A Lesson to Be Learned
By Nell Berry
I was standing at the foot of my mother’s bed along
with my father and my two sisters, watching…. watching…..
watching the pulse in my mother’s neck; watching her life
slowly ebb; watching my life end as I knew it. I watched till
her heart beat, the pulse suddenly ceased and thus the end of
my mother’s life. In a moment of quiet acceptance, I was never
to hear her voice again; never to feel her embrace; never to see
her smile; never to hear her laughter again. The feeling of a
loneness washed over me, leaving me almost dry; tearing my heart
out, yet unable to express my fears, my anguish and grief.
One year later, I was in school. My father was home sick. A Red
Cross worker came to the school and brought me home. The
ambulance came and took my father to the hospital. Ten minutes
after he was admitted, he was taken to a room, placed in a bed;
my father sat up, coughed and smiled. He lay back down and his
life was extinguished; like a candle his life was extinguished;
my father was gone.
In that moment my life of loneliness and sadness and grief became
as a book; a book without an end; a continuing story of a life
without anyone who could give me the love and affection I so longed for.
After Mom died, Dad got a job at the armory in our home town as a night
watchman. He was making a salary larger than any he had ever made before.
He got electric lights put in the house; he bought a carpet to go on the
floor which we had never had before. At Christmas time he gave my sister
and I both five dollars to spend on Christmas gifts. We thought we were
rich. Then in March of the following year, 1941 Dad passed away leaving
my sister and I orphans.
My parents were not able to show the love and affection to us we so
needed. But I knew they loved me. When I was very young, I remember
having the measles. I was so sick. My mother rocked me till my fever
broke. Through the long night, she rocked me. I knew she loved me.
Later when I was approximately four we lived on a farm and did not
have running water. The chicken house served as an outhouse. I went
into the chicken house one day to go to the bathroom and there were
no seats, just the pole that served as the chicken roost. My legs
were too short and as I tried to balance on the chicken roost to go
to the bathroom, I lost my balance and fell backwards. I can still
remember my mother lovingly turning me over her knee and cleaning
up my little behind. Without a sound or a murmur, she proceeded to
clean me up. She loved me.
When I was five or six years old we had moved from our home on the
farm to a rented house owned by the aunt of my sister’s future husband.
It was about a city block from our school, which also served as a church.
One night when the sermon was particularly long, I lay down on the front
pew or seat and fell asleep. Much later I awoke to a very dark and
frightening empty building. The church service had ended and they had
not realized my whereabouts; being on the front seat, my parents didn’t
see me. They just assumed I was with my older sisters and proceeded to
walk on down the road to our house.
Well, you can imagine my terror at being left all alone in that building,
with no lights and out in the country. There were no phones in our home
or in the schoolhouse that I could call for help. I rushed to the door,
began screaming at the top of my lungs, “Momma, Momma, Momma.” I began
pounding on the door and after what seemed like an eternity, I heard
someone at the door.
“Now, now,” the old man said. “Don’t you worry none, child. We will get you home, safe and sound.”
The old man, was Grandpa Ely Frazell who lived up on top of the hill
across the valley from the schoolhouse. He was almost deaf and used
one of those horns people used to use to put up to their ear to hear
what was being said. He was the caretaker of the schoolhouse and he
was almost home when he heard me screaming. That, once again was God’s
hand on me. Only God could have allowed that deaf old man to hear me
when he was almost home.
He had the key and unlocked the door. I was still crying and he put
his arm around me and took me by the hand and led me home. My parents
had not even missed me yet. They were talking to neighbors and had
not paid any attention to the fact that I was missing.
My mother put her arms around me to comfort me. “Don’t cry,” she said,
“you are alright now, safe here in Momma’s arms.” That was the only
time I remember my mother putting her arms around me and comforting me,
since the episode with the measles.
After I was married several years, I dreamed about my mother. I had
prayed to see her in a dream, but had not dreamed of her; this time
in my dream she appeared and I could not distinguish her features,
but I knew somehow it was my mother. There was a fire and she came
to us in my dream to warn us or help us to escape. I never dreamed
of her again. But that was an act of the love of a mother for her child.
While I was in the care of my brother, it was no different. He was
like Mom and Dad. He did not show love or affection for me. He was
just there; never giving me advice or counsel except for the familiar
phrase or warning, “You’re going to get into trouble”, when I would
stay out late at night. But he did the best he knew how. He was in
his early twenties and did not ask to be burdened with a teenage
sister to bring up. A few years before he died, I finally got him
to say “I love you” to me. Every time I would see him, when I was
about to leave I told him I loved him. After awhile he began to
say it to me.
