In Memory of Sue Schreiber (January 28, 1924-December 2, 2007)
You know I could go on in my best high school valedictorian manner about Sue aka Lillian Schreiber, but that’s not who we are, nor what I remember. So I’m going to go for images and moments and hopefully people will see well beyond the curved up, quiet, still gracious form, who endured her last days with precious little complaint. Tremendous care surrounded her a lot of courtesy from a couple of very good guys like Ralph, Janet, Peggy, Jo and others. She appreciated every one.
Sue wasn’t one who walked into a room and commanded space, because she was a gentle little thing. She did have though a tensile strength, a fortitude to endure, and sustain others.
She must have started out as a sliver. I think she was surprised by her ending days, with such curved bones, almost like a detached moon crescent, but she was still a sliver emitting a quiet grace. Inside that ravaged body of hers lay a spunky self, and a tremendous capacity for endurance. I think she got the attribute of patience down, really down, and Abdu’l Baha said that was the hardest quality.
My husband Bill and I are often noted for our obsession with pug dogs. I love the phrase, “A hell of a lot of dog packed into a small space.” That was Sue, “A lot of soul crammed into a small space.” She doesn’t have to worry about small spaces any more. She’s a bird released from her cage.
Did you know she started out in South Dakota, born on a farm, and later and went to a one-room school? She would ride a pony back and forth to school bareback. One day in the sixth grade, she fell asleep on her pony, coming home from school. That pony just took off lickety split, ran under a tree branch, knocked Sue off her keester, and kept going. Sue laughed about that forever.
Sue’s Mom, Nora, adopted Mertie because the flu epidemic killed her parents, and later when Sue’ mom died, and Mertie who was about 12 years older was married, Sue went to live with Mertie and Don. Sue adored Mertie, spoke of her many times throughout her life. Anyhow, I know Sue had 3 years of college but somehow left and went to work in Seattle. When she met Ralph, he took her to dinner at his parent’s house right away, and she liked him and his parents. I thought Ralph and Sue married in three weeks, but she said, “No, 2 ½.” “The first 35 years were the hardest,” she said one day when we were talking in her kitchen. She had health problems up the kazoo, and odious migraines.
I remember watching Sue and Ralph holding hands in 1985 or 1986 at a Baha’i Conference in San Francisco. These last 10 or so years were hard for her, as she gradually went blind, and just plain out struggled physically. She didn’t complain. I honestly don’t know how she did it. I would have been chewing up corners of my blanket or putting my face in a dog bowl growling. She valued Ralph’s steadfastness and constancy greatly. I don’t think a day went by when she didn’t mention to me how lucky and how protected she was. She loved her kids, grandchildren and the Baha’i community.
She was a thin little thing most of her life, eating Bieler soup, which from my point of view is a hell of a lot of green beans and precious little else. She ate it by the vat load, because that’s what resurrected her immune system. She liked ice cream and put it on the kids’ cereal every now and then, and when Ralph had his quadruple or whatever bypass, she started eating ice cream every night, and one day, she wasn’t skinny any more.
The biggest thing about Sue is she worked on not ever even thinking badly about anyone, let alone not saying anything negative, She understood the human condition, and to me personified the quote “The greatest pilgrimage is to relieve the sorrow laden heart.”
She loved books and found a used book about the Baha’i Faith and came home and told Ralph about it. That was in the early 60s and from then on Ralph and Sue’s home filled with people and all manner of Baha’i gatherings. Sue knew how to listen, and she understood things like addiction, or broken hearts or just plain someone being tuckered out, and she kept a lot of us women going through some grubby days.
She loved the Baha’i Writings. Her favorite prayer was the Tablet of Ahmad and its wondrous phrase, “By God! Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet with absolute sincerity, God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties and remove his afflictions.” She loved books about Abdul-Baha and Baha’u’llah, and she was steadfast and served. Finally, there’s a quote from the Seven Valleys, mystical writings of Baha’u’llah, “Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form when within thee the universe is folded”? This quote personifies Sue. I hope I was worthy of her friendship. I loved her dearly.