Tuesday, September 15, 2015

the post I never wanted to write.

I wrote yesterday about how a lot had happened in the short five months since we moved. I didn’t mention one huge thing because I feel like this deserves an entire post (and a long one at that). My beautiful, courageous Mema Dean passed away on July 1. 

If you’ve read my blog long, you’ve seen her face before because she had, and still has, a huge impact on my life. Mema was such a fighter, beating breast cancer in '92 and lymphoma in '09, battling daily against arthritis that crippled her knees, shoulders, and hands, and was missing several organs including her appendix, ovaries, gallbladder, one kidney and even part of her lung. Her little body put up such a hard fight against her heart and its failure to beat on rhythm, but the Lord took her home and relieved her of that daily struggle.

at her surprise 80th birthday party last year with my mama and Aunt Pam
When I was younger, my daddy owned a sleep study company called RemLabs. He traveled all over the state, and eventually all over the US performing sleep studies, opening satellite locations, speaking at conferences and etc. My mom is a full-time pharmacist, so whenever daddy was gone for extended days, Mema Dean came and stayed with us. My sister and I fought over who got to sleep with her at night and treasured those "Mema Dean Nights". She lived with us as she recovered from knee surgeries, her shoulder surgery, her mastectomy and various other surgeries as well. Mema was a fixture in our home and on our yearly vacation to Hilton Head.

our last vacation in 2014 to HHI
We were also a fixture in her home. Sundays after church were spent around her table eating meals WAY too big for our stomachs. As our families grew to include spouses and our own children, we found ourselves squeezed into different corners of the living room and kitchen, sharing high-chairs and bumping elbows at the bar. Her cooking was un-rivaled and when we did have to move Thanksgiving to my parents' and aunt's homes so we had room to cook and enjoy our meals, we made sure Mema was nearby to provide directions on how to perfect her biscuits and egg gravy.

When she retired (from Remlabs actually), she got to keep us after school and in the summers. Even though she didn't have cable, lived out in the middle of nowhere, and didn't have a plethora of toys at her house, we LOVED being at Mema's. There was always some kind of snack she'd recently made, she had the best lap for rocking in, and her grilled cheese or fried egg sandwiches were magical. One of my favorite Mema activities was when she drove us places and pretended to be a flight attendant. She'd inform us that the seat belt light was on and we needed to be sure our seats were in the upright position. She'd hit the little reflectors in the middle of our country road on purpose and say "watch out for turbulence" and would give us little Vitamin C drops (or as we called them "orange things") as our "in-flight snack".

in her wig as she recovered from hodgkins lymphoma at my cousin's wedding 
In her later years, her health declined and her congestive heart failure resulted in her retaining so much fluid that she could barely leave the house, and even then couldn't do so without a wheelchair. Her large lap slowly disappeared. Her once size 18 form went down to a petite 6. She didn't get to leave the house and go on shopping adventures with her best friend Mary Ann, or the Pizza Inn buffet once a week. So, I called her on my way home from work every day and told her about my day. I tried to brighten her spirits with funny stories about Brody and Sawyer. But I watched (and listened to) her as she struggled to pay attention or talk sensibly because her mind was being affected by her lack of oxygen and witnessed her getting crankier and crankier with my mama and aunt as they tried to alternate days and nights staying with her. I knew my Mema wasn't happy, but she wouldn't give up because she wanted to stay here for us and I selfishly wanted her to stay too.

I called her on my way home from work on July 1 and got no answer so I called my daddy. He was super weird on the phone and asked if I was home yet, I told him no and he then asked if I'd talked to Josh. I knew immediately that Mema was gone. I don't know why, or how, but I just knew. I hung up without saying anything to daddy about it and called Josh. He answered and I could tell he was upset. I just said, "I need to know, is my Mema dead?". He calmly asked me where I was on my drive (worried I'd be too upset to drive), and I remember just saying, "Josh, I'm going to be fine. Just tell me." He said, "yes" and I told him I'd be home shortly. Daddy informed me that she'd had a cardiac episode of sorts and that her heart just gave out, but that she never knew she was struggling.

I miss her every single day and I have picked up the phone on more than one occasion to ask her a cooking question or to share my day with her. I miss her laugh and the way she sucked her teeth after meals (despite how gross it was). I crave her chocolate sop and "flour bread" (fried bread and chocolate gravy). I hate that my Brody won't get to know her and that Sawyer didn't have more time with her.

with Brody in Nov. 2014

But, I am also extraordinarily happy for her. I know she is in Heaven pain-free reunited with her two brothers and with my papa who she hasn't seen in over 40 years. She can move and go like she wants and she is with Jesus who she loves and taught us (and many Sunday school students) to love for so many years. 

I weep for my family and me, but I rejoice for her. 


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss Lauren. Hold on to all those beautiful memories, they will help on the tough days...

  2. It's the post you didn't want to write but it's so beautiful! Hugs friend

  3. I had the pleasure of working with her twice at GLC. She loved her family SO much. She spoke of how she'd miss you all but that the opportunity to move was one you couldn't pass up. She wanted to go to your sister's wedding so badly! Know that she loved you more than anything!

  4. Thank you for your beautiful and moving tribute to the wonderful person that Aunt Dean was. She has always been the wise and caring Matriarch for our family too. Was I was little she would take me and Pam with her shopping. We would get treats like Caramel Creams at Roses when it was downtown Wilson and had a real candy counter. She took us to Christmas parades in Tarboro and Wilson. It was fun even just going grocery shopping with her. Pam and I would stand at the magazine rack reading Tiger Beat and other teen magazines. She was always pleasant and funny working in tobacco. She took us to Bible School. We would watch soap operas with her on hot summer afternoons. Her house had air conditioning! She was always our go to person when there were problems in our family. She always gave us wonderful insight and always ended by praying with us. Not long before she was not able to stay at her house I visited on afternoon and after showing me pictures of her great grandbabies which she always did. I shared with her a family crisis I had on my heart and again she comforted and reassured me and prayed for me and immediately my heart was lighter. I know my mama and Grandparents and all my uncles are rejoicing that she is in heaven with them. She will always hold a special place in my heart and I miss her terribly every day. There will never be another Aunt Dean.

    1. The previous post was by me, Jackie Stott. I don't have a blogger name.

  5. I am so sorry! I know this had to be hard for you to write. hugs.