Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Flowers (10/03/05)
TITLE: Pearle's Secret for a Happy Retirement
By Venice Kichura
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Maybe because it’s mid-October or that we’re retiring soon, but I’m remembering my dear friend, Pearle Martin, a special angel I knew years ago in Florida.
Pearle used to drive south from Kalamazoo, Michigan to her winter home in Lake Park, Florida every autumn about this time of year. Then every spring, she’d say good-bye to her Florida friends and drive back to her Michigan family and friends, just in time to escape the summer heat, humidity and hurricanes.
I remember thinking how this lady knew how to do it---she knew how to retire. She had the best of two worlds---cool Michigan summers and mild Florida winters.
I first met her more than 30 years ago in a new members’ class at Faith Lutheran Church in North Palm Beach, Florida. Although an unlikely match (she, a new retiree at 65, and I, a new bride at 23), we immediately bonded. We had more than four decades between us, but I was drawn to this sweet, older woman.
Pearle found her joy in visiting shut-ins, bringing Christ’s love into their dismal lives. Gracing sickrooms with her million-dollar smile, and giving away fresh-cut flowers from her garden, she loved to share God’s Word and pray for hurting people.
When she wasn’t ministering to shut-ins and hospital patients, she was befriending foster children. This retired first-grade teacher could be found at all four local foster homes on special occasions---every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter---to share God’s unconditional love with mentally and physically challenged kids the rest of the world had forgotten.
She continued to use her teaching gift, helping her shut-ins grow in God’ Word, encouraging them that their lives had meaning and purpose. She’d tell them, “Your prayers move God’s hand---you are priceless to the Father and to other people who desperately need your prayers.”
In her “spare time” she translated devotionals in Braille for the blind. And, she made heads turn on Military Trail as she peddled her giant ”Grandma tricycle” up and down the road, scouting for cans to be recycled for money for missionary work earmarked for the LWML (Lutheran Women’s Missionary League).
When Pearle left the Palm Beaches each spring, other precious souls up north awaited her arrival in Michigan. Almost daily, she penned letters of encouragement to them, while she lived in Florida.
An amazing lady, she stood out among the other snowbirds who wintered in Florida, seeking fun in the sun. Always smiling, she was rarely down, contrasted with many of the bored well-to-do retirees living in beach condos, spending their days tanning on the beach, soaking up sunshine and all that Florida’s Gold Coast had to offer. Searching for happiness, they failed to see that true joy and contentment were found in giving and not just receiving.
Pearle’s life was a prayer lived out from the last stanza of “The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”, which reads…
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Shortly after Pearle went home to be with Jesus, her daughter wrote me, opening her letter with the words….”Daisies now grow over Mother’s head….”
But I knew the real Pearle wasn’t buried under cemetery flowers in Kalamazoo. I could just picture her riding her “Grandma tricycle” through heavenly fields of blue and purple hydrangeas, native summer flowers of her beloved Michigan.
I’m thankful for her because she has redefined my ideal of a successful retirement, now that I’m on the threshold of this next season of my life. When I’m tempted to just indulge myself and have fun, I’ll remember Pearl who not only soaked in the south Florida sun but also basked in the warmth and love of the SON.
Yes, Pearle Martin knew the secret for a happy retirement.
She had the best of two worlds---a God-given purpose and a host of God’s family who loved her this side of eternity, and a heavenly family, complete, I’m sure, with a heavenly mansion and flower garden, on the other side.
She knew how to do it.
”"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 (ASV))
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