"hi dave. john esh. meadowbrook builders..."
11.53am | 1.1.08 | strasburg, pennsylvania
"is dad here yet? no. call him. i don't know what to do at an amish funeral. we should wait til he gets here and all go in to-gether."
"he's just over the hill. he'll be here in a minute or two."
"...i've got a house that needs drywalled..."
we were greeted at the back door by levi -- dressed to the nines. he looked good, especially for an amish-man. they sure can do it up when they wanna. he shook dad's hand first, then me, then seth. i've never seen him so serious.
they exchanged a few words about john. dad said something about john and about this being the third friend he's had die since the twenty-third. the conversation felt hollow. what can you say to those currently walking in a shadow that that sweeps out the sun?
death sure can render words damn near useless.
"...do you think you can start that job next week...?"
the amish do everything differently. we already knew that, but this was so out of the ordinary (though what do i know of ordinary? the last funeral i'd been to was in nineteen-ninety). the door was shut and we were taken in by a fellow contractor. he did flooring. he said we looked familiar.
the room was cold and the sky blue walls offered color better suited for a baby boy's new bedroom rather than a viewing parlor. the casket was beautifully hand-crafted pine, stained a dark brown and a white cloth covered up the far end. the cloth was pulled back and tears began to well as we all bowed our heads. death does strange things to a body. the builder i ran into from time to time growing up and who put more money in my bank account than i can count lie there looking like an exhibit from a wax museum. there was no color in his face, only a waxy yellow complexion remained. his hair looked like wire and i wondered how this used to be alive.
the rest of the room was mostly empty. there was some dried up mud on the floor and a small end table in the corner with a hair comb and a box of matches sitting on it. the blinds weren't pulled and sunlight streamed in, lighting up the lamp-less room. some birds chirped in the warmish january air just outside while an older amish fellow walked by the window.
"...it's down route thirty, towards downingtown..."
john's eldest son benuel took us into the kitchen and jonas (his younger brother) was there sitting next to susie, now john's widow. i can't remember meeting her before, though i'm sure i had. every fall we attended john's big end of the summer party where we had fried chicken and played volleyball and quaits. the rest of the kitchen and living area was full of friends and family, by this time entirely amish. i'd never seen such a happy people so solemn in all my life. they are typically such a jovial and easy-going people and to see them in a state of mourning felt like a living, breathing oxy-moron.
"...it's a basement with nine-foot ceilings."
susie, benuel and jonas bid us farewell and thanked us for stopping by. only sixteen minutes had passed since we first got out of the car. there is something oddly peculiar about life that i can't quite make sense of; there is something equally peculiar about the finality of death....
my mind wanders and i think back to the middle of the summer. in consecutive weeks i read books both dealing with death (from entirely different perspectives) and now, as i/we inch/race towards it ourselves, i realize that there are five of us -- and two parents. someday not so far in the future, only one will remain, having buried the other six.
i pray hard for the one who will have to bear such a burden alone.