Editorial & Opinion, Feature, International, Storytelling by Storytellers

SAL: Rhetorical Expressions of A Life Long-Lived

Rhetorical Expressions of A Life Long-Lived: Mrs. Sarah Rebeccah Rhymer Richardson

contributors: William Steger, Jadah Jarvis, Nico Thomas,  Devon Pelle, Felisha Felix, Nathan Carroll and Cheryl Hendricks-Thomas

Centenarian matriarch, and the last of nine siblings to survive, Mrs. Sarah Rebeccah (“Sal”) Rhymer Richardson lived 12 days past her 102nd birthday. Born in Tortola British Virgin Islands, Sal, was the mother of six children whom she reared to be God-fearing individuals in the active service of humanity. On the eve of her first-death anniversary, her daughter, Cheryl Hendricks-Thomas, shared select parts of her life story with UVI class mates. The atmosphere of the room was filled with anticipation and a sense of wonderment as students contemplated and discussed the significance of living more than a century. 

Quiet respect for the storyteller was paramount as she recapped her mother’s life as she remembered it. The listeners’ sentiments ranged from incredulousness to astonishment to admiration. Sal’s words of wisdom, repeated over 102 years, were shared with a group of millennials/Gen Y’s/Gen Z’s who posited questions about the quality and sustainability of her life.

WillJ: How has your mother’s nature affected you and your siblings as individuals? What did she mean to you? 

She was a selfless individual and lived life intentionally.

Mrs. C: Thanks for your question, William. My mother’s quiet nature greatly affected my siblings and me. She was a selfless individual and lived life intentionally. She did not use disposable dishes because she would say that her ceramic dishes were to be used daily since every day was a special day. In other words, in her earlier years, she kept a fancy home because she really liked nice things. Mommy taught us to look after the elderly and place others before ourselves. All of the grandchildren thought that they were the favorite because she loved them genuinely.

Jayda: In your opinion what do you believe contributed to your mother’s long life? Like diet, environment, or how she carried herself? 

Mrs. C: [Diet, and respect for what she put in her body]. Mommy never cooked or ate fried foods. She ate plenty of fish and vegetables and was rarely sick. 

Nathan: Mrs. Cheryl. You said your mom grew up in Tortola. What is one of your favorite stories about Tortola she told you? 

Mrs. Cheryl: she told me that they had to go in the fields and get provisions from the ground before they went to school. Her oldest brother, who lived to see 104 years +348 days of age, was a fisherman by trade, so they had to clean, scale, gut, and wash the fish for their parents to season and cook them.

Nico: What is one lesson you always remember that your mother taught you?  Also, what is one of your favorite memories of your mother? 

Do with what you have and what you don’t have, do without.”

Photo credits: Sal at various stages of life between 99 and 102. Cheryl Hendricks Thomas, bottom right delivers her moms’ eulogy in 2023.

Mrs. C: Hey Nico My mom taught me to pray in the name of Jesus. No matter what I was faced with, she reminded me that I could pray and redirected me to channel this avenue for the answers and solutions in life’s journey. The life lessons taught were also invaluable.“Do with what you have and what you don’t have, do without.”

“Pay your bills on time.” “Do not owe anyone anything but love.” Moreover, if you had done her wrong, she would say things like, “don’t let my teardrops or my eye water dry on you.” 

“Do not owe anyone anything but love.”

My favorite memories of her were the family jokes. She was a storyteller and we laughed together with our whole bodies. 

 “don’t let my teardrops or my eye water dry on you.”

Mommy was an excellent cook so if she tasted someone’s food that wasn’t up to her liking, she would critique it unconstructively lol. 

However, to add to the favorite memories is definitely what she had us doing at a young age like assisting the elderly; to put their special cups and their Maubis, wipe down their wall unit, comb their hair and even [sleep] overnight at times. My centenarian historian matriarch was amazing and I miss her consciously.

My centenarian historian matriarch was amazing and I miss her consciously.

Felisha: Did your mom share or ever discuss any big life decisions that impacted her life for the better growing up? What was her favorite artist she played at home or music she listened to on the radio? What was her favorite quote or signature phrase she said often?

Ms.C: Thanks for your questions. My mom stated that allowing her son to live with his uncle was the hardest thing she had ever done because she wanted to raise her only son. Nonetheless, he was the one who took excellent and delicate care of her in her vintage years.

“I’ll fly away” and “In the sweet by and by’ were my mom’s two favorite songs. When she lost her sight for the second time, she sang both of those songs in a sweet but solemn way. Hence, we sang them upon entering and exiting the sanctuary for her funeral service.

“Cha!” Mommy said this after a disagreement or uncomfortable statement. She also would say ‘Aye aye!’
“Cha!” Mommy said this after a disagreement or uncomfortable statement. She also would say ‘Aye aye!’ Additionally, she always said to everyone after being asked, “Mommy’, ‘Sal,’ ‘Sarah’, how are you doing?” “ I thank God for life.”
Now, on the first anniversary of her death, I again say, “thank God for her life.”
Now, on the first anniversary of her death, I again say, “Thank God for her life. As today marks the first anniversary of her death, she left me so many memories that I will always be grateful for.”
In response to other questions, the class learned the following fact: Sal was a trendy ‘fashionista’ before the term became popular. She loved “to dress up and at one point, the color ‘white was her favorite.” She owned ‘plenty of beautiful white dresses,’ Ms Cheryl gives a modest estimate of one hundred, “many more than what she needed”, because her children delighted in indulging her modest whims. Every other month, she wanted a new white dress and her children and aunt who raised her, and years later helped raise her children, ordered the outfits without hesitation.
Sal was a trendy ‘fashionista’ before the term became popular..and owned more than 100 white dresses

Mrs. Cheryl recalled that the task of rearranging Sal’s clothes closet was in itself a long and trying task, because she was exacting in how she maintained her belongings and presented herself, both privately and in public. Furthermore, the appreciation of being well-dressed was passed along to her children and their children as well.  

Perhaps this action regarding the closet is a metaphor for the way Sal raised her children and interacted with others around her. It was all about trying to get it right. Working however long or hard it took to get as near to perfect as possible.

Helping Sal as she grew older and more frail was something all her children, grandchildren, friends, and family understood and considered an honor. She developed blindness twice in her vintage years, and though her sight was partially restored for a while, she was without vision for the last year of her life.

Under the strict direction and guidance of Mrs. Sarah Rebeccah Rhymer Richardson, her family and others witnessed admirable characteristic traits that are rare and often long-gone and forgotten in the world today; feeding the hungry, serving the elderly, and comforting the sick and needy. They grew to appreciate how Sal demonstrated time-honored attributes of service, discipline, generosity and love for humanity. 


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1 Comment

  1. Felisha Felix says:

    Such a beautiful testimony for an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing.

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