Cousin Bertha.

Everyone needs a Cousin Bertha; everyone should be a Cousin Bertha. I would not be the man I am today without her influence on my life.

Last week, my 88-year old Cousin Bertha Williams of Cuney, Texas, left this Earth a little dimmer with her passing.

For the last 30 years, Cousin Bertha has been a staple in our family. She shared stories. She led conversations. She encouraged us at our highest and lowest points. She loved each of us dearly. We will miss her example.

What can be said of a legend and someone larger than life like Cousin Bertha? You cannot bring back a legend, but you can find ways to emulate them.

In a highly partisan, divisive and downright unkind world, a Bertha Williams is hard to come by, but they should always be the gold standard. Someone we aspire to be.

She loved unconditionally.

She encouraged us with all of her being.

She teased us to make sure we took life not so seriously.

She sang and told us tales from yesteryear.

She valued others more than herself.

She was a light in an incredibly dark world.

She personified greatness, larger than status and impeccable integrity. She would be the first to say “I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to be more like Jesus.”

She mentored everyone – everyone learned something from her.

She served. She laughed. She cried. She supported her community, and she never forgot where she came from.

Surely, this is an example to follow – the Cousin Bertha standard.

When the world seems so chaotic and less loving, I’ll think of Cousin Bertha and her influence. I’ll think of her house on a hill, a refuge for love and tales of yesteryear.

Before she passed, Cousin Bertha told me never to forget her. She also said: “there will never be another Cousin Bertha. When God made me, He threw the pattern away.”

She is right – there is only one Bertha L. Williams. However, that does not give us the latitude of failing and not aspiring to be like her. She is not really gone as long as we remember her.

Practice love. Tell tales. Learn and follow the Golden Rule. Encourage. Live life to the fullest.

We miss you, Cousin Bertha, and as you say: “Need not say because you already know, I love you.”

Allan R. Marshall, M.Ed.

Richmond, Texas

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