February 27, 2010 10:58:00 PM
Recently, Pearl Holt died. I did not know her well, only in passing. Both of us went to the Frank Phillips YMCA for exercise. I go because I have arthritis and have had one total joint replacement. Pearl, however, seemed to have had nearly every joint in her body replaced! I lost count of how many. If anyone qualified as the bionic woman, she did.
Unfailingly, she greeted everyone with a sweet smile, a sparkle in her eyes and cheerful words. It is a quality I greatly admire, since I tend to sound off if I have so much as a hangnail.
Other people admired her, too. News of her death spread with shocked surprise throughout the Y. No one had expected it. Several suggested I write a column about her. I can, at the very least, pay tribute to her. She was valiant, and she is missed. Most of us would like to think that when we are gone, we will be remembered for that same buoyancy of spirit.
Some time later, on a rainy night (of which we have had many!), I attended the opening of an art exhibition at the Rosenzweig Arts Center. I had almost forgotten to go and hurried there at the last minute. I am very glad I did, because two local artists of whom I am very fond have their work hanging there.
Margaret Smith''s watercolors are consistently excellent. That is not surprising. She taught art for years in the Columbus schools.
Margie Beasley''s paintings reveal a heroism that needs applauding. I have known both of these artists for years and am used to seeing Margie''s exquisite and intricate work. Now she suffers from macular degeneration and must rely on her peripheral vision. But you can''t squelch the spirit of a real artist. Instead of giving up, she just got a big brush and changed her style. She now exhibits big canvases with huge, bold flowers and other subjects. The petals of the giant flowers spill off the canvas. They remind one somewhat of Georgia O''Keefe, although they are quite different. To Margie, with her new genre, I say, "You go, girl!"
Tragedy into triumph
Almost five years ago, on Sept. 10, 2005, Greg Puckett suffered a dreadful diving accident that shattered his third cervical vertebra and caused the two adjacent vertebrae to compress it. He was paralyzed.
The good news was that his spinal cord was not severed. He was taken to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga., for therapy. I, personally, saw him once during that time, immobile in his wheel chair. I thought his chances of improving were remote.
Today he says he is 80 percent recovered, suffering a little stiffness in his hands and some minor muscle spasticity. After three months of rehabilitation in Atlanta and about six months on a cane, he recovered to the extent that one would never notice that he had ever been injured.
More than that, however, he has spent a great deal of time helping other people similarly injured, from the first steps taken in a pool, to treadmills and elliptical machines, to walking. Talking to him, you would almost think he was a physical therapist himself. "I learned a lot," he says. "You might say I had on-the-job training."
Although he can joke about it now, the deadly gravity of a spinal cord injury is never far from one''s thoughts. His service to others is a powerful example of someone turning a tragedy into a triumph.
In addition to helping people with spinal cord injury, he also works with the therapy of Parkinson''s disease patients at the Y. Needless to say, he has high praise for his physical therapists, both in Atlanta and locally. Greg is, himself, a testimony to their value.
In addition to his professional help, Greg strongly credits the support of family and friends with his recovery.
"They stepped in and did everything that was needed for my children while my wife was with me. We could not have come through it without them," he said.
That acknowledgment made me think. I started this column with the idea of commending some people who handled difficulties with grace. They give all of us courage. Additionally, the way friends, family and professionals rally to help is encouraging in itself. I admire them, too.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.