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Please Help – In Honor of Bean

I want to start this blog by telling you my goal. In honor of my sister Bean, I am collecting books – new and gently used – that will be donated to various children’s charities in Bean’s memory. I would absolutely LOVE to have 100 books to donate by the end of March. That means if just 10% of my Twitter Followers sent me a book, I’d be at my goal. If just a fraction of my Facebook friends sent me a book, I’d be at my goal. I think I’ve set a modest goal, and your donation would help me not only honor the memory of this incredible person, but it would also help put books in the hands of children.

Brand new books will be donated to Project Night Night, which helps provide bedtime necessities for children in homeless shelters. Each child is given a brand new book, a security blanket, and a brand new stuffed animal in a tote bag of their own. Gently used books will be donated to two schools in Camden, NJ – one of the poorest cities in the United States. Bean donated quite a bit to Sacred Heart School in Camden in terms of toys and books, and I know she would be happy to see that there were books going to the children at the school there.

If you need help to cover the cost of shipping books to me, just let me know. EMAIL ME at anna@skamarakas.com for information on how to get the books to me!

Below is the eulogy I wrote when my sister Bean died. She passed away on Friday, March 7th, 2003, having battled most of her life with the affects of a tumor on her pituitary gland when she was young.

But before you get to the words I wrote to be spoken about my sister nearly 7 years ago, I want to talk about something that’s important to me now where Bean is concerned. There is some stuff that in the midst of the agony and grief I didn’t mention in detail.

Bean loved children. I have to admit that while Brighid was growing up, Bean was as much a mother to her as I was a lot of times. She played the games, colored in the coloring books, watched the cartoons – all the stuff I passed on to do things like go to work, make dinner, clean a bathroom. Bean was the kind of mom every kid wishes they had – the kind who would give you chocolate cake and soda for breakfast; take you to see the movies your real mom thought might be too scary; and buy you the toys your own mother told you were crappy.

But she wasn’t just good with Brighid. Bean was always doing something for someone’s child. She moved from NJ to FL to help her friend raise her two boys when they moved away due to a job relocation, and she was forever making smiley faces at babies to make them laugh or helping someone else’s kid on the playground. Kids were attracted to Bean, because Bean never lost the excitement about life that most kids have. Bean’s heart never grew up or grew old, and I think kids just naturally related to her because of that. As a frequent volunteer at Brighid’s school, when she died, of the over 400 people who came to say their last goodbyes, many were kids that Bean took into her heart, the teachers and faculty of the school where she volunteered, even the priest from the parish came to pray with us and offer his condolences, as he recognized that losing Bean caused a void that went way beyond our family.

So here are the words I wrote that were read in Church on our final day with Bean. She is today loved as much as she was on the day we lost her, missed more than I could ever put into words, and her kindness and generosity appreciated even now.

March, 2003

If you met Bean once, you would never have forgotten her. It wasn’t the fact that due to her medical problems, she had an unusual appearance. Bean managed to touch your heart in the first few seconds you knew her. No matter how brief your encounter with her, by the time you finished your first conversation with her, you probably knew everything you ever wanted to know about the Bilbrough and Holak families – and more. But whatever else you took away from your first meeting with Bean, somehow you knew that no matter what, Bean would be your friend for life.

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When someone dies, you are supposed to say only good things about them – like they would give you their last dime, or the shirt off of their back. Well, Bean was that person. Whenever she volunteered for lunch duty at Brighid’s school, she would turn her purse inside out looking for spare change in case one of the kids forgot their lunch money. If Brighid was selling something to support Girl Scouts or the Church, Bean was in line with the biggest order. Just before she died, she won $50 in the Church calendar raffle, then turned around and spent $90 on Easter candy to support Annunciation School. If she was invited out for a holiday meal, she made sure to go with a flower for all the ladies or a toy or candy for all the children. Her heart held more goodness than her purse held change, but if she had one dime to her name, she was looking to spend it on someone else.

Despite the numerous aches and pains she often had, whenever you asked Bean how she was, she would say she was “Great!” If she went to see a movie or a play, no matter how bad, when you asked Bean how it was, she would say, “Fantastic!” And if you took her out for a bite to eat – whether it was a cheese steak or a prime rib dinner, when you asked Bean how the meal was, she would say it was, “Fabulous!” She lived her life loving everything she did and everyone around her. She was never disappointed in anything or anyone. She loved it all.

So whether you knew Bean for a short time, or if you knew her all of her life, we know you are here today because she touched your heart. She had a way of doing that so that the mark she made on you would be permanent. Somehow, she must have known that her time with us would be much too short. She managed to leave behind something in all of us so that she will never be forgotten.