Thursday, May 31, 2012

My other Mother

As many of you know a dear family friend passed away on May 26, 2012. I wanted to share what Bernice was to the Hills family as well as to me personally.

A little background. Bernice grew up in Southern VA during segregation. She only had a 3rd grade education, which was typical for a black girl at the time. After 3rd grade she went to work as a house keeper to help pay the bills. She married and had 5 children. All of which she put through college without getting into debt. Her husband died soon after their last child was born. So here's a women with a 3rd grade education and 5 children. She had 10 siblings and all lived in the area, they all helped her but Bernice made sure she paid them all back in deed or money.

Mom found Bernice before she got married. I don't know how, but Bernice came to apartment every week. And when mom got married, dad knew Bernice came too. Bernice came every Wednesday.  When she first started she got paid $60, a regular coke and a lean cuisine for lunch. She came at 7:00- 7:30AM and didn't leave til 4 or 5. Henry (her husband's brother) drove her to and from, he's a bachelor and we always asked "how are your girl friends" he drove all the women and worked as a painter.

Bernice was with mom through the fertility treatments, IVF, miscarriages, etc. Bernice came the day we each came home from the hospital. She watched us every Wednesday so mom could have time with out a screaming child. There was a point someone ( I can't remember which of us) called her mom, she said " OO no! I ain't your momma! I'm Bernice and that's all you can call me." Bernice always called us "her babies" she always said "it's ok baby, Bernice is here." if we were crying. She had the respect of our mother, we gave her the love we gave our mother. To me she was a mother.

As we got older Bernice was there ever Wednesday at 7AM she waited till we were all downstairs to come up, if someone was faking she  yell "You got the time it takes me to get up there before I bring my washcloth" She would put ice water on a wash cloth and stick it down your shirt if you were trying to stay home. If you were sick "you got the time it takes me to get up there to come lay on the couch so I can change your sheets"  This continued till she stopped coming. And after that mom used it.

On days there was no school we had to help, we had to strip our beds, help her make ours, and then she choose random chores we had to help with through out the day. When were older she'd have it do it and then she'd check "You call this clean?! Do it again! And put some muscle in!" or "now I can retire and you can clean your Momma's house" And if you got in her way that was your own fault. You never called mom on her either. One time Bernice asked someone to move and yelled for mom. She responded "Yell all you want, you still got to move your butt" then when mom came in you were trouble for not listening.

Bernice would still be there when we got home and would ask us how our day was. She tell us to study hard, and to take advantage of school. That might be why I'm so work now play later. She rejoiced with us and cried with us. She came to all the school performances, she made us practice and do our homework. There was no sliding pass her. 

Bernice was skinny. She was 84lbs when she died and 84 when she was with us. She was about 5'10, she had the hardest time finding jeans. Bernice was also 75 when she had to stop coming. 20 something boys always hit on her and she smack them with her purse and yell "BOY! I'm old enough to be your grandma, now BACK OFF!" and they go running.

When I was in 8th grade Bernice could no longer change the sheets, her wrists where getting weak. Slowly Bernice started coming every other week and able to do less. My freshman year she told my mom "I need more time to chew my food." All the doctors where on her to gain weight. Bernice stopped coming but kept in touch. She couldn't come to any more events but she still got all the invites, pictures, and movies. We've been told she kept them all in a box that had just our stuff.

I have no pictures of her, she always refused to stand in the family photo's with us.

  Bernice Cook Obituary

Bernice was and always will be with us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It All Started With A Horse

This week I started classes! I've had so much fun sitting at home and doing homework, but today I thought I needed to post something and take a brake from History and Economics.

Yesterday Troy received a call from his dad that his horse, Lakota, needs to be put down. Lakota is a big horse, like 15-16 hands and broad. The problem is he has small hoofs and ankles, which can not bare his weight very well, they knew this would be a problem as he got bigger, he is about 10-11 years old. He's been slowly laying down more, even with the medicine they give him and bribes to get him to walk a little. I asked Troy if he wanted to fly out to say good bye and to be there with Lakota, he said no. I was looked at him shocked and said "WHY!?!?"
"I knew this was coming, I already said good bye" was his response. Humbled by his words I let it go.
And it got me thinking about the after life and what it would be like. While I didn't find any doctrine on animals being in heaven, I'm sure we all can agree (hope) that animals will be there with us, that they will recognize us and know who we are. I've always seen heaven depicted with animals and can't wait to be surrounded by all the loved pets who have already gone.

Henry came to mind when all of this was brought up. I asked mom "do you think Henry will be mad that we tried to make him lose weight?" the thought that he'll be in heaven and that he'll be angry with me terrified me! Mom looked at me and said "REALLY JULIA!?!?" Henry loved food! I might have some grudges if I was him. Would he be mad that we decided to end his life? Was it to early? All these thoughts ran through my head. I said a prayer and felt that Henry had no grudges toward us, that we had made the right call.

Animals were put on this earth to help us. Oxes and horses helped the saints cross the plains, many know the story of Eliza R. Snow crossing the planes and when her last Ox got sick she gave him a blessing and the ox made the trek and lived a few years after that. That ox literally saved her and her family. While today we don't rely on our dogs and cats to pull carts across the country we rely on them for love and comfort. There are several views of giving animals blessing in the Mormon community, I have not seen or heard anything published by the church on this.

Animals have a special place in our hearts and are so pure. Animals don't have to be baptized or take the sacrament, yet they are shown in heaven. Many people believe that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ communicate directly to animals. How cool? How AMAZING? While I'm sure Thomas has not received the answer to the most difficult doctrine, I'm sure they communicate what is needed and what they are to do.

To lose an animal is like losing a dear friend, but having an animal is like having a piece of heaven by your side.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Learning to Love from a Distance

Today Paloma and I were sitting on the bench swing at her dad's complex. She hoped on my lap and started signing the Barney song "I love you, you love me we're best friends..." I almost started crying. This sweet girl who is aware something is going on, unsure of what, just started expressing her feelings in the only way she knows how to. Today her parents also agreed to her starting full day school with ABA methods being used to teach and a 1:2 ratio. I didn't think they would agree to it so quickly. I knew the dad wanted it but I knew mom was on the fence. I was so proud (yes, proud) that they both stepped up and said "lets do it now." I couldn't hold my happiness when I was talking to her mother and teacher. She starts Monday! Another transition in the same week.

The thought of this other girl (who I'm sure will be great) will the one taking her to and from school, spending the day with her, be there when she learns something new, give her hugs when she falls, etc. And I just started balling.

A friend once told me "Julia you are being this girls mother, without getting the credit or response a mother." And she's right! She even called me mom for a while! When I leave shes "Good bye Julia, I love you!" then gives me a kiss. I taught her to ride her bike, do her gymnastics stretches, write her name, pick up after her self and many other life skills. The ability for her to remember that love and continue to express it will disappear but I know that we will both always have a love for each other.

As I was leaving I started crying again. I have one more week, yes I will see her here and there. Yes I'm not leaving for ever. But this is more emotional then I ever thought it would be.

Paloma and I will simple learn to love each other, from a distance.