We Make Plans, and God Laughs
by The Rev. Reid Farrell
When I reflect on my first thoughts regarding retirement, I am reminded of an old Jewish saying based (loosely) on Proverbs 19, “We make plans, and God laughs.” My original idea was to buy a large piece of land in Vermont where we could raise dogs and cultivate flowers. I even planned part of a sabbatical to search for that perfect spot in the ideal region where Dale and I, as a gay couple, would be embraced rather than simply tolerated. Oh, how God must have laughed! (I know Dale did.)
After attending our first CPG Planning for Wellness conference, I began to see some of the flaws in my “retirement fantasy.” Our idea about an embracing locale was sound, but what about access to good health care, cultural events, and continuing educational opportunities? I decided that before doing any more planning, I needed to do a good bit of praying. And when I did… the Holy Spirit took care of the rest.
We hadn’t thought about retiring to Florida. My first parishes had been there, and Dale and I had begun our relationship in my hometown of Sarasota when I was the Associate Rector at St. Boniface on Siesta Key. His mother and my parents lived there, so we visited at least once or twice a year. In 2011, the house that my maternal grandmother built for her retirement back in 1965 came on the market at an incredibly reasonable price, and as we were living in parish housing and owned no real estate, we bought it. A great investment, we thought, but not our retirement home. Or was it?
We knew the neighborhood very well. I had grown up just around the corner, and my parents were still living in their home. Dale’s mother was 15 minutes away, and our siblings lived nearby. We had lots of friends in town. We knew the hospital, which was less than a mile from the house, as well as many of the physicians and surgeons associated with it. Our former parish was there, where we had always been welcomed whenever we visited. We were well aware of the old adage, “You can never go home again,” but could we?
Well, in 2013, we did… and it was the best decision we ever made. We realized that we had community in Sarasota, and the value of that community was beyond anything we could have imagined.
Since retiring, Dale’s mother has died, my folks have become homebound due to a number of medical issues, and Dale’s health has declined. But we have our loving family and friends here. We have our amazing doctors, physical therapists, and nutritionists here. We have our parish here. We have community here, and it is one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given us.
I tried making plans, and God laughed. I prayed, and God gave us community.
The Rev. Reid Farrell has been a priest for 35 years. He has served parishes in Florida, Ohio, New York, Michigan, and Vermont. He is married to Dale, his life-partner of 28 years, and they have two grown children.