BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter email@example.com
EVERYONE in the small district of Ginger Ridge, St Catherine knows Liletia Sayers as a dedicated Christian, a 'little lady' who will not allow you to visit her without offering a word of prayer or asking for one.
"She has always been like that. She is a Christian and just as how you see her now, that is how she has always been," said Barrington Cain, one of the many children brought up by the 105-year-old Sayers.
"She is a prayer warrior. And if you go in there to visit her, she praying for you before you come out. You can know that. She is truly a blessing," Cain added.
Cain, who had stopped by the centenarian's home on his way from his field, said she raised him since he was 11 years old after his mother passed away.
"Even if I go in there [Sayers's bedroom] now she would say 'mi long fi see you' and she would say 'look on the little boy that mi carry from Chapelton, let me feel you. How you swell so?' And feel up mi hand and mi legs and so. That is the way she operate."
As if on cue, the minute Cain, Sayers's caregiver, a neighbour, and this reporter entered the bedroom, Sayers started telling him to turn around so she could feel his thighs.
"Come yah, little boy, mi a change you baggy from you little bit! How you foot big so?" she said, feeling his thighs. "A cold you catch in you foot? How dem swell up so? Him turn big man now can lift mi up fling me 'way! Den you remember when mi always bathe you? A yuh hand big so? It big like a leg!" she said, now feeling his hands. "Thank you, Jesus. Mi prayer work!"
Born on March 20, 1908, Sayers is a long-standing member of the Ginger Ridge Church of God of Prophecy. She has a strong love for children which resulted in her taking in and rearing more than 15 from relatives and friends. She has only one biological son, John Sayers, who now resides in the United States.
At the age of 15, Sayers committed her life to the Lord and never wavered since. She grew up with her parents, Thomas and Eliza Collins, along with a brother and sisters.
"I went to the Ginger Ridge Elementary," Sayers told the Jamaica Observer. "I don't remember so well now and my ears go and come, you know. But my husband died and leave me for many years."
Today, the centenarian doesn't see or hear well, but she is able to move around with the assistance of an aide.
Sayers said she met and married Leslie at a young age. But when their son was only two years old, Leslie passed away. Since then, Sayers took to raising her son on her own and never gave the time to day to another man. Instead, she focused on her church, her son, and bringing up other people's children.
But as an only child, John Sayers was in no way spoilt by his mother. Instead, he received the full length of her correction rod whenever he misbehaved.
"Well, I wish she did spoil me. But let me say my mother, by choice, was a single parent," John Sayers said in a telephone interview. "Most people say their mothers are the best. But you know in those days, to grow me up as a mother single-handed, I can tell you it was not easy. But one thing I can say right away is that my mother believed in education. She didn't have education beyond elementary school, but she believed in education and she sacrificed so that I could go to school," said John, who today holds a master's degree from a university in the United States.
Now 74 years old, he recalled that at the age of 14 he decided that he was not going back to school because he was spanked by his mother for something he did not do.
"One day somebody came and told her that I was calling them nickname and I didn't," he recalled. "And I told her I didn't, but she said wherever two or three are gathered together I should never be in the midst. Because somebody said I did it and she said I should not have been in the company where that took place. So I decided that I was not going back to school because if I was going to school peacefully and I was going to be punished, then I was not going back," he told the Sunday Observer.
"She sat me down quietly and told me this -- which I never forgot. She said 'listen to me now. I want you to go to school because I do not want you to say yes to something to which you should say no when you grow up. If you want to be a man, you have to be standing on you feet, and if somebody does wrong you should be able to tell them they are wrong and the only way you can do that is if you are educated'. So when she finished talking to me I said you know, she is right, and that is what motivated me all the while going through life," he said.
But he continued to be punished for everything. This, he felt, was because she was challenged by persons that she could not raise a son on her own and she wanted to prove them wrong.
"It seem as if I was a rude child, and when I asked her now about it she said, compared to today, I was an excellent child. I couldn't get off the line at all. It's like everything I did, she would punish me severely for it," he said.
But despite the many punishments, John said he knew he was loved by his mother, whom he described as always being prayerful and encouraging, a mother who was willing to wear one dress, one pair of shoes so that he could get a good education.
"So whatever she did, at the end of the day I knew she loved me and she took the best care she could of me," he said proudly.
He described Sayers as a woman full of strength, hard-working, loving, and spiritually endowed, who taught him honesty, dignity, hard work, caring and, above all, to love the Creator.
Moreen Anderson, Sayers's caregiver for 12 years, was also full of praise for the centenarian.
"She is the best! The best! The best!" Anderson declared emphatically. "She don't give me any problem. She just quiet and she just keep on praying, praying, praying, nothing else. She jovial. You not going where she is and she don't give you joke. She is 100 per cent all right. Yes, I am telling you that. And everything that you do for her she give you thanks. If you simply hold her hand from the bedroom to the bathroom she tell you thanks. If you give her water, thanks -- anything at all, she very grateful. And she satisfy. Anything you give to her, she satisfy. And she is very kind. Anything she have she give you. All when she don't have it she telling you that she don't have anything to give you but prayer," Anderson said.
"If she going to the doctor and you carry her to the car she turn around and tell you to let her pray for you," Cain interjected. "That's the type of person she is."
As a young girl, Sayers did farming, domestic work and vending and there are days, even now, when she will declare that she wants to go out to sell or attend to her farm. At other times, she would state that she wants to go fasting at church in Bellas Gate.
"Those are the things she used to," Anderson said. "Sometimes she stay up all night just praying. She not sleeping."
Before the end of the interview, Sayers wanted to know two things: "You going to put it in the newspaper? Then you going to show people mi age?" she asked, bursting into laughter.