It was Memorial Day and our neighbors stopped in with red roses in honor of our hero who went to be with Jesus. Though Amish as a whole don’t extensively celebrate Memorial Day, this was so special.
My heart was warmed. Surely Daddy Daniel was a hero in our home, and after two months of not having him around the house, it was a stark reality that Daddy was no longer here.
At noon I told the children of my plans for that afternoon. Though no one naturally (or at least not me) just relishes the thought of spending time at a graveyard I knew it was the thing to do. On several occasions we had stopped by for a few minutes, now I felt like it was time to spend a bit more time there as a family.
The dirt had started to settle and I had requested the children and I refill the hole and the favor was granted. Now today was the day. I packed a surprise snack in Daddy’s old dinner bucket. I admit, as I pulled it off the shelf I hesitated. How could I? This was the same cream and orange bucket I had packed countless times in those first years of our marriage when he worked away from home. Now have a picnic without him? How could I do it? I sized up the situation. Then tenderly I took the well-worn bucket and filled it with drinks and fiber balls and chocolate bites made by Daniel’s twin aunts.
By 2:30 we were off on foot. What a blessing to have our small church cemetery right across from the school house (which is next door to us). Elijah pushed the miniature wheel barrow, Julia took a shovel, Hosanna pulled the cart with Jesse holding Joshua next to a wrapped sunshine package which we planned to open at the cemetery.
Soon we were there, the sun shone warmly as we took turns filling the little wheelbarrow and carting it over to Daddy’s grave. It was something we could all do for Daddy. Taking turns, we filled the wheelbarrow then took it over past my Grandparent’s tomb stones, to Daddy’s grave, and put it on top. Even little Joshua got his turn and seemed pleased to be a part of “helping” Daddy. After a bit we all sat in the grass next to the fresh mound and got out our snacks. The children were elated with the special goodies including each sipping their own can of sparkling juice.
As we snacked, our conversation turned to the funeral. I was thankful to hear them more readily talking about it, as it was a very difficult day for all of them, thus it hadn’t been easy to talk too much about it. Soon they were reminiscing of the last time we gathered around the coffin. The 750 people attending, filed through viewing one last time, last it was Daniel and my family. The families took turns viewing while the others stood in a circle around the rest, providing a bit privacy for those grieving over him one last time.
Heart-rending sobs from little ones filtered through the entire shop as they grieved for their most beloved Daddy. Those around us softly sang Jesus loves me, Jesus loves the little children, and other songs about heaven.
In the final part, when it was my turn, I had Julia on one side and Austin on the other. We wept and wept. (Now as I write, the clock is singing, “We shall meet on that beautiful shore…”)
Those surrounding us encouraged us to take all the time we need, so we did. At last I told the children, “Let’s put our wet tissues in Daddy’s hands, that’s what he would do for us.” Tenderly we stuffed them into his gentle work-worn hands.
Now on the afternoon of Memorial Day, as we sat next to his grave, we all found healing to talk of that excruciating yet precious day