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By Hazel Robinson

This story is written to and for all all who believe that there is a Heaven for the people of God.
(Word Count 956)

This story is about a woman whom I came to love. I met her early in my Christian walk and she was truly an inspiration to me. You will note in this short story, mention of a couple who helped take care of her, they too, hold a special place in my heart……..
A devoted and committed Christian, Alberta Murray was a tower of strength for all those who knew and loved her. She had rich, dark reddish-brown skin, with fewer wrinkles in her face than that of a women ten years her junior, which belied her ninety years.
Had she allowed it, long, flowing white hair would have graced her narrow shoulders, but Alberta liked to wear her hair pinned up in a bun at the nape of her neck. Her jaws sunk in from the removal of all of her teeth, “Ma Berta,” as she was affectionately called, looked like a pretty “Granny Yokum, without the pipe.
She was a gentle, soft-spoken woman who stood barely five feet with her shoes on. Yet, if the occasion demanded it, she could be as tough as nails, Her motto, “God helps me to take care of myself.”
Ma Berta lived alone - she would have it no other way. Most everyone who knew her seemed to love her, so she was never lonesome for company. Someone was always “dropping by” to check on her. She had many friends, including a devoted couple, who lived only a few houses away. These people made it their business to see that she always had plenty of food; that her bills were paid, and helped her in any and every way they could. They also drove her to church every Sunday.
Ma Berta had long ago lost sight in one eye with the other growing dimmer by the day. Her hearing was fading, and arthritis pained her so that at times she could hardly walk. But, in spite of all her aches and pains, she was always ready to encourage and offer her support wherever it was needed.
The other eye got worse, and now Ma Berta could barely see. At her monthly checkup, the doctor recognized there was a serious problem. He concluded that Ma Berta could no longer live alone. Of course Ma Berta was outraged! “What does he know?” she demanded. “I’ve been taking care of myself all these years, and I’ll continue to do it! This is my house and everything that’s in it! I don’t need anybody to live with me, and that’s final!”
Friends and relatives tried to reason with her and make her understand, but Ma Berta just would not hear them. She was adamant, “ I can live by myself! Three weeks later Ma Berta was taken to the hospital with a broken hip. She never recovered from it, and with no one to take care of her, Ma Berta had to go to a nursing home. It broke her heart. All the sunshine went out of her life. She lost her will to live. She cried a lot, but she also prayed a lot. She would tell all her visitors, over and over, “I’m ready to go home;” then she‘d say, “I want to go home.”
But, Ma Berta was never to go home again; not home as we know it; not to her home on Hammond Avenue. Within a very short time she was dead. I went to her funeral, and saddened by her death, I thought about our relationship and the last words I heard her say, “I’m ready to go home. I want to go home.” Suddenly it dawned on me what she had meant when she’d said that, and I knew she had gone home - she’d gone home to be with her Lord.
I often think of Ma Berta and the couple that helped her so much, and I know I’ll never forget her or them. I thank God for the blessing of having been in their presence.
In her last days Ma Berta was so unhappy at being in the nursing home that she became embittered. Nothing could satisfy her. She was a strong-willed woman, and her will was not to be in a nursing home. I tried to impress on her how she could be a witness and a blessing to the people around her, but she wouldn’t hear me.
I visited with her a few hours before she died though she was so sick she didn’t know I was there. As I reflect on our many conversations, I am both convinced and convicted that before Alberta Turner took her last breath, she had made peace with her Lord. I believe that after a life time of “Not I, but You Lord,” she would ride no other train to go home…..
I wrote this poem as a tribute to Ma Berta:


I Watched the lady as she knelt
Beside an old oak tree.
With hands raised high, head bowed low
She whispered her praises to Thee.
I moved a little closer, hoping I might hear
Exactly what the words were,
Which seemed to her so dear.
The lady spoke of inner strengths
The Holy Spirit gives us;
And talked about a strong refuge;
We all can have from knowing Jesus.
She also spoke of her trust and faith;
Of loving kindness better than life;
Of souls that followed hard after Him,
Under a cloud by day and fire by night.
I’ll never forget my feelings that day
As I listened to those words;
Nor the tranquil look on that lady’s face,
As if a voice from Heaven she’d heard.
I truly believe Ma Berta did hear a voice from heaven. I also believe that today she is hearing that very same voice. Doesn’t our Bible tell us “Absent from the body and present with the Lord.”
You know what else, the couple I mentioned earlier has since gone home to be with the Lord. They too took the train that would take them to that same destination as Ma Berta. Can you just imagine the three of them! What a time!

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