Be Sweet, Part II - Judy Berry

My mother - sometimes, she would attend school assembles and parties, and if I were ever recognized in any way before this “giant” high school audience, you would have thought I’d won an academy award.  And did I mention I grew up in a Christian home?  Almost every time the doors opened, we were there – choir practices, Christian Youth Fellowship, Chi Rho, youth dinners, parties, planning for summer camp with good church friends, etc.   All the time I spent at home during my growing up years, every single time I left her, whether alone or with a friend – her last words to me?  “Be sweet!”  And I mean EVERY time.

She didn’t have to cram all those qualities like character, kindness, honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness, integrity, giving, unselfishness, thinking of others, being careful, and, oh yes – LOVE – into a long sentence.  I knew exactly what she meant.  When I went through unhappy times, disappointments, typical situations a teenager would experience – her kind, soft voice said to me – “Don’t worry.  Everything’s going to turn out fine.”  And she was always right.  And the next time I walked out the door – you guessed it – “Be sweet!”  More of Mother’s words teaching about God.

We -- all three of us – got to go to college (neither of our parents were financially able to do that).  In addition, because she knew how much I wanted to do it, I was allowed to go through rush, so they had the opportunity and pleasure of paying all those pledge and membership dues, in addition to hefty class and book expenses.  My sisters received those same gifts – I think my mom and dad had to borrow against an insurance policy to finance it all.  Teaching me to be a giver – once again – God, through Mother’s actions.

When I graduated from OSU, I began plans to travel with a friend to the San Francisco area to teach my first year.  My mother was a nervous wreck - well, it was during the hippie love fests, Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury, etc.  She didn’t ask me NOT to go, but she did say this:  “I just don’t want you to change.” She was a small town girl and I fear she thought that California was the equivalent of a foreign country.   I’m sure as I drove away, heading west, she was yelling, “Be sweet!” a final piece of adult advice.  She was saying in her own way, “let me know if you need anything – I love you – stay true to your values”.  That was a REALLY BIG God lesson.

Years after I returned to Oklahoma City, Mother would not come to live with or even near us.  She didn’t want to be any “trouble” or a burden.  She continued to drive, attend First Christian Church in Tulsa, and mingle with her long-time friends.  She was a widow by then, and when internal bleeding unexpectedly began, she drove herself to the emergency room.  I sped like a maniac to get to the hospital as quickly as possible from Edmond.   I wish you could have seen her face change as I rushed through the door.  She lighted up like a Christmas tree.  We had a quiet, special, loving visit.  I left to go to her home to change clothes, and an immediate phone call from a nurse sent me back to the hospital just in time for the doctor to pronounce her death. I thank God that He had let me see her with that huge, beautiful smile on her face – I’m confident He had made sure I’d make it in time.  And because my mom knew we’d be apart for a while, I heard her say, “Be sweet!” very softly in my heart, one last time.  Thank you, Mother, for making God so alive in my life.  I love you.

Prayer (From Judy): Dear God, I praise you for the kind of upbringing I had, as part of a Christian family.  My mother did so much to shape my life – I miss her every day, and can’t wait to be with her again.   Until then, I will never forget her finest, most encouraging and encompassing piece of advice, spoken and shown to me for my entire life  – from You, God - through my mom - to me – “Be sweet!”  In Jesus’ name  - Amen.

……but the greatest of these is love.”   I Corinthians 13:13

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