Late Sunday Evening, January 29, 2023
Yesterday I attended the funeral
of my young friend “Katie”… How do I put my feelings about that in words?
I first wrote about “Katie” (real
name, Kathy) in this post, and again in a few other posts after that. I already wrote about the night before the
funeral in my last post, called “Keeping Vigil For Katie.” Read that too, if you
So after my all-night vigil, I came
home Saturday morning, slept for an hour, put on my best black dress, and went back
to their family farm. Although the
funeral officially started at 9:30, many buggies were already there at
8:00. I was shown to the large
outbuilding where the funeral would take place.
The extended family had been there an hour already, saying their last
The seating arrangement at these events
follows a certain protocol. I was shown
to a special area where Wheelchair Mary (her
name for herself, not mine) and a few other special friends of Kathy and the family
would be seated. The only other
Englishers I could see were Kathy’s hospice doctor, who sat with his family in
front of me. The outbuilding (recently
remodeled and updated by Kathy’s father in time for this event) held perhaps
400 people, and nearby was a second venue with hundreds more.
The coffin was closed and the funeral
started at 9:30 with a series of two or three sermons and a prayer—all of this
in “Dutch.” Then at about 11:00, Kathy’s
obituary was read aloud in English.
After that, each section of people in the assembly filed row-by-row past
Kathy’s coffin, now open again, starting with the several hundred who were
gathered in the building nearby; then the home church group and other groups in
the main building; then the extended family of Kathy; then lastly, her parents
and nine siblings ages 4 to 21. Never in my lifetime have I seen such an
outpouring of grief… As Kathy’s parents
and siblings gathered around her coffin, clinging to each other and weeping, I
doubt there was a dry eye in the building.
After the funeral, 50 or 60 of us
headed to the cemetery while the others shared a meal. Slowly the dozens of buggies entered the road
behind the hearse buggy for the several-mile drive to the cemetery on a hill
behind an Amish farm, where the grave had been dug and a tent set up. As we gathered around, the minister said a
few words, and then—according to Amish tradition—the pallbearers lowered the
coffin into a wooden casket which was already in the ground, and the top of the
casket was put in place.
Then the pallbearers took up
shovels and gently began shoveling the soil back into the hole over the casket. As they grew tired, other men stepped forward
to take a turn. Many of the teenaged
boys who were present did their part too, as the family stood silently and
watched. Then Kathy’s littlest brother,
four-year-old Caleb, stepped forward to take a turn. His 21-year-old brother bent over behind him,
helping him hold the shovel and drop the soil down. After that, Kathy’s other brothers all took a
turn, as well as her normally shy ten-year-old sister. (Well done, Jane!)
After the soil was replaced and a
marker put in place, a few songs were sung—the beautiful harmonies being
carried out over the farmland—and then our procession of buggies returned to
the home farm for a meal.
Now it’s Monday afternoon, and I
want to finish this post. Today the
Miller family is taking another day to rest.
Then tomorrow it’s back to school, work, and farm chores.
Last night I took their three
oldest to a Sunday night singing in my car; it was 15 miles each way, in bad
weather, so I gave them a lift to make their lives a bit easier. They invited me to come back early and listen
to the singing, and I took them up on the offer. As I sat in the back with the moms, I made
this recording (no video) of one of the songs the 80 or so young people sang—so
I’ll end this post with their words—“When
the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown, in the new Jerusalem.”