Amish funeral traditions
Published 7:26 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Editor’s note: The column is being written this week by Gloria’s mother, Dorcas Raber, who gives us insight into Amish funeral traditions.
By DORCAS RABER
The Amish Cook
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After battling cancer courageously for six years, my 74-year-old Uncle Paul passed away. We knew he had been losing out and that he was longing to go to his heavenly home. Paul and his wife, Naomi, held a special place in my heart. Way back when I was 17-years-old, I had been their maud (maid) when one of their babies was born.
Every morning for six weeks, I hopped on my bike and went to their home. I washed milker buckets and dishes, washed clothes with a Maytag wringer washer and cleaned their house. But, best of all, I observed a content happy home and built a relationship with them. Over the years, we have kept in contact, and I enjoy Naomi’s letters that arrive on my birthday.
Now we are faced with the startling reality once more, that life on earth is very temporal. We traveled 400 miles to the viewing and funeral for Uncle Paul. Everything was held at the “home place” where Paul was born and had lived all his life. The only time he had moved was when he and Naomi moved from the big farmhouse to the Dawdy (grandpa) house.
We arrived at 4 p.m. to attend the viewing and there was a line that was slowly moving. The viewing, which was in its second day, was held in a shop with rows of benches and chairs set up for family and friends.
Right next to the casket was Naomi, all six of her children and their partners. How they had loved and appreciated their husband and father. They have precious memories of taking care of their Dad the last weeks. In fact, the night prior to his death, all six children had been there. And such a time family ties become all the more sweet and strong.
After we went through the line, we sat down for supper, which was being served to 175 people by the local church. It was delicious: hobo stacks, brownies and ice cream. So many people came out to show their love and sympathy to the grieving family.
One of the most memorable parts of the evening was when a group of 30 youths gathered together and sang six songs. It was so lovely. “Amazing Grace “ was sung as well as songs about heaven.
The next morning, the funeral services were held in a large machinery shed. It seemed fitting to have a dairy odor drifting into the shed. Uncle Paul had been a dairy farmer all his life. Hundreds of people filed in and the shed overflowed. More benches were set up right outside the shed opening, rows and rows of women were in front of me. Rows of black dresses and white head coverings. Close to the middle of the shed was the casket with the immediate family next to it. Three ministers each took a turn to comfort, exhort and encourage us as a congregation. One of my favorite parts of the sermons was likening Paul’s death to a ship in an ocean. When he passed away, friends and family said: “‘There he goes.’ But! Yonder on the other side, on the heavenly shore, he is welcomed with ‘there he comes!’”
After the sermons, the obituary was read. Paul and Naomi had been married for 49 years. Years of ups and downs, bumps and blessings, trials and tears, but held together with love for God and one another. Indeed, they were blessed and were a blessing. This blessing lives on in the lives of their children and grandchildren, as well as to others.
Next, we all filed past the casket for one final viewing.
Meanwhile, a group of friends had gathered and sang three songs. To me, the loveliest one was the German version of “How beautiful Heaven must be.” At the very last, the immediate family gathered together around the casket for the final farewell. At least for this side of eternity. For in heaven, we will never say goodbye. Four young men from the local church carried the casket out to the horse-drawn hearse.
At the graveyard, the minister shared several thoughts, and several more songs were sung. The first one was “Goodnight, my beloved.” This song is sung at most every Amish gravesite funeral. Next, the family was singing “That will be my last long move I’ll have to make,“ and many others joined in. Slowly, the casket was lowered and then many hands helped cover the grave. At the very last bit there was complete silence as everyone quietly prayed and said the “Lord‘s prayer.”
Lunch was served for everyone, consisting of cold ham and cheese sandwiches, a large stockpot of noodles, big bowls of potato salad, mixed fruit and cupcakes were set on two tables. People filed through the food line and filled their plates. And so now Uncle Paul‘s body was laid to rest, and Naomi and her children, and grandchildren, will be facing a new normal, and adjustment.
I did want to share the recipe for Hobo Delight that was served after the viewing.
2 pounds ground beef
2 onions, chopped
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
4 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup rice
15 1/4 ounce can chili beans, drained
After ground beef is cooled and drained, add all other ingredients except corn chips. Simmer until rice is tender. About 20 minutes. To serve, put a couple handfuls of corn chips on a plate and then ladle the beef-rice mixture on top. Top with grated cheese, lettuce and ranch dressing if you wish.