What does it take to be an outstanding parent to your child? Emily Peers has her own criteria, and she believes her father, Ed Peers, fits the bill. The junior nursing major submitted a short essay about why her father should win Liberty’s second annual Outstanding Parent award.
The essay explained how Ed Peers has raised a family of 11 children on his own for six years after his wife, Gale Peers, passed away from a rare liver cancer shortly after the birth of their youngest child Andrew in 2004. Emily Peers is the third-born at 20, with two older sisters Gwen, 23, and Tori, 22, and younger siblings Tricia, Tim, Ted, Caroline, Sam, Tess, Cathy and Andrew. According to Peers, the time before Andrew’s birth and her mother’s passing was busy but memorable time.
“Life was still crazy because there were 10 kids at home and my mom was pregnant with my youngest brother Andrew,” Emily Peers said. “We actually had the opportunity to go to Disney World about two months before my mom passed away. A company called Crossing the Finish Line sent us on an all-expense-paid trip to Florida for a week. I am so glad that we had that time with my mom, it was a really memorable trip.”
Emily Peers described her mother as a strong Christian, loving and hardworking, who always found time to take her children to their soccer games between cooking and cleaning for the large family. Her mother’s cancer diagnosis and death was difficult for the entire family, and her father did everything he could to give emotional support to his children.
“When my mom told me that she had cancer, the first thing she said was, ‘Please do not be angry with God, He has a plan for me and our family,’” Emily Peers said. “It was so hard for me to understand why God chose my mom, though. I was only 13 at the time so I was still very young. My dad knew that I was having a hard time so he would pray with me and tell me that everything would be okay because God’s plan for our lives was perfect. It was my mom and dad’s faith that helped me truly see what truly trusting God meant.”
Gale Peers was diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy with Andrew, so there was no way for the cancer to be treated without harming the child. She opted to go without treatment, so that Andrew could be born healthy.
“When we look at him, we remember the selflessness of my mom because she said all along that she wanted to make sure that she delivered him as healthy as she could before she passed away,” Emily Peers said. “Her cancer was spreading and the doctors decided it was time for the baby to be born even though he was three months early. He only weighed two pounds 10 ounces. My mom passed away about a month after my brother was born. He is an extremely stubborn 6-year-old who tries everything to get what he wants and it usually works because he is the baby. My dad always says that he probably wouldn’t be here though if he wasn’t so stubborn.”
After Gale Peers’ death, the Peers family struggled to adjust to the loss, but had help from their church and community. According to Emily Peers, her family never would have made it without the support. Now, the Peers family, lead by Ed Peers, makes trips to her grave every Mother’s day, on her birthday and on the anniversary of her death.
“My dad will get a dozen roses, one for (each of) the 11 kids and one for himself, and we each put the rose on top of her grave when we’re ready,” Peers said. “We all have breakdowns sometimes, but we all are there for each other and we have hope that God has a perfect plan for our family and that we will see my mom again someday.”
For the past six years, Ed Peers has been the primary source of support for his family, both financially and emotionally. All school-age children attend Christian private school, according to Emily Peers, because he believes in the importance of a Christian education. Her father also helps with her tuition at Liberty, and is always there for guidance when she needs it.
“I really admire that he is so supportive and encouraging. I know that I can call him about anything and he will support me no matter what,” Emily Peers said. “He always tells me that I’ll make a great nurse and that I can do it even when I call him crying and stressed out. He is also so selfless, he is always willing to help me out with anything whether it be his money or his time. He does the same for all of my siblings as well.”
According to Liberty’s Director of Parent and Family Connections Theresa Dunbar, Ed Peers and all of Emily Peers’ younger siblings will be traveling from their home in Pennsylvania to Liberty for the Outstanding Parent Award dinner on Saturday, Oct. 30 in the Schilling Center.
EDWARDS is the feature editor.