Susan's Thursday Morning Note July 20, 2017
The Delaney Sisters – 104 & 107 year old sisters
Fully live the days given to us regardless of our losses. Keeping eternal perspective.
Good morning! Stillness outside. Absolute silence with leaves knowing they will take flight soon and resting a few more minutes. Even the spiders seem mesmerized with the dawn and have stopped to look to the heavens letting the sunlight show off their intricate patterns of the night. My angel of dawn avoids all minuscule trampolines they’ve designed through my lawn. She peers through my window with her little orange trumpet flower. How rarely she arrives with this flower, showing me again that life is beautiful. Faithful. Intricate. Reminding me to look to the heavens and to hear the birds already this morning breaking the silence of dawn with their first off-tune notes. Tuning for beautiful songs we must try to hear throughout my day. I’ve reread thoughts this week from three books written by “The Delaney Sisters” – women that wrote their story originally at 101 & 103, then more thoughts at 104 & 106, then the final book at 107 by Sadie after Bessie died. Below are past thoughts that I believe you will find meaningful to have in your mind over the next week and tucked away for times you may need their strength and motivation to live fully the days given to us…days realized as a gift. Making them meaningful, joyful. Keeping eternal perspective even when all known is gone.
…“We are the children of a slave. There aren’t too many of us left these days. We were born more than 100 years ago and have lived together all of our lives…”
The father of these sisters was a slave, there were 10 children in their family, and all 10 received a college degree. The younger sister, Bessie, became the second black woman licensed to practice dentistry in New York. The older sister, Sadie was the first black person ever to teach domestic science on the high school level in New York City public schools. Their first book, Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years was donated to us at the store from one of you. I then ordered two other books by these women, The Delaney Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom and then On My Own at 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie written by Sadie after her sister’s death.
Prayer at the moment of her sister’s death & thoughts on prayer.
“The first thing I did when it sunk into my head that you had left us, Bessie, was to pray. I think I could feel your spirit fly to the sky. I prayed that you were on your way to the Lord and that you would be accepted into His arms.”
“I said, “Lord, please take Bessie into your care. She is a sweet, sweet child.” …I have said my prayers for 107 years and I’m not about to skip a day now. The way I see it, it would be a shame if I skipped a day and then that was the day the Lord called me home. So I’m praying and praying and praying.”
“I remember when we were little how Mama always had her hour of prayer every afternoon. No matter what was happening, everything stopped. She’d go into her room and sit at her writing desk and read the Bible and pray. Mama was the busiest woman alive – running the day-to-day operations of Saint Aug’s, being married to a priest, and having ten children. But she always made time for prayer.”
“Prayer is a comfort that keeps you going in good times and bad. During good times, it’s a way of saying thanks and acknowledging your blessings. In bad times, it’s something to lean on during your hour of trial.”
Perspective of being left after someone loved dies.
“Bessie, a friend of ours said something recently that meant so much to me. I had the blues and she was trying to lift my spirits. She said, “You gave Bessie a gift. Do you know what that was?” I asked what she meant. “Why Sadie,” she said, “you let her go first.” You let her go first. I had been lying on the daybed and I sat bolt upright. I thought, what a lovely thing to say! Of course! Of course! I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! Bessie, you never had to know what it was like to be the one left behind. I would rather be the one doin’ the suffering. I’m not enjoying it, no indeed, but I’d still rather that I went through it instead of you. My little sister never did like the idea of being left behind! So, for once in your life, you did something first. Ahead of me.”
Looking forward after pain of death of who you love deeply.
“I’m starting to get accustomed to seeing your chair empty. Remember when Mama died how every time I looked at her empty chair, I’d start crying? And you thought I would never stop crying and that I would die, too? Well, it occurs to me that I did get over Mama’s death! And I started thinking, If I got over Mama, maybe I can get over Bessie. Losing your sister after living together for more than a hundred years, well, it’s a pretty terrible thing. It’s like you opened the front door of your house and stepped inside, only there was no house, just a hole in the ground and you keep falling and falling.”
“It’s the same feeling, whether you lose your Mama or your sister. And I imagine it’s the same as losing a child or a husband or wife. But what are you going to do? Lay down and die? Jump off a bridge? Somehow or another, you live through it. You keep breathing. It’s out of your hands. Your body does it whether you want it to or not. Next thing you know, you’ve gotten through the first day, the first week, the first month.”
“Life is never the same. It chills you down to your bones. But I was thinking, the Lord never promised us that this life would be easy. No, sir. Think of our people who were slaves. I think of them and I’m ashamed at feeling sorry for myself.”
