Revelations: A love story that keeps on giving
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Every now and then, I encounter a story or a person I'll never forget.
Mark Pekar and his beloved Robin are a perfect example.
I was introduced to Mark two Thursdays ago, but it seems he was familiar with me for quite a while longer.
Travel back with me.
On the afternoon of my birthday four weeks ago, sitting in the Las Vegas airport waiting to travel home to Texas, I received a call from a friend at work.
An oversized arrangement of flowers arrived, he said, a lovely bouquet of assorted blossoms about three feet tall from top to bottom.
A short card accompanied the flowers: "To an absolutely incredible person. Have a great birthday week, from a Christian Fan."
Tired and confused, I uttered, "I don't know anyone named Christian Fan."
"No, Jennifer, they're from a Christian fan," he said, giggling at me.
When I returned to work the following day, I was stunned at the size and quality of the flowers. Whoever sent them had clearly done this before.
Hoping to track down my fan, I called the flower shop requesting the sender's name, but I was told they wanted to remain anonymous.
But I wasn't OK with not knowing who sent them. I needed a name, if only to send a thank-you card and express my appreciation.
After a couple phone calls to the flower shop, pleading with them to release the name, I finally received a first name - Mark. A few moments later, I received a last name - Pekar.
I looked up Mark on Facebook and Twitter, and used the white pages to search for his address. I searched through friends of Facebook friends, to see if anyone I knew, knew him.
I asked around the community, and posted a note on Facebook that I was looking for Mark.
Mark Pekar was nowhere to be found.
I couldn't believe anyone would send such an arrangement of flowers like that to a stranger, and want no recognition, or "thank you" in return.
I eventually gave up, and hoped one day I'd run into someone in the community who introduced themselves as "Mark Pekar: the man who sent the beautiful flowers."
I'd nearly forgotten about Mark until the Thursday before Barefoot Sunday when I received a mid-day email inquiring about the event. The sender wanted to know what time I would be in the office, so they could drop off shoes for the collection.
The email was signed, Mark Pekar.
When he showed up at the Advocate that night, I didn't say anything about the flowers, at least not right away. I walked downstairs to his car to help him get the shoes out of his vehicle, away from everyone, and then I laid it on him - "Are you the Mark who sent me the flowers?"
Seemingly embarrassed, Mark responded, "Yes, that was me."
I was so excited that I finally solved the puzzle, and had my chance to thank him.
After a few minutes of small talk, he said, "I don't want you to think I'm weird, I've just been reading your column for so long, and I feel like I know you. You remind me so much of my wife."
Mark went on to explain how his wife, Robin, passed away nearly five years ago, and he hasn't really been able to move on. They were happily married for more than 20 years. They were the couple everyone envied, he said.
After two decades of marriage, Robin would still place love notes in Mark's lunch box on the way to work. And Mark admitted, Robin was the reason he had a firm relationship with the Lord.
While reading about Barefoot Sunday (in "Revelations") - the event I helped organize to collect shoes for African children - Mark said he was motivated to give.
"I have been hanging on to my wife's things for all these years, and I decided to give you her shoes for Barefoot Sunday. I know she would love that her shoes were going to a good cause," he told me.
At that moment, my eyes began to water. His did, too.
He showed me her shoes, perfectly boxed and sorted in gray Rubbermaid bins, many of them appearing brand new.
"Are you sure you're ready to give her things away?" I asked him.
"Yeah, it's time."
Mark then handed me a sizable sum of money, and told me to use it for Barefoot Sunday shipping expenses.
"I just felt like God was telling me to give you this money."
Again, my eyes welled up. Only a few days earlier, I was praying that God would provide enough money for us to ship the shoes with minimal inconvenience or financial strain.
I hate asking for money, and I didn't want this project to be about collecting cash. I took a serious leap of faith on that part of it, and trusted the Lord would take care of it.
A few days later, Mark Pekar (the man who sent the beautiful flowers) shows up with a heart-wrenching love story, a basket of compliments and a life-changing moment I'll never forget.
In his obedience to the Lord, and desire to please his late wife, Mark reminded me why an event like Barefoot Sunday can be so powerful. It can change people's lives, force us out of our comfort zone, and remind us how we have the choice every day to be a blessing on someone's life.
Thank you, Mark, for blessing mine and so many others. And thank you, Robin, for living your life in such a way, that you managed to be a blessing to others five years after your death.
Rest in peace, sweet Robin.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or email@example.com.