I have heard people say, if I had my life to live over, I would do
things differently. I cannot say that, even though I made some mistakes;
if I hadn’t done what I did; if I hadn’t gotten pregnant before I was
married, I would not have my lovely daughter. I probably would have
had children, but they would not be the same children I now have.
How can a person regret something that brought so much joy? I regret
the sin, and I have repented of it, I am forgiven. But I certainly
don’t regret having my child. I loved my baby girl from the start.
She was the most precious thing in my life, besides my husband. I was
so proud of her. Today she is still one of the most precious things
in my life, one of four, two boys and two girls. But now I have eleven
more, most precious things in my life; nine grandchildren and two great
I was not living for the Lord at that time; I didn’t really know what
that meant. But I knew right from wrong and I believe God had His hand
on me. I just didn’t know it.
This was a traumatic time in my life. I had no one to turn to except
my older sister who was neither Godly nor wise. She was a genius at
choosing the wrong mate. She was married three times and with the last,
the fourth one she was a common law wife. Her counsel was not what a
young girl needed, although she tried to help me in her own feeble way.
The end result was as stated above, an unplanned pregnancy and an earlier
than planned marriage.
Only God could have prevented a tragic end to the mess I had made of my life.
It is not good for a child, girl or boy to feel unloved and inadequate.
They will more than likely look for that love in every person they date.
So often it happens that they will end up marrying a person who is not
in love with them, because of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy; which
more often than not will end up in the divorce courts; children are the
ones who get hurt in that instance. Children of divorced parents always
seem to feel they are the ones who are the cause of the divorce. It leaves
a wounded heart and soul to go through life looking for love, as the song
goes, “in all the wrong places.”
There was not a time in my life when I realized I was loved, until I met
the Lord of my life, Jesus Christ. His love is all that sustained me many
times through the hard times. I believed my parents loved me because they
were my parents. Due to my low self worth, I have a hard time to this day
believing that anyone loves me. I feel so unworthy. It has gotten better
since I began my writing ventures. I have an outlet to relieve the frustrations
When I got married I was assured of my husband’s love. But through the
years, the turmoil in our lives and the disagreements caused me to
question even his love. After fifty-five years I am quite sure if he
didn’t love me, he would have left me long ago.
When we had a weekend place at a lake in Southeast Missouri, we made
a habit of stopping in to see my nieces in a town on the way to our
retreat. The minute I walked in the door, they threw their arms around
me and told me how they missed me. When we left the hugging and kissing
would be repeated. I have never known why, but every time I am told
someone loves me or when they hug me and kiss me, I get tears in my
eyes and get a lump in my throat, having to really struggle to keep
from weeping. The only explanation I can think of is that I have needed
that all my life and never received it till I was in my fifties. There
is nothing in this world that can replace the love of a mother. Nothing
can substitute for it. But having it re-enforced by a child, a husband or
other loved ones helps a great deal.
It has been very difficult for my children also. My oldest daughter and
I have gotten closer in recent years but for a long time, I felt an
animosity between us. I believe it is because I had a difficult time
letting her know how much I loved her when she was growing up.
Not having a mother to teach me how to be a wife, a mother, how to
cook, how to sew, how to keep house, was very difficult for me. I
had to teach myself everything. I had to learn to cook by experimentation;
learn to sew by doing it and making a lot of mistakes; I taught myself
how to crochet, knit and also how to take care of babies. These are things
a mother should teach their children. I made a lot of mistakes, but I have
learned to do most everything except how to keep a neat and pleasant home.
I have never learned how to organize things.
The lesson to be learned from my experiences is that you can never show
too much love and affection for your children. No matter what, they need
to know you love them. Without that demonstration of love, they will grow
up with something missing in their lives; just as I did and as my husband
did. We learned from our children how to show love and affection. Our youngest
son, by God’s grace became one of the most loving children and taught his
father and me to show love. From the time he was a baby he would always give
us hugs and kisses at bedtime. It continued even after he was a teenager.
Still to this day he hugs and kisses us when we go to see him or when he comes
to visit us and again when we part. He never fails to say “I love you” when we
speak on the phone or when we part. Only God could have given him that gift
because he didn’t learn it from his parents. To the contrary we learned
it from him.
Author: Nell M. Berry
Bio: Nell is a mother of four, grandmother of nine and great grandmother of two,
so far. She enjoys cooking for her family on special occasions, sewing, crocheting
and knitting as well as writing poems/song lyrics and short stories. She and her
husband of fifty-five years live at Mark Twain Lake in Missouri where he pursues
his hobby of building furniture from wood. If it can be built from wood, he can
build it. He also loves to go fishing and his passion is duck hunting and goose
hunting. They both enjoy attending church.