Fulfilled living in later life

Tuesday 12th March 2024

My Story, Bé

Bé, 93, lives at Shottermill House, our home in Haslemere. She told us about growing up in Nazi occupied Holland, working as a mother’s help in England and meeting her husband (it wasn’t love at first sight...)

“I was born in a little place in the north of Holland, Odoorn, and was one of nine children. It was normal in those days among the Dutch Reformed to have large families. We lived on a farm where the railway tracks went between the land and the house. My father went across the tracks to work.

“I was the fourth child and the only outgoing one. My father used to call me his ‘butterfly’. Luckily, I had a friend, Annika, about seven houses away who was a bit more like me, we laughed a lot.

“During the war, we weren’t told very much, which was good as we would have been frightened. My father had a radio hidden under the hay in the stables so he could listen to English stations. He was supposed to send produce to Germany but he never sent the right amount. At the very end of the war, my father’s brother was shot. He had been part of the resistance helping Jews get food coupons illegally and put sugar in the soldiers’ cars.

“At that time, the churches were full. People really cried out to God. My father was a church elder. I knew the catechism, that Jesus died for us on the cross, but as a child I didn’t have a personal relationship with God – that came later.

“After school, I studied domestic science at a lovely Christian college. I then trained as a nurse at a Christian hospital in Rotterdam. It was a long journey and I hitchhiked there in the middle of the night – I wasn’t at all afraid. There was a different mood in the country after the war. Everyone helped each other. Once, I was sitting in the back of a car and there were two boys up front. They changed seats while we were driving. They did it to frighten me but I was not frightened. I thought, ‘how clever!’

Pilgrims Friend Shottermill House Be1 cropped2
Pilgrims Friend Shottermill House Be wedding

“One day, I met a girl on a bus who had been a mother’s help in England. She knew the family wanted another girl and I said, ‘I’m interested!’. So off I went to England. It was a lovely Christian family with three children. The mother was a doctor and the father worked for ICI.

“After that I moved to a different family who weren’t Christians. The father was a barrister and he said to me, ‘Bé, you are an intelligent girl. You don’t believe in all that rubbish about the Bible. I said, ‘Yes, I do. Just as I believe water will come out of the tap, I believe the Bible is true.’

“I was part of the Dutch Reformed Church in London and met a fellow who was an organist and pianist. He reminded me of my brother closest to me in age. He took me all over London. One day he pinned me to the wall at Hammersmith Station and wanted to kiss me. I said ‘no’. You know what happened? I heard a voice saying inside of me, ‘This is the husband I have prepared for you.‘

“Markus, who I called Max, and I married in 1959. We tried to have children but it didn’t happen, so we adopted. Monica came first and two years later we adopted Andrew.

“In my working life, I was a nurse at Red Hill Hospital in Surrey and I did private nursing. My husband was an accountant. We lived in Three Bridges, Crawley and were part of the church there. Our home was always an open home and we had a lot of needy people come to stay.

“My husband died in September 2012. I lived independently until very recently. Then in June, I had a problem with my leg and I couldn’t walk properly. I got over that but one day in September my hands wouldn’t work properly. I thought, ‘Lord, what am I going to do?’ He reminded me of someone I knew who was in a Christian care home – Shottermill House.

“He also put the hymn ‘I Surrender All’ into my mind. I said to Him ‘but I have surrendered all’. He then spoke to me and said ‘you haven’t given up your flat’ and then I realised that God had other things for me and I did give up everything and moved into the home. It’s been a big change but if I wake up and feel a bit down, I look at my cross on the wall and ‘say Lord please help me over this.’ I know He will take care of me.”

More amazing stories from older people who live with us...