Not far from the water tower in Grove Hill, Alabama, sits Bertile’s. It’s an old burger joint with hand-patted burgers and homemade biscuits.
Miss Liza stands behind the counter. She looks much younger than she is. There is gray in her hair.
She’s worked at this fast-food hole-in-the-wall for thirty years.
“She needs a day off,” one young employee tells me. “Miss Liza, she works EVERY day.”
“But I only work AFTER church,” Miss Liza says. “My husband is a preacher, we can’t skip church.”
Miss Liza and her husband have managed to muscle through thirty-five years of marriage, raising two boys—working overtime. He’s an electrician and preacher. She manages this burger joint.
She is a faceless working-class woman you’ll probably never hear about—there’s no reason you would, unless some fool were to write about her.
She’s having a rough time. Her mother is dying. She has dementia. Liza makes the long drive to Meridian as often as she can to visit, but there’s not much time left.
“Visited last week,” she says. “When Mama saw me, she throwed her arms out and say, ‘Come here, Liza.’ My mama don’t always remember me, so that was a blessing.”
Liza wipes her eye.
So do I.
“But, I ain’t complaining,” she says. “We poor, but my children turned out to be good adults, God blessed me.”
Blessed. For a woman who has spent her life working her fingers into nubs, Miss Liza has the disposition of a ten-dollar Hallmark card.
I ask when she took her last vacation.
She laughs. “My last WHAT? No sir. Ain’t got time. My husband, he got the asthma, and health problems. I don’t do vacations.”
There is not a trace of self-pity in her magnificent black eyes. In the short time we talk, she waits on three customers and refills two sweet teas.
I ask what kinds of things a woman like Miss Liza might do if she ever had extra money laying around.
She doesn’t even pause.
“Myrtle Beach,” she answers. “Always wanna go me to Myrtle Beach with my family. Probably never get to, but I love them pictures I seen.”
Before I leave, she refills my tea to the brim and says, “God bless you, baby.”
And I can tell she is the sort who means it.
The truth is, I don’t believe women like Miss Liza are as common as they once were. They are workhorses.
They raise kids, feed husbands, pay bills, and sing their guts out on Sundays. They bake casseroles, scrub toilets, rub tummies, kiss foreheads, and cover lunch-shifts for teenage girls with the flu.
They are fearless. And you won’t hear them complain—not even when their mama is dying.
They are genuine miracles. They represent all that shines in this world. And today I was lucky enough to meet one.
I’ll likely never see Miss Liza again. But I’d like to say something to her, if I may—just in case she reads this:
You make me want to be a better man.
And I hope you get to Myrtle Beach.