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.