Faith and Miracles: Pearl Bailey
By Dr. Diane Howard, Contributing Writer
Pearl Bailey has an impressive resume as an actor and singer. She was a star on Broadway and in movies. She received a Tony award and the Screen Actors Guild honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for “outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.” She also had multiple appointments as the U.S. Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations under Presidents Ford, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Many of her performances are available on YouTube, including that of her as Dolly in “Hello Dolly!”
As the daughter of a minister, she was also a woman of faith. She said, “People see God every day, they just don’t recognize him.” She also said, “I never really look for anything. What God throws my way comes. I wake up in the morning and whichever way God turns my feet, I go.”
At her memorial service, her pastor gave an insightful overview of her life. He said she was born in St. Ann, Jamaica as the sixth child of Arthur & Adassa Brown. She was born with a congenital heart disease and wasn’t expected to survive infancy, but she did. Her indomitable spirit was evident all her life. She displayed a tremendous will to survive as an adult, especially when she developed terminal cancer but refused chemotherapy because the cure seemed worse than the illness. She used natural remedies and regained her quality of life.
She first pursued a career in Public Health Nursing and married a Canadian, Clifford Bailey. They had two daughters and a son. They lost their son Gregory. Pastor Luke tells in her memorial service that “their greatest joy. . . and comfort. . . and peace. . . came from their Lord Jesus.” He spoke of how Pearl lived her life by Christian principles, compassion, wisdom, as well as wit. . . . All those trials and storms and struggles of life that Pearl faced did much more than teach her perseverance and bring forth character and hope in her heart and life. . . . God was able to use Pearl’s trials and struggles and storms to teach you and me perseverance and character and to bring forth hope in your heart and my heart. . . . When you and I start to get down on life and start to think that God’s not going to get me through this, Pearl’s life experience stands as proof that He will. . . . If God can indeed keep me safe, that’s when Pearl’s example of faith in the midst of suffering can and will produce perseverance in you and me.”
He then quoted, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. . ..”
He added, “That’s why today we stop and thank God for Pearl, who is one of that great cloud of witnesses who testifies to us about the power of God and the love of God and the grace of God. . . . What is Pearl’s witness to us today? I guess we could rightly call them pearls of wisdom that she learned and that she wants us to always carry with us. When the storms of life close in on you, Jesus is not asleep in the boat. He who watches over you neither slumbers nor sleeps. When hurricanes appear on the horizon and there is no way to escape, He will shelter you under His almighty wings. When sickness and weakness come, He will heal you, He will lift you up, He will carry you. When your life takes you along dark and dangerous roads, Jesus is the Good Samaritan who will bind up your wounds, bring you to safety and provide for your needs. . ..”
The entire message for Pearl Bailey’s memorial service is well worth reading.