I have a friend who lived on my street. In July, she turned 86. She is the only person I’ve met who loved flowers as much as I do. She loved flowers so much, that she figured she had purchased over 80 different flowers in the last two years that are now growing in her backyard.
Her name was Pearl.
On November 21st of this year, Pearl passed away peacefully. After seeing her for the last time, as she lay pain and struggle free on her bed, enjoying her heavenly welcome home, I walked home in tears.
When I got home, I thought about the things Pearl taught me.
Pearl loved her family. She loved her four kids, Andy (short for Andrea) Tony, Vicki, and the youngest daughter, who they called Sam. She loved her husband, Joe and spoke of him often. She spoke of their lives together – she and Joe – almost each opportunity that I was able to spend time with her.
Respect. This is what she attributes over sixty years of a happy marriage to. Mutual respect for one another.
In her family, Pearl had five grandchildren and two great granddaughters.
Paige, Rachel, and Joe (named after his grandfather) were Tony and his wife Debbie’s three children and very dear to Pearl’s heart. Her other two grandchildren, Mandy (Andy’s daughter) and Brandon (Sam and her husband Lewis’ son), were almost like her own children, she and her husband Joe having spent so much time caring for them while their parent’s worked and/or were finishing up college. Each grandchild had qualities Pearl adored.
Joe, as I was so often told, had a smile that wouldn’t quit and took stunning photographs of ocean life that Pearl would make color copies of on her printer and then frame them to display on her walls. She would share off of her iPad when I’d sit visiting with her. She was so proud of him. A smiling face meant the world to Pearl – and a carefree, uninhibited free spirit, which Joe possessed. But more than anything, grandchildren that listened to their grandmothers was important to Pearl. Especially if she was making a phone call to them to remind them to call home to let their family know they were alright.
She adored Rachel for her gentle and compassionate spirit. Part of what kept Pearl going was the anticipation of Rachel’s wedding. There was no way she was going to miss that wedding in late October and see her granddaughter get married. She was planning to show off the new red dress and the dance steps she had learned from taking dance lessons during the summer, just for the occasion. She made the wedding, but was too tired to dance at the reception. Pearl showed me you are never too old to learn something new – like dancing.
Page is Tony and Rachel’s younger sister and attends college currently and isn’t afraid to try new things – like oysters. Pearl drew the line on her cuisine with oysters, much to her son’s disappointment, but Paige showed her grandmother that they weren’t that bad, when she tried them while accompanying her dad on one of his business trips. She was proud of Page, choosing to spend a week with her father instead of choosing to do other things a college-aged young woman might prefer to do, when given the opportunity. Page was learning what Pearl had learned long ago: family is most important. Oysters were not.
Brandon and Mandy were Pearl’s other grandchildren and she treasured them dearly. She spent much of her life helping her two daughters, Sam and Andy, by caring for their children when they were unable to, due to work or school commitments. Pearl often said that Brandon was gifted in many ways and Pearl showed me the importance of encouraging a child in his/her giftedness.
Mandy was more like a daughter to Pearl, at times, rather than a granddaughter. Pearl taught me, as she spoke of her relationship with Mandy (and Mandy’s two daughters), that we as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and ‘older’ women are called to teach the younger women how they are to live in such a way that honors their family and Mandy did this by caring for the grandmother that was so dear to her.
As much and as deeply as Pearl cared for her grandchildren, her own children were her ultimate pride and joy.
Tony is Pearl’s only son. I used to love to be over at Pearl’s house when Tony called. She always looked at her cell phone and then smiled and said, “Hi, son.” I would always think, “How special he must feel.” And he must have known how special he was to her, for he called her every night because she had a special place in his heart, too. She taught me that when you let people know they matter, you learn that you matter to them.
Andrea is the oldest and would spend Tuesday nights with her mom. It was important to Pearl to have her there each week, for she knew the significance of having one on one with her children – no matter their age – and that was their special time together and neither of them missed it.
Vicki was close to her mother, though distant by miles. She, also, called her mother every night without fail. When I first got to know Pearl, she would talk about places she and Vicki had gone to or the places they were planning to go, what they’d see, where they’d eat. Pearl didn’t let the news of cancer stop her. She didn’t give in to fear. She didn’t give up. She never gave in.
Sam was the youngest and Pearl was proud of her ‘baby’ and the way she took care of her family. Sam was a hard worker and devoted mom, qualities she most likely learned from her hard working and devoted mother. On any day but a rainy one, you could find Pearl pulling weeds, planting flowers, or volunteering at the assistance center nearby. Nothing slowed her down.
I would see her drive up from working the afternoon at the center and knew she was tired. And hurting. But, she did it up until two weeks before she passed away, for even though she was in pain she would remind me, “It could always be worse.”
Pearl is gone now. She taught me many things, but not through her words. She taught me how to enjoy each new day. How to make others feel important. The wonderful gift of God’s creation. To never take life for granted. The blessing and gift of God’s grace.
Her actions spoke volumes. I watched. I listened. I was blessed.
I am blessed.