In Loving and Timeless memory of Sheri Lynn Pennington The life of Sheri Pennington was by no means an easy one, but it certainly was one of success. No matter what the powers that be threw at her, she always managed to find a way to not only survive, but to thrive. Even if given the option, I don't think she would've taken the easier path. Mom was a warrior through and through, from the time of her birth into a troubled family in Seattle in 1956 right up until her passing just last week. Mom's relationship with her own mother, Florence, was often strained, and she barely knew her own father, Don, who...
In Loving and Timeless memory of Sheri Lynn Pennington
The life of Sheri Pennington was by no means an easy one, but it certainly was one of success. No matter what the powers that be threw at her, she always managed to find a way to not only survive, but to thrive. Even if given the option, I don't think she would've taken the easier path. Mom was a warrior through and through, from the time of her birth into a troubled family in Seattle in 1956 right up until her passing just last week.
Mom's relationship with her own mother, Florence, was often strained, and she barely knew her own father, Don, who passed away himself in 1971. As a result of this chaotic family dynamic, Mom and her siblings, an older brother named Mike Gratias (who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1978) and an older half-sister named Theon "Toni" Buxton, were primarily raised by their grandparents. Some might suspect that with such a tumultuous youth, Mom's story would always be one of heartache, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Mom was quick to find her passions and to utilize her talents. She developed a deep love of music when she was young and discovered that she had a great knack for writing. Anyone who saw any of Mom's old letters or even simple notes would be stunned not only by the power of her words, but by the sheer physical beauty of her handwriting. (Mom also told me several times that, thanks to a few years in a Catholic school as a child, she acquired a deep, lifelong love of horses.)
In combining these gifts as a teenager, Mom poured her heart into poetry and lyrics. Before long, she picked up a guitar and became a singer and songwriter in her own right, quickly drawing inspiration from such pop-rock luminaries as Cat Stevens, the Beatles, and Neil Diamond as well as from a great many soul icons including Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Gaye.
Of course, Mom's love of music didn't stop there. As time went on, she acquired new and eclectic influences and favorites, especially as her most powerful instrument became her unmistakable voice (which, it should be noted, perfectly matched her truly flawless beauty). She absolutely absorbed the work of artists such as Jimmy Cliff, the Police, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Michael Bolton. Whatever she did and wherever she went, Mom always kept music with her. She even went so far as to try out for "Star Search" in the early nineties.
Although Mom certainly had a strong sense of self-respect, as well as her pride, she made no bones about who she was or what her struggles were. In her teens and twenties, she encountered problems with drugs and alcohol (much as many people in the Pennington family have), and sought help for it. After getting sober in the eighties, she remained an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous for some years, which is how she met my and my sister's father, Steve Pennington, in 1986.
The two married in July of 1989 with their infant son in attendance and a daughter soon to follow. Although the marriage itself would only last about four years, an unbreakable bond had been formed. A truly one-of-a-kind family had been born.
In the mid-nineties, Mom underwent brain surgery in order to treat an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation) and malpractice occurred. As a result of the surgery, she hemorrhaged and suffered a stroke, leaving her with paralysis on her right side and aphasic speech. The doctors' outlook was bleak: Mom would be wheelchair-bound for the remainder of her life, she would likely be unable to communicate effectively, and a nursing home would almost certainly be the only place for her. Anyone who expected the story to end here, however, would be proven wrong yet again.
Very soon after Mom's surgery, our dad brought her to live with us. Dad began working tirelessly to help Mom recover from her surgery, and she responded with just as much strength and determination. It took some time, but Mom went from being someone who was expected to be nearly vegetative to being a mother who was willing and able to do housework and meet her kids at the bus stop each day after school. At times, when it came to housework, Dad even told Mom "Sheri, relax! Just let the kids do it!" But she did everything willingly and joyously, not to mention with an amazing sense of humor. It gave her purpose. It was clear that her children were what she continued to fight for. My sister and I remained our mother's pride and joy each and every day.
Mom lived with us for many years, defying the odds at every turn. Our whole family did. In 1999, Dad was finally able to get Mom justice for the medical malpractice years before. In the end, though, it wasn't about money for past grievances; it was about the demonstration that unconditional love nurtures the human desire to keep striving, and when these two things are combined, amazing things can and will be achieved. Mom was a living testament to this.
In the last few years, Mom was able to live on her own for a time, and then spent a couple of years at an assisted living facility, but that certainly didn't mean that her family was out of the picture. Love was the basis for everything we shared together. No matter what happened, Mom never lost sight of this. It's true that, being as strong-willed as she was, Mom bristled at losing any measure of her independence. However, her gracious, dignified, and loving character and her unconquerable attitude never changed. She brought an infectious sense of joy and optimism wherever she went. It was one of her many God-given gifts and it remains so even now.
Even though Mom didn't recover from her disability entirely, that doesn't change the success of her story. She was told to accept limitations placed upon her and she never did. She bore her struggles with dignity, grace, humor, and a powerful sense of faith. She never stopped expressing gratitude to God for giving her life; for allowing her to see her children grow up; for being at high school graduations, her daughter's wedding, and especially for the knowledge that she is to be a grandmother. I remember asking Mom on more than one occasion "How are you not angry at the world?" and she would smile, laugh, point upwards and say "God! God!"
The life of Sheri Pennington was by no means an easy one, but it certainly was a beautiful one. No matter what happened, no matter how much she had to endure, she never lost sight of what was important: In the midst of what many would've termed tremendous hardship, she held fast to gratitude, strength, faith, and not least of all to love. It was and is Sheri Pennington's truly awakened spirit that makes her story not one of struggle or pain, but of success, victory, and freedom.
Mother. Angel. Warrior. Sage.
Peace is yours. Go claim your freedom.