My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mrs R.

Okay, so this post is more personal than most.  I’m not even sure how much I’ll share.

Some time last summer I was visiting an Amish farm where my husband was discussing the building of a pole barn with the man of the house, who happened to be a carpenter.  Meanwhile, his wife and I and my Amish friend Ruth were chatting at the kitchen table—the usual thing.

Before long, an elderly Amish lady hobbled in (she had a bad knee) and joined us; she was the carpenter’s mother, and she lived in the dawdi haus adjoining the main house.  (I wrote about the dawdi haus tradition previously.)  To protect her privacy, I’ll call her “Mrs. R.”

Mrs. R. was about 80, and something about her just struck me.  Maybe it was her sweet voice and demeanor; maybe it was the fact that she reminded me of my late grandmother; maybe it was the still, small voice of God, telling me to pay attention.  She was a widow—her husband had died many years ago at age 53, leaving her with twelve children—nine still at home.  All were now grown, and most had joined the Amish church.

I went home that day and couldn’t get Mrs. R. out of my mind.  In fact, I was awake most of the night, to my husband’s bewilderment.  I felt like I was to play some part in her life—but I couldn’t figure out what it might be.  She was well taken care of by her son and her extended family, and wasn’t “needy” in any way.

A few weeks later, she took a turn for the worse.  Her bad knee failed her completely, and during the course of dealing with that, she had a stroke. 

I went to see her with my friend Ruth, and Mrs. R. was much changed.  Her family sadly said that she wasn’t even responsive, most of the time—but we sat down anyway, if only to chat with the family. 

But when Mrs. R. realized I was there, she woke up and lifted her head, her eyes lit up, and a big smile came over her face.  For some strange reason, my presence cheered her up!

So I began to visit her regularly.  But what could I offer?  She had plenty of company—I could see that from her guest book.

After my second or third visit, I was singing a hymn as I drove home, and it hit me:  I could bring my hymnal and sing to her!  No one else was doing that!  The Amish church hymns are long and complex and sung in German, but Amish young people sing English hymns—some of the same ones that English churches use.  So I put my old Presbyterian hymnal in the back of the car.

Sure enough, Mrs. R. loved being sung to.  Her daughter-in-law told me that she had always loved music, and it was hard for her being housebound in recent times and missing church.  As I sang hymn after hymn to Mrs. R., her face would light up.  Some of them she recognized from her youthful days long ago.

It’s the dead of winter as I write this, and I’m still visiting Mrs. R. every week or two, and I’m still bringing my hymnbook.  She’s getting better now, and she can talk a little, although not as well as before—and she is building up her strength.  When she is strong enough, she wants to have a knee replacement so she can walk again.  Since I’ve had two knee replacements recently, I am trying to help her get mentally ready for that challenge by sharing my experiences. And, I sing...

I don’t know how this story will end.  I only know that she has been more of a blessing to me than I can say, and I hope she gets that new knee so we can take a walk together someday.

More about Mrs. R. and me can be found here.

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