play bad cop making sure she kept up on her treatment schedule, we began getting on each other’s nerves a touch (this whole experience reinforced my notion that I would NOT make a good parent… nowhere near enough patience) but we also shared some very special moments, like when we danced together during her stay at the Gerson clinic in Mexico. It was very emotional and we shared a damn good hug after that.

My beautiful mom, Bonnie Clemens (right), with her friends Joanne Maginn (center) and Laura Desmond (left)

My beautiful mom, Bonnie Clemens (right), with her friends Joanne Maginn (center) and Laura Desmond (left)

My mom always took care of others first and put her own needs second—even when she shouldn’t have—and it’s this trait I’m perhaps most proud of inheriting. (Though I’m learning that there are times when it’s perfectly all right to put my own needs at the front of the queue.)

Also up there in importance to me is how much she valued the Golden Rule. We were never a religious family, and I’m so glad that the manmade laws and hateful/intolerant doctrines present in most religious texts were never crammed down my throat. It all boiled down to one simple principle: Do unto others as you would wish others to do unto you. (Or as Wheaton’s Law states: “Don’t be a dick.”) Be tolerant. Be kind. Be strong. Be generous. Forgive others and forgive yourself for honest mistakes, but be sure you learn from them. Accept that people have different views, and it doesn’t mean that one has to be wrong and one has to be right… they can be simply that… different. Not only is that OK, it’s beautiful, and it’s why the world will never be a boring place to live. Approach it with curiosity, awe, wonder, humility, and excitement. This was our religion and it has served us incredibly well in our decisions, interactions, and undertakings.

There were many places she never got to go and many things she never got to do, and she sacrificed so much to make sure that I could have the opportunities I’ve been afforded. I was told to chase my dreams and passions, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that’s what I’ve done and will continue to do until I squeeze the very last drop of juice from my own life. I’ll take her with me in my heart always, and let her moral compass continue to be my own, guiding me and keeping me virtuous and on the level. I am the man I am today because of her, and for that, I am eternally grateful. May I continue to grow and learn, and inspire others to do the same. And beyond carrying her in my heart, she is scheduled to be cremated early next week, and I fully intend to scatter a small bit of her remains everywhere I travel so that she might continue to live on vicariously through my journeys, and leave an essence of her grace around the world.

[EDIT 6/3/16: I actually scattered her ashes along with my father‘s at Squam Lake in New Hampshire, after uncovering a strange coincidence with the movie On Golden Pond, which they both loved.]

When I first announced that she’d thrown in the towel and asked to stop her treatments, so many of the comments from those who’d never met her could instantly grasp the quality and caliber of her character simply by how strong and inspiring I’ve been. (Their words, not mine, but I’ll humbly and happily take the compliment since it does so accurately reflect what an amazing job she did raising me.) The support and words of encouragement for both of us from all of you has been nothing short of overwhelming, and it touched both of our hearts more than words can say. THANK YOU.

And thank you mom. For everything. Best wishes on your next cycle through life, and may you be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams, as I have been in this cycle through mine. I love you, and I’m so glad we got to be together until the end.

Bonnie Rae Clemens, née McDannold. 24 April 1952 – 06 June 2013.

You will be missed eternally. Namaste.

A memorial service celebrating her life will be planned shortly, and I’ll be sure to post the details here. No boring scriptures, no dressing in black… just food and beer and laughs recounting the warm memories we shared with her.

Also, in lieu of flowers, should you wish to contribute to her legacy and give someone else a renewed chance at life where hers ended, we’d begun a fundraiser to help others who may not be fortunate enough to afford the alternative Gerson Therapy cancer treatments we pursued after her unsuccessful round of chemotherapy. It is quite costly, and is NOT covered by insurance. While we were able to scrape together the money for ourselves, we really wanted to do more and turn this ugly circumstance into something positive. Click here if you’d like to contribute to our fundraiser and help those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to finance their recovery. We’re working with the Gerson Institute to find the perfect recipient for these funds and should have an announcement about that shortly. No amount is too small.

And you never know who may need the help, but chances are that someone close to you will. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will develop cancer in their lifetime; 1 in 4 males and 1 in 5 females will die from it. The time to change that statistic is NOW.