Saying Goodbye to My Aunt Pearl

Saying Goodbye to My Aunt Pearl

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that my sweet Aunt Pearl, my surrogate mother after my mom’s death eleven years ago, is no longer with us. Sunday evening, she left us. Her granddaughter, Allison, said it best:

Oh Mimi, I don’t know what I’ll do without your calls and voicemails. I just know God has a sequin, rhinestone, leopard print, sparkle room for you.

Amen. Allison! I can almost see it!

You might recall a story I wrote about Aunt Pearl some time ago. She, like my mother, enjoyed chewing gum, but only a half stick at a time! I wrote about it here, after my trek to Allison’s wedding last July. Aunt Pearl inspired me then, with her own definition of simple abundance.

But the truth is, she’s been inspiring me for quite a while.

No stranger to hard losses

Aunt Pearl had her share of life’s hardships and heartaches. She grew up in an orphanage after her father died when she was five years old. She also experienced the untimely death of her brother, her husband, and a child.

Yet, she sparkled.


How did she do it?

Her own brand of social media

Aunt Pearl never tweeted, posted, or pinned. In fact, she never had an email account. But boy, did she know how to use the telephone, a habit she cultivated early, it seems.


Connecting with those she cared about was a priority. Some of my phone calls with her were over an hour long. She was known for her lively voice mails. She’d carry on a conversation as if you were on the line, often up to five minutes long if your carrier would allow it. Despite the length, I saved most of mine. They were rich with her family stories, her charmed turn of phrase, and genuine interest in the details of my life.

What inspired me about Aunt Pearl?


She cherished family. She loved all things family. The phone calls, visits, and especially family gatherings.Her squash casserole was legendary. She would announce her arrival—a few loud blasts on the horn sent her grandkids running out to greet her, I’m told. She and her daughter, Robin, made two extraordinary efforts to visit me in Baltimore where we shopped and dined, fully bling-ed out, of course.


She cultivated friendships and kept busy doing what she loved: She kept in touch with her friends often, never hesitating to pick up the phone or send a note or card. Garden club, bridge, beach trips, travel, and fifty years of church-going kept her connected to a wide circle of friends.

She stayed on trend. Forget statement necklaces. Everything about Aunt Pearl was a statement. Her hair. Her jewels. Her furs and sequins and animal prints. And somehow it all worked. Nothing ever looked over done; it was simply Aunt Pearl. She had her own panache.


She never stopped being who she was. Like my mother, she used the small paint brush method of communicating. Or, as my daughter, Brittany, said:

“Aunt Pearl valued the importance of details, whether in a conversation or accessorizing.”

Love that! She also had a soft southern way of saying hard things. Once when I was trying to get a family medical history, I asked her if she had diabetes.

“Oh, just a touch, darlin’,” she said. “Just a touch.”

She chose the single life. Aunt Pearl never remarried, although she had plenty of “beaus,” as she called them. Even at age seventy-nine in her assisted living home, where they called her, “Miss Hollywood,” she had a gentleman who’d taken a shine to her, as they say in the south.

“Why don’t you want to remarry, Aunt Pearl,” I’d asked her once.

“Men are too much work, honey. You’ve got the laundry, the meals, the planning. . .”

I’d laugh, but in truth, I deeply admired her attitude. I’d never planned on living a single life, but Aunt Pearl sure showed me how to live a good one!

She knew how to love. Benjamin Franklin once wrote:

“If you would be loved, love and be lovable.”

Aunt Pearl was easy to love. And, of course she was well-loved, adored, and adorned.


But most of all, she inspires me to keep sparkling. She knew how to find the joy in life.

Just watch how she reacts to discovering a surprise snow.

I love you, bunches, Aunt Pearl. Thank you for living your life exactly the way you did. I miss you already.

My best–always,

Becky  (Nana B)

P. S. For more on Aunt Pearl’s life, or to leave her family a note, click here.

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  1. Ben Tarpley says

    A very touching tribute to a sweet lady who put a sparkle in the lives of many. Thanks for sharing and may your memories bring smiles forever.

  2. Shannon Flowers says

    I love this! I was so fortunate to have grown up with this family! Many memories— and when Robin recently visited me in Nashville, I was able to produce old family home videos of us as young girls running around our back yard! Such blessings. Pearl was an extraordinary woman and did live through heartache. I am so blessed to have known Pearl!