As I write this, last night I went to a performance put on by the Rock Run Amish Youth Program music group. When I say “youth,” this means single Amish young people between the ages of sixteen and marriage, which can often be mid- or late twenties. There are several Amish youth centers in the area—the Cove in Shipshewana, and Rock Run near Millersburg are two of them. They sponsor all kinds of activities and sports leagues for the local Amish youth, and are a place for them to “hang out” and meet people.
Anyway, last night was the first performance—“family night.” There will be four more performances open to the public, on upcoming Friday and Saturday evenings. So there I was, with perhaps 300-400 family members of the performers—one of only a handful of “English” people in the large pole barn at the youth center. My good friend Joni was one of the youth involved in the program, and I was sitting with a dozen of his family members, ages infant to eighty.
I’ve been to a few of these youth concerts before, but this one was special.
Last May, there was a terrible accident in Amish Indiana. A young man named Rudy (names changed) was riding his bike home from an evening with his friends when he was killed by a drunk driver. The driver was his childhood friend, an Amish kid gone wild. (Perhaps I’ll write about that another time—that story is still evolving.) The visitation and funeral lasted two full days and brought together many, many hundreds of Rudy’s friends and family.
Rudy’s best friend was Joni, the young man I know so well. It’s been a hard summer for all of Rudy’s friends. They have spent nearly every Saturday night at Rudy’s parents’ home. In Amish Indiana, friends become like family. And Rudy had been one of the youth participating in the Rock Run music program.
So, back to last night:
I found myself at the concert, and it was a nice one—plays and songs, lasting almost 2½ hours—some humorous, some serious. The theme on the cover doesn’t seem so ‘depressing’ when you consider what was in the kids’ minds and hearts—Rudy, their absent friend.
Each performer’s name was also listed in the program, along with the names of their parents—typical of the close family ties in this community. First on the list was Rudy. His parents and a dozen other relatives sat together, women in their black dresses of mourning, two rows in front of us. A side table held a beautiful bouquet of red roses—one for each youth in the program, and one white rose, for Rudy.
At one point late in the concert, the kids sang a song that was particularly meaningful to Rudy. As they sang it, each one held a lit candle. After the song, they silently filed down the side stairs of the stage and placed their lit candles on the table in front of the roses.
There were tears in a lot of eyes, including mine. But it was a wonderful way for his friends to honor Rudy, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
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