Photography

Penny Dean

November 2, 2019

Obituary

I lost my Mom on November 2, 2019. I could tell you her age, where she was born, or what jobs that she held, but those things made such small contributions to the woman that she became in her lifetime. What made her unique was the way that she loved fiercely and loyally. She had two children, Erin and Eon, helped to raise her niece and nephew, Cathleen and Tom as if they were her own, and cared for countless nieces, nephews, and friends of her children. She was the person who stepped up when a child needed love, hope, food, an advocate, and shelter, both literally and metaphorically. In the last decade of her life she served as mom to her granddaughter, Bella, which, despite my mom’s many medical challenges, was probably what kept her going these past eight years. She wanted nothing more than for Bella to feel loved and to have a good life. Mom so badly wanted to live to watch over Bella and see her grow up. She will indeed still watch over her, albeit from a different vantage point.

She was the mom my friends could talk to when they couldn’t talk to their own mom. Our house was the house where everyone wanted to be—and she loved it that way. She had a giant king size bed and when my friends would come over, we would often all pile on it and talk and hang out with Mom. Even in adulthood, Mom welcomed my friends, Karen and Kara, into her home as part of her family. Karen was with me, as was Cathleen, when my Mom took her last breath and Kara was already on the other side, awaiting Mom’s arrival. She loved her children endlessly and would do anything for them. She told me that I was smart and could do and be anything that I wanted, and I believed her. I could have been the dumbest kid on the block, but it didn’t matter because my mother believed in me. She was my biggest cheerleader and confidante. I could tell her anything, no matter how potentially disappointing, and she was always there to help pick up the pieces, day or night; sometimes that took the shape of a 3:00am phone call, a day off from school to go shopping to sort out my heartbreak, or crawling in that big bed and being soothed by her warm embrace. When I gave birth to my daughter, the long-awaited baby girl of her baby girl, it was her hand that I held. She was so excited for me to have a daughter of my own, and she was so happy that I had found an equal parent and partner in this life with whom to share this journey. I know that Mom will rest in peace knowing that her daughter-in-law, Donna, promised her on the last day she was able to communicate, that she would always take care of her girls. 

Mom always made the holidays special and not one went by without both interior and exterior decorations. We had trees donned with Easter eggs, strobe lights and giant spider webs in the front yard for Halloween, scarecrows, pumpkins, corn stalks, and wooden turkeys for Thanksgiving, and of course, Santa and his reindeer for Christmas. The inside of the house was just as magical; mantels filled with vintage decorations from our childhood corresponding to the occasion, tables dressed in holiday themed tablecloths and runners, complete with matching candlesticks and homemade crafts and decorations we made as children. Then there was the food. She loved to feed people and was an extraordinary cook—from her savory fried rice, marinated grilled chicken, and macaroni salad to her delectable carrot cake, pumpkin cheesecake, and Christmas cookies. There was never a shortage of people requesting her recipes.The person who probably knows them better than anyone is her nephew Tom, as he was her right hand man when these tasks became more physically difficult for her. In addition to Tom, her love of cooking and decorating for the holidays lives on in me, her daughter Erin, her niece who was more like a daughter, Cathleen, cherished granddaughter Eden, and one of my dearest friends since middle school, whom Mom loved dearly, Michelle. In fact, on the last day that Mom could talk, Michelle came to see her in the hospital and told her about how she got her love of decorating for the holidays from my Mom. At a time when Mom struggled to hang on and communicate, she lit up, smiled, and engaged in the conversation. Her final cognizant moments were filled with true love, admiration, and appreciation, thanks to Michelle. 

My Mom made a lifetime career out of being a mother. Sure, she worked other part time jobs, and had an important career as an assistant to the administrator to a hospital, before having children, but more than anything, she was a dedicated mother. She served in an administrative capacity in the PTA, rarely missed a classroom party or fundraiser, took away our pain, physically or emotionally, with the magic touch of her hand or hug, entertained family and friends, cared for her elderly father, kept a beautiful home, nurtured various cats and dogs, and always put others before herself. In fact, this was probably her downfall in this life. She cared for others to the detriment of her own health and wellbeing. I can still hear her in my head telling me to take care of myself, and to not follow in her footsteps with respect to not making her own needs and health a priority. In honor of my Mom, this is the one thing I will do differently in this life of mine. Otherwise, my goal is to love fiercely and loyally, just like Mom.

Mom was preceded in death by her mother, Geraldine May (Palmer) Scribner in 1985 and I’m pretty sure her heart never fully recovered, as she loved her mother with her whole heart and she often spoke of how much she missed her during these past 34 years. She was also preceded in death by her father, Theodore Farris Scriber, sisters Terry Nelisher and Patricia Haag, brother David Buntley, and my beloved friend, who she loved like one of her own, Kara Williams. She is survived by her children Erin Palmer Craver-Dean (Donna) and Eon Gregory Dean, niece and nephew Cathleen Haag and Thomas Haag, granddaughters Eden Penny Craver-Dean and Bella Rose Dean, sister Barbara Leonard and family, close friends of our family Jennie and Bob Williams, Karen Moskowitz, and Michelle Smith-Berentz, many of my friends and peers, since adolescence, who knew and loved my Mom, and countless other friends and relatives who experienced my Mom’s love or hospitality.

Mom felt strongly that those who didn’t see her when she was alive didn’t need to see her when she was dead. She said that funerals were for the living and thus was quite indifferent about having one. She told me to do what I needed to do to feel comforted when she died, and since the thought of standing for hours while a line full of people tell me how sorry they are sounds more painful than comforting, public services won’t be held. If you feel led to do something to honor my mom, a donation to the American Diabetes Association or the National Kidney Foundation would help to fight two of the main diseases that ultimately took her life. Because she always took care of children who needed to be loved, I think she would also be touched by donations toyour local foster care system or social services.

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