“Life is a vapor. That’s what the Bible says. It passes in a blink of an eye. We’re all so busy with the details of living that we don’t always appreciate it…One time, I remember you telling one of our young folks, “I BELIEVE LIFE WAS MEANT TO BE PLEASANT.” You waved your right hand to make the point, the way you do when you really wanted to emphasize something. I believe life was meant to be pleasant. All right, Bessie, I’m hearing you. I’ll do what I can to make life pleasant without you. I know that’s what you would have wanted. You wouldn’t have liked the idea of me pining away here without you. I’m glad you used to say things like that. I’m glad I remember you saying these things. It makes me feel like I have your permission to keep on living, and try to be happy. That was a gift you gave me, wasn’t it.”
Funny comment on having hope for living longer (even at age of 107!)
“Bessie, something just occurred to me. If I live just a few more years – to the year 2000 – I will have lived in three different centuries! Well, if I’m going to make it to the year 2000 I figure I had better increase my stamina. So I’ve been climbing the stairs at least once a day, even if I don’t need to. And when I’m lonely and I can’t sleep, I’ll do an extra set of my yoga exercises, even if’s in the middle of the night. I heard a funny joke. You’d have loved it. It goes like this: a 100 year old lady was asked how she was feeling and she said, “Pretty good, but you never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. I ain’t buying green bananas anymore, if you know what I mean.” I thought that joke was mighty funny. I don’t know what it says about me, though, ’cause I’m still buying green bananas! I guess that makes me an optimist!”
I was intrigued and mesmerized by all of these books. By the motivation their parents had, amidst suffering and civil rights era, to lead ten children into an academic atmosphere. To train all ten to set high goals, to pray, to seek integrity, character, goals, to seek meaning in life, to accept suffering, but not let the suffering conquer the will to move forward. The example of these two women to let go of those they love (living to over 100 years old, they had all of their family members and dear friends die – they made the comment that most of who they talked about only the other one would have any idea who that was, all others were dead). The example of Sadie, at 107, realizing all that she had lost in life because of her longevity, trying to continue to keep the perspective of life as a gift from God. Working on her personal goals. Her desire to find joy. To enjoy the simplest bud in her garden. To take nothing for granted. To not live in self-pity and constant regret.
This is why I read. Nothing is “new under the sun” – anything I will go through in life, someone has experienced before me. Not in the same exact scenario, but the same in so many ways. Learning from those that have written their thoughts in words…words for me to take down off the shelf, release from their binding, released into my thoughts, giving me perspective, strength, hope, life. I BELIEVE LIFE WAS MEANT TO BE PLEASANT. Stated by a woman that endured so much because of her color. A woman that endured so much because of her higher goals. Endured. But instead of thinking of life as “enduring” she sought to find the reason for her creation. Her soul’s creation. I BELIEVE LIFE WAS MEANT TO BE PLEASANT. Forward. Today. The moments in front of us. Memories. How can we best honor those we are thinking about? Every single one of us will say good-bye to every single person we know eventually. Soon. Distant. But for sure. Nothing new under the sun. Can we keep our perspective eternal? I BELIEVE LIFE WAS MEANT TO BE PLEASANT. One Thousand Gifts. Have you begun your list on your refrigerator? As children. “Blessed are the children, for they shall see God.” Can we go into a child’s perspective? List our one thousand gifts. The littlest treasures. Can we go back to seeing God – by finding joy in the smallest, most detailed parts of our life? One thousand gifts. Will you begin your list?
Today. Our gift. Our memories. Eternal perspective. Looking to the heavens, dropping to our knees. Finding comfort, joy, pleasantness (is that a word?). Thank you for letting me again enter your Thursday. How I love having our store. How I love to read and have books brought in daily by you as gifts to me. If you only knew what your encouragement does. Let’s go enter our day. Our gift. I BELIEVE LIFE WAS MEANT TO BE PLEASANT. Can we look eternally and thereby find pleasure in what a 10 mo. old sees? A ladybug for the first time? A stick? Cold water? Details. Beauty in the details. Beauty in the child’s eyes. They shall see God. Susan
Latin for this week:
longaevus – long-lived
lepidus – pleasant, charming, elegant, witty
Delany, Sarah and A. Elizabeth, and Hearth, Amy Hill. Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. New York. Kodansha International. 1993.
Delany, Sarah, and Hearth, Amy Hill. On My Own at 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie. New York. Harper. 1997.
Hearth, Amy Hill. The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom. New York. Kodansha International. 1994.