“Cargo pants, hiking boots, and a sweater with flair. I want to look like a hip outdoorswoman for my birthday party.”
Peri had a vision, and I was determined to help make it happen. I ran the 4 doors down to my house and brought back a bag of sweaters. Holding up each one, I asked, “Does this one have ‘flair’?” She shook her head, no. And no. And no.
Finally I held up a black sweater with fringe around the edges, given to me as a hand-me-down by my Dallas fashionista sister.
“That’s it!” she exclaimed. I hung the hanger on the handles of the armoire in front of Peri’s bed. “A sweater with flair.”
Her husband ordered cargo pants and hiking boots online, and every day she asked if they had come in.
Every day she added more details to her birthday party. Special guests, her favorite songs, a slideshow.
And every day she grew thinner and weaker. Suffering from stage 4 ovarian cancer, Peri knew her 50th birthday would be her last. The party had to be big.
And we all wanted to make it big- to give back to such a giver. Peri gave and gave and then gave some more. Clothes and hats out of her closet, cookies, meals, sweet hugs and “I love you’s” to my boys, special gifts bought just for me- like beautiful earrings and a bracelet she gave me as a “little happy”- my early birthday present.
When the cargo pants arrived, I took them out of the package eagerly and held them up. Peri beamed from her bed. “Put them on!” she whispered. I laughed and really hoped she wasn’t serious. They were extra small, size zero, skinny minis. “I could never fit in those, but they will sure be cute on you!” She whispered even more intensely, “Put them on!”
Peri was a difficult person to say no to. And I really wanted her to be happy in that moment. So I did what any loving friend would do- I went in the bathroom and tried to put them on. One leg went in, then the other- totally squeezing off the circulation in my legs. I sucked in my breath for all I had and zipped them. I thought I might pass out.
I managed a very quick trot around her room with her whispering, “Now those are some great pants!” Then I darted back into the bathroom to peel them off. Whew. That was close. They could have become body paint. But Peri was happy, and that’s all I cared about.
The dreaded call from her husband came in the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 29th. My husband Brian and I threw on our coats, ran down to their house and up the stairs.
Peri had passed peacefully in her sleep. Her body was still warm. I stroked her hair, wept deeply, hugged her precious children. We all knew it was coming, yet the shock hit hard.
Tuesday was her birthday. February 4th. And ironically, World Cancer Day.
And oh Peri- we had a huge birthday bash! Your family and friends packed the room to the gills. We sang all the songs you loved, like “There Will Be Peace in the Valley,” and “Amazing Grace.” Ronnie and Leslie Freeman actually flew in from Germany so he could sing a song for you! The slideshow you wanted ran in the foyer, and there was even a cake with your name on it….
I only wish you could have been there to enjoy it with us.
But you were there…in spirit. In the way people talked about your giving nature, your deep faith, and your love for your kids. You were there in the smile of your daughter, the memories of your friends who have been forever changed by your life (like me), and the details of every moment of the service you had planned.
And Peri, I want you to know that in your honor, I wore the sweater with flair. And the hiking boots.
But not the cargo pants. Definitely not the cargo pants.
Love you always- until we meet again,