Saying Good-Bye to Our Friend, David

Caring for individuals with developmental disabilities is something you might think will be easy.  The rewards aren’t often apparent nor are the tough roads that come with making sure the needs are met of those who can’t care for themselves.

For David Perez, the good life began one day back in 2005.  Calle Melkersman, Sunnyhill Director of Waiver, remembers the day vividly.  The facility David was in would have appalled many, feeling less like a home than anyone could imagine.  Dressed in a bulky, woman’s coat, David walked down the hall to meet this lady who would take him somewhere new.

“We knew we were driving him away to something better,” Calle explained at his memorial service this past Wednesday. “[So] Your tears have to be about your memories with him.”

Unable to speak, David was left to find other ways to communicate, many of which wouldn’t come out until much later…with those he truly let in.

It took time to find the right place for David and help him settle in.  His tendencies became accepted as part of his personality and his communication, well, that’s something he decided to share all on his own.

  • David Joe Perez would randomly stick out his foot when you would walk by.
  • He knew how to hold a cup and he knew how to get your clothes wet with it.
  • He often put holes in walls by rocking his leather chair too hard.
  • He liked kicking bouncy balls.
  • He loved in his own special way.

These are all things that were said about this 4’10” man who, in his seemingly quiet life, made the impact of a giant on those who were fortunate to serve him.

Monice spoke about what it means to serve individuals, like David, who give great joy just by allowing you into their lives.

“We’ve become family,” she said.  “You become his uncle, brother, mother, sister, friend.”

David had great people that loved him and cared for him; he couldn’t have had better.  Many days, Mr. George would have to work his magic to sooth David when he couldn’t sleep.

Asia, Crocus Home Manager, shared words from Lora Green who said, “You had so many odds stacked against you [David]. Thank you for allowing me the chance to be a part of your awesomeness on earth.”

Asia reflected on her first day at Crocus, with David fighting her tooth and nail – quite literally!

“But once you got in,” she said, “he let you know you were in.”

She praised her team, who she couldn’t have done it without and thanked God for Mr. G and his relationship with David.

“I haven’t seen anything like it,” she shared.

Nurse Mary remembers special gifts that come along with age, some of which David wore proudly.  This past fall at a Sunnyhill party, she remembers Mr. G walking David up and down the hallway.  Eventually, Mr. G took David by the shoulders and sat him on the bench.  Not even 5 minutes later, David stood up and did the same thing to Mr. G.

“A lot of people say he couldn’t communicate, but he did!” Nurse Mary explained.

Terry, David’s roommate and friend stood up to say how sorry he was to hear that his friend died.  He picked a few of his flags just to lay at his grave.

Although he came to Sunnyhill with nothing, he left this earth with so much more – a team that became his family.  David was in a good place for 12 years,” Calle said.  “We take good care of the individuals we serve but we get a lot out of it!”

Monice shared a scripture that reminded her of what Sunnyhill caregivers do.  Matthew 25:40 (NIV) says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Caroline Deacon