Great-grandad still shakes when he recalls
the story of the time Bertie passed away.
The year was 1922.
Sam and Bertie were sweethearts since grade school. Since
times were rough, Sam left school to work in the coal mines
when he was just thirteen years old. Bertie continued on until
she was fifteen, then like Sam, she left to work in one of the
local Silk Mills. On weekends when you saw one, you would
always see the other. They were each other's breath of life.
Sam was nineteen years old and Bertie was seventeen, when
the two finally wed and were joined as one. This was one
wedding the whole town attended.
Life was hard for both Sam and Bertie, but they were one
now and, that was all that mattered. Bertie loved Sam from the
very depths of her soul. She was obsessed with this wonderful
man. Bertie was ecstatic to learn she was in a family way. She
felt like a complete woman, life was exactly the way she had
pictured it as a girl.
Life isn't always the way we picture it though, now is it?
Bertie was not the strong girl she thought she was. The
pregnancy was hard. Bertie was sick most of the nine months
that followed. Sam was always by her side, when he wasn't in
the mines. He was at home holding Bertie's hand. He gave her
the comfort that only a husband can give.
The summer had just set in when Bertie went into labor. Sam
had a midwife on call for the last few weeks, he wasn't taking
any chances where his beloved Bertie was concerned. Bertie
finally gave birth to a fine baby girl, but fate wouldn't let
Bertie see her first born. She died minutes after Sarah gave
out her first cry.
Sam now had the task of not only burying his beloved, but
finding a wet nurse to keep his little Sarah fed and cared
for. That would be the job of the wet nurse.
Marge came into the household the very day that Bertie
passed away. This was out of necessity and not choice.
The house was solemn. Neighbors came to offer condolences,
and brought what they could to help the grieving husband and
father. The first night as Sarah fed from Marge's breast, she
was restless and fretful. Marge did her best, as she already
felt love for this motherless infant. Only a week before, she
had lost her own infant son. He had passed away only seconds
after drawing in a weak breath. The second one never came.
Marge was only too glad to nourish little Sarah when Sam
asked...Her loss was as great as his...
The first two nights passed without incident. The third
night was one of double grief and stress. Bertie was laid to
rest. Marge had retired early with her small charge. Soon
after feeding Sarah, Marge had her nestled safe, sound and fed
in her cradle.
Marge soon awoke to Sarah's fretful cries. It was only an
hour since her feeding, so she reached out from her bed and
started to rock the cradle. The cradle was yanked from her
hand. Pulling the cradle back, she gently started to rock the
baby again. The cradle was again pulled from her grip. Marge
jumped from the bed and turned on the lights. NOTHING! The cradle was now still. She
checked the sleeping Sarah. All seemed well and both fell into
sound sleep. Marge kept the night's occurance to herself. She
must have been overtired and was sure she imagined the whole
The next night was the same thing all over again. After
feeding Sarah and tucking her in, she got into bed and again
reached out and started to rock the cradle. Again the cradle
was snatched from her hand. Marge looked wide-eyed around the
room. At the bottom of the cradle stood, Sarah's mother. The
look of love and anguish on her face was one that threw Marge
into a state of mixed emotions. She was frightened out of her
wits, but was saddened by the loss she knew Bertie had to feel
never having seen her first born. She gently picked baby Sarah
from the cradle. Sarah's eyes were wide open. "did she also see something?"
Marge turned the baby to face the other end of the cradle,
where the spirit of Bertie stood. Bertie looked upon the baby
with a love that seemed to light up the whole cradle. A long
sigh was heard, and the apparition of Bertie dissipated.
Sam was both bewildered and relieved when Marge told him of
the night's happenings. He had been unable to sleep, knowing
that Bertie never got to see her child. Sam felt that his
beloved could now rest in peace, having seen her baby.
Two years later Sam and Marge were married. She had lost
her husband in a mine accident months before her baby was born
and died. They went on to having three sons and two daughters
of their own. Sarah, my grandmother was always Marge's
favorite. She knew she had to have a little extra love. She
made Bertie that silent promise, the night she came back to
see her newborn.