Ruth Lilly's "Seventh Heaven"

Dateline: Tue 12 Jan 2010

I will always be grateful to friend and former colleague Will Higgins of the Indianapolis Star, first for his spontaneous wit and light touch as a writer, and now for his inclusion of Ruth Lilly's little poem in this morning's story on the heiress' death.

Lilly, who died at age 94 and spent most of her life in the dark shadow of depression, nonetheless wrote poetry that expressed her deepest feelings. As Higgins tells the story, her Episcopal priest, the Very Rev. Stephen E. Carlsen of the "mother church" Christ Cathedral downtown, visited Lilly frequently.

At the funeral service, he said he found himself pondering what the afterlife would be like for her when he read John 14:2. In it, Jesus describes heaven: "In my father's house there are many mansions."

Since Lilly had lived in large and stately masions all her life, Higgins reports, Carlsen had to wonder what she had to look forward to. Then, Carlsen found his answer, Higgins says,, in Ruth Liilly's  little poem, "Seventh Heaven."

"A little cottage, white and red

A fireside and a cozy bed,

Some yellow tulips in a pot

A brown and healthy garden plot

A row of books in which I see

Poe, Tennyson and Dickens, three

A square blue window, cushions round

A place where love and faith abound

With outlook on the tossing sea --

What more in Paradise for me?"

This one inclusion makes the price of subscribing to the Star for a year worth every penny. More of this, please....with thanks to Mrs. Lilly, Higgins and Rev. Carlsen.





Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

OK, so it's way harsh to speak ill of the dead, but...
if that poem weren't written by someone worth somewhere north of $800 million, it wouldn't be worth printing anywhere.

2010-01-12 09:50:59

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

The story of Mrs. Lilly and her depression points out that most mental illness is primarily biochemical/organic brain dysfunction in nature. All of those millions and mansions never cured Mrs. Lilly of her depression. Through much of her life, effective treatment of mental health problems was in the veritable "dark ages." Freud's couch never cured many people - just kept them coming back with their checkbooks to have a shrink repeatedly dissect their childhoods.

Modern medicine is just beginning to unravel some of the puzzles, but there is still a long way to go.

I very sincerely hope Mrs. Lilly has indeed found the "paradise" she wrote about.

2010-01-12 13:08:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Cynical, the pets' journal which Ruth graciously funded, agreed with you. They refused to publish most of her submissions.

She gave them money anyway. A delightful recognition, on both sides, that the poetry journal had standards, and a wealthy devotee admired their work. Her gift, in light of their rejection of her poetry, spoke volumes.

I was unaware reading the story that the poem was Mrs. Lilly's. My edition did not make that reference. At first reading, I thought the poem was nice. Now, I think it's damned near prophetic, and a sparkling review of Ruth's life andd, hopefully, her eternal life.

God rest Ruth Lilly. And now a solemn wish:

Can the estate lawyers and Lilly family please, PUH-LEASE, have done their job properly, to assertain her true wishes, follow them, and not fight out the deal in probate court, ala Bren Simon.

Talk about tacky. Mel is rolling over. And don't think for a minute that Dvaid Simon isn't aware of and supportive of that fight.

Ruth lived a publicly gracious patrician life. We're all better for it. Her internal troubles are heart-wretching.

2010-01-12 13:34:54

hendy [Member] said:

Ray Koch's widow left a fortune to NPR. Ruth Lilly also gave, and gave, and gave. The Glicks have been enormous contributors to the community in so many ways. Philanthropy is a wonderful thing.

The onerous side to it is that we've created principalities through trust law that allows people and foundations to control community action through their donations. Some philanthropists have been wonderful and egalitarian while others have been onerous in their control-freak methods of donations-with-strings.

Of my ex-neighbor Ruth Lilly (she lived just down the street from me), may the angels sing her poetry.

2010-01-12 15:22:11

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Fellow neighbor here too, Hendy...well, about a quarter-mile away. I'm wondering what will become of her home...a beautiful estate.

2010-01-12 15:54:51

hendy [Member] said:

Hers will sell faster than mine. Mine's been on the market since June. Of course, Kessler's been ripped to shreds nearly the entire time. Tramco killed two trees outright, and clipped five more of mine on Kessler. So it goes.

2010-01-12 18:27:40

Seneca [unverified] said:

Even in death Ruth Lilly continues to be generous and giving.

The Simon woman is just greedy and grasping. One wonders if she doesn't want a gated fortress complex like a noted "benefactress" has (it parallels Michigan Road).

2010-01-13 06:40:18

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Of, you're talking about the DeHaan Bitch Wall on Michigan Road. All of us in the neighborhood abhor it--as if one person needs that kind of wall to shut her off from the community.

Mrs. Lilly was asked by a reporter about her estate, when the fight was ongoing over the DeHaan development.

Mrs Lilly said: "We don't own our spot on earth forever...we just use it." Her estate has mostly-wire fencing, so you can see in, and it's beautifully-kept. Her passion for nature was well-known. She hated walls.

Her protectors were concerned for her safety, so the gate was always locked, an off-suty sheriff's car always inside. Cristel migiht be afraid of something, who knows? But that damned wall is just butt-ugly, and it hides a house that's so over-the-top it's garish. Very Vegas-bordello looking.

2010-01-13 07:37:35

hendy [Member] said:

Tsk-tsk. You're talking about an ex-monestary, now.

What gripes me is the MPD profit center at that point across from the International School, where NOT ONE STUDENT EVER WALKS TO SCHOOL. Not one. Nonetheless, it's 25mph there, stunting traffic, and causing lots of grief.

Ms Lilly was right: we don't own our spot. But we ought to manage it well.

2010-01-13 10:58:43

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I slow down at that light every day, Hendy, and watch a couple impatient motorists get clipped regularly by IMPD. Profit center, indeed.

But Michigan Road is a huge speedway. Anything we can do to slow down traffic is important. 25 MPS is a tad slow, to be sure, but still...

That International School is built on silt. I fully expect it to sink into the river some day. And talk about ugly. Fitting it's across from the fence.

2010-01-13 14:23:51

hendy [Member] said:

I have a relative that teaches there. He rides his bike there when he can. He's the ONLY pedestrian. I'm for the speedway.

It's like we all have to slow down for the Great Walled Compound and its incumbent dotage. Bah. Stinks. I don't like forced fealty.

2010-01-13 19:38:48

Amy [unverified] said:

Back to the topic at hand. Amazing that Ms. Lilly's idea of Paradise was so simple, when in life she had all the material things so many clamor for. A good lesson.

2010-01-14 06:50:15

Seneca [unverified] said:

When the "Great Walled Compound" was going up I wondered if there were going to be gun turrets on all four corners and perhaps a klieg light. Sieg . . . :( :(

2010-01-14 08:35:19

Seneca [unverified] said:

The "Great Walled Compound" seems rather Germanic (even to the color).

2010-01-14 09:06:56

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Mrs. Lilly hated that wall. She dispatched staff people or friends to find out why the city's zoning administrators would put up with such a freakishly ugly wall.

She also hated fast traffic.

A genteel woman, with all life's advantages, personally troubled but philanthropic beyond belief.

Her ilk is too scarce. She now has eternal peace.

If only we could reclaim Michigan Road...for the slower drivers among us, AND for the scenery as it used to be.

God I sound old.

2010-01-14 09:58:56

hendy [Member] said:

Not old. Seasoned.

Ms Lilly was a gem. Perhaps more will come.

2010-01-14 10:35:46

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