The Next Chapter

Posted Jan 06, 2020

Robert Clark

When I graduated from dental school in 1978‭, ‬retirement was the furthest idea in my mind‭.  ‬I was setting sail on a new career the end of which was so‭, ‬so many years away‭.  ‬We were told in school to start preparing early in our career for retirement and financially I did‭.  ‬I really never gave much thought about giving it all up until my last year in practise‭.‬

The last two weeks in July were my traditional time to take vacation‭. ‬Year after year‭, ‬I blocked that time off as soon as the schedule for the next year was available‭. ‬It was a time for us to enjoy family vacations and recharge‭. ‬I always felt relaxed and after a two week break ready to get right back to the office‭.  ‬After 35‭ ‬years in practise and at the end of my two-week break‭, ‬I‭ ‬did not have that feeling that I was ready to head back into the office‭. ‬I had a sense that change was coming‭.‬

My initial reaction was to kick the can down the road a bit‭. ‬I told my wife Sandra that if this feeling did not go away‭, ‬then I‭ ‬think it was time to look into a change‭.  ‬I enjoyed dentistry and working in my practise‭.  ‬Things were going very well‭.  ‬I had great patients and a great staff‭, ‬yet I was considering giving it all up‭. 

My life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6‭, ‬and I have found that He indeed is faithful to direct my path‭.  ‬I gave my career direction to the Lord‭.  ‬I said when I was an undergrad student that I did not care where He would lead me as long as I could serve Him in that‭ ‬field‭. ‬When I applied to get into dentistry and subsequent to this‭, ‬I have always felt His calling‭, ‬and now I felt a calling to‭ ‬change‭. 

I started to investigate how to transition out of practise‭.  ‬I hired a company to evaluate my practise and then to find a dentist to take it over‭.  ‬Everything went smoothly and a buyer was found‭.  ‬All within the course of 2‭ ‬months‭, ‬I went from full time practice to full time retirement‭. 

I was excited by the prospect this new chapter in life was bringing‭. ‬It was different to wake up each day without having to go to the office‭. ‬I missed the staff and the patients‭, ‬but there is something refreshing knowing that there is no rush to get to the‭ ‬office each morning‭.   ‬I have found that our days are full with other things‭.  ‬In fact‭, ‬with more time to babysit grandchildren‭, ‬and visit aging parents‭, ‬I sometimes wonder how I had time for running a practise‭. 

I still have my toe in the dentistry pool‭. ‬Sandra and I have always been involved in short term dental missions throughout my career‭.  ‬I first went on one as a dental student with CMDA Canada and I continued over the years to participate on and lead some dental missions‭. ‬In our first year of retirement‭, ‬we went on a medical mission to Honduras‭.  ‬We were staying at a mission run school in the country and visited the local villages with the medical and dental team‭.  ‬One day was dedicated to seeing the 100‭ ‬plus students enrolled in the school‭.  ‬Needless to say‭, ‬even with the two dentists on the team‭, ‬we were able to do little more than‭ ‬handle a few dental emergencies‭. ‬I asked the school if next year I could come a week earlier than the team and just see the students and assess their dental needs‭. ‬We have been doing this for 5‭ ‬years now‭. ‬We are going for over 3‭ ‬weeks each time to examine‭ ‬all of the children and treat their dental needs‭.  ‬For many it is their first time ever to visit the dentist and treating their‭ ‬dental needs at the start of the school year allows them to be free of any dental needs during the year‭.‬

I asked the Lord in my undergrad year‭. ‬allow me to serve where you call me‭.  ‬Retirement is the next chapter in my life and I still feel the Lord’s leading and my serving‭.  ‬I am thankful for the career that I had in dentistry and I am now enjoying the next phase of that career‭, ‬retirement‭.‬

When I first started in practise‭, ‬a gentleman in our church had just retired‭.  ‬I asked him how he was enjoying retirement and he‭ ‬said‭, ‬“I highly recommend it”‭ ‬and I do too‭! ‬