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A Lesson Learned
by Nell Berry
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I stood with my father and two older sisters at the foot of Mom’s bed; the pulse in her neck was faint; fading; as I watched, it suddenly stopped beating. My mother was gone. Her life was but a vapor. In that quiet moment of sorrow, tears and grief, my life as I had known it was changed. It was not to make an impression on me at the age of nine years old. But later, my heart broken, I realized how much I loved and missed my mother; how much I needed her sweet presence in my life. Lord, how I missed and needed her.

In a moment of quiet acceptance, I was never again to hear her voice; never to feel her embrace; never to see her smile; never again to hear her laughter. The feeling of aloneness 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, 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 like 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.

My sister Dorothy was about fourteen or fifteen when our parents both passed away within a year of each other. Just as I was getting used to the idea of not having my mother to love me, guide me and teach me what I should know to grow up a whole person, my father who had always seemed so strong to me, passed away from a heart problem. I will always think he died of a broken heart more than anything.

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 he passed away.

My parents were not able to show the love and affection to us we so needed. Oh I knew they loved me, but they were unable to show it as a lot of people in that era were unable to express their love, affirming their children. Not being told when a child is loved, never hearing those words, “I love you” coming from a parent is very difficult and leaves a child with a feeling of not being cared for. Never being told how precious I was to them, or being applauded for something I had accomplished, left me feeling lost and inadequate; needing to hear those words from someone, even if that someone is only saying it to manipulate the child into doing something they know is wrong.

In those years of high school and living with my brother, I can remember crying myself to sleep some nights because I missed my mother and father. My brother was only in his twenties, and he did the best he could. But how can a girl confide in an older brother the way she would her mother? I think I missed my mother more because a girl just naturally talks more to her mother; confides in her more than a father. She would have given me some direction in my life and maybe it would have not turned out as it did.

Still, how can one regret the way one’s life turns out if in the mistakes comes joy? If things had been different; if my parents had not passed away and if my brother would not have brought me to St. Louis, I never would have met my husband and I would not have had the children I have now. I may have had children, but they would have been different children. Therefore, I cannot regret the way things turned out; just one more piece of evidence that God is in control. I love my children; they are God’s gift to us.

Growing up I longed to hear someone tell me they loved me. I needed to feel someone’s arms around me and sometimes I picked the wrong people to be close to, more for the longing to be close to someone than anything else. The friends I chose did not necessarily want me as a friend. I think more than anything they felt sorry for me because they knew I didn’t have a mother and father. I didn’t know how to make friends. There was a wall between us almost from the start, because I never thought anyone wanted to be my friend. I couldn’t believe they were real friends; I felt unworthy of their friendship; unable to express those feelings.

Unfortunately many times I was correct in that belief. But it wasn’t necessarily the fault of those I chose as friends as much as it was my distrust of their friendship. Oh to be young again and know what I know now.

I was always ready to receive the love of guys I went out with. But more often than not, they simply wanted more of me than I wanted to give. I had always known it was wrong to have sex outside of marriage, even though my parents had not lived long enough to teach me that. Somehow I knew it. But every guy I dated seemed to want only one thing and when I refused, they dropped me like a hot potato.

I was not living for the Lord at that time; I didn’t really know what that meant. But I knew right from wrong. However, at the tender age of eighteen without Godly guidance from a parent or a pastor, I became engaged to my husband, after knowing him since we were fifteen. We loved each other and before I knew it, I had given myself to him without the sanctity of marriage. I became pregnant and after a short engagement we were married.

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 the last one she was a common law wife to. 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.”

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 granddaughters.

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.

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Member Comments
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Sandy Hammock 04 Mar 2006
Mrs. Berry, Thank you so much for your writing. You are a true inspiration. I am surprised no one else who has read this has commented on it. It's wonderful. Sandy


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