I met Peri in my late 20s. She was already very successful in her career as a recreational therapist. She earned her undergrad at University of Alabama and masters at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She worked at the Skinner Center in Memphis, TN. There she directed a day program for adults with brain injury, HEADS UP, which offered a variety of activities including community outings. Peri’s patience, passion and kindness were a good fit in working with this population. My first moment of AWE was watching her transfer a 200+ pound man out of his wheelchair and load him on a bus for an adventure. Peri didn’t just work with patients, she made friends in the program too. She often brought a friend in the program with her on family trips and to our home in Alabama. Her lifetime has been spent serving others and she’s blessed with the gift of being great at it. After leaving her position in community recreation, she worked in clinical therapeutic recreation at HealthSouth of Memphis. There she received the award of Employee of the YEAR, and was recognized for her dedication and hard work. Through our lifetime, I have watched her take in a homeless family (mother and kids) for months while she worked and had small children. I watched her make everyone feel special without any conditions. I watched her get into top condition to run marathons: she’s super athletic (played soccer at Alabama and was an amazing gymnast) and watched her do an aerial in her 40s.
Peri has 5 children: George (6), Emma Kate (8), Clayton (10), Jack (16) and Taylor (20) and has been happily married to Gordon for 18 years. When Peri had Clayton, I was first to learn he had Down syndrome. I tearfully shared the news with Bill (my husband, Peri’s only sibling) who said, “Why are you crying. Peri has trained her whole life to take care of Clayton. God knew what he was doing.” And Bill was right. Peri and Gordon are absolutely the most remarkable parents.
Her unconditional love has withstood the test of true friendship as several mishaps may have challenged her. Once I tried to melt butter in a Pirex Casserole dish which exploded in her kitchen when placed on a high-heat burner into about a million pieces and embedded permanently into her linoleum floors (lucky I wasn’t killed). Or the time I borrowed her linen jacket to attend her father’s unexpected funeral and placed my lipstick in the pocket. Never did I suspect she would take it back and run it in the dryer (to get the wrinkles out) at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. As you can imagine, the red lipstick was all over everything. I was afraid it would ruin the sheets or anything placed into the dryer, so I insisted upon cleaning it out–thus making everyone late for her father’s funeral. And I’ll never forget one of Peri’s first Christmas dinners when her father brought a cured ham. As you can guess neither of us knew how to cook the thing, so it was baked in the oven until it became petrified. That dinner was hilarious as everyone, trying not to hurt feelings, attempted to eat the ham jerky. I recall someone (won’t mention names) mistakenly dumping peas all over one of the guests. It was a comedy of errors.
Peri will share the rest of her story as I encourage everyone to read her blog. Her journey is remarkable.
(In Peri’s words) In September 2010, I began having some “curious” abdominal pains. From one test to another, I found myself in the oncology office. It was believed that I had ovarian cancer, and I would need to have a hysterectom
Over the past two years, I have fought. In May of 2012, there was no evidence of disease. Yahoo! I was briefly cancer “free.” Now September 2012, the cancer has returned. I am forever indebted to my family and friends who are helping me fight this disease!
…continued in Peri’s blog