Read about the writer, Ellie David.
Crossing Another Border
Sandy Perry kept her passport handy at all times, ready for the next adventure. She traveled the world in the same spirit she lived everyday life: She lived with irrepressible curiosity, a writer’s keen eye and a playful sense of humor.
When Sandy moved into Bailey-Boushay House for end-of-life care in 2001, she was 56 and had her passport with her. Ever the optimist, her smile and shrug about packing that document seemed to say, “Why not? Couldn’t hurt.”
Sandy’s optimism “rallied her again and again in the face of hardship,” said her husband, Jim Townsend.
She had the rotten luck to get three different kinds of breast cancer in 20 years. Each time, she faced life-threatening illness with characteristic pluck, determined to live as long — and as fully — as possible.
After treatment options ran out, she made the most of the time she had left by living in the Bailey-Boushay community.
“Sandy had a special concern for people living with AIDS or cancer,” Jim said, adding that going to Bailey-Boushay was a good fit for her personal needs and her social values. She believed in Bailey-Boushay’s compassionate mission. “Those who visited her there know she chose an environment that was right for her.”
Her room didn’t look or feel like a sick room, so her young grandkids weren’t frightened to visit (and were tickled to see their artwork hung on the walls). Her many visitors felt welcome to sit and talk, like old times, in the homelike setting. For Sandy, good conversation was one of life’s great joys.
The first person Sandy introduced to visitors was her patient care technician (PCT). Their warm relationship was an unexpected gift to Sandy — and to everyone who loved her. Her PCT’s gentle and tactful assistance with personal care helped Sandy to preserve her dignity, conserve her energy and retain her sense of control.
Sandy died in her sleep after two weeks at Bailey-Boushay. Right to the end, she remained the independent spirit she’d always been.
A lifelong student of words and people, her career path was as creative as her travel itineraries. She’d made bullets in a factory and tended bar before entering graduate school at the University of Washington, where she received a PhD in English literature. Twenty years later, she added a second BA in Chinese language and literature.
She was a journalist (Seattle Sun and Hong Kong Standard), a teacher (high school and university level), a consultant (to China-bound executives’ families), a writer of fiction, and a maker of beaded jewelry.
In notes for an unfinished novel, she wrote: “Creativity is the only answer to the ultimate question of how to live; how to fight off the darkness, loneliness, stagnation, fear and death.”
To honor Sandy’s conviction that creative activity is an affirmation of life, Jim set up a fund in her name to support the Healing Arts program at Bailey-Boushay.
Note: Nearly three years later her husband, Jim Townsend, also chose Bailey-Boushay House for end-of-life care. Jim died on January 17, 2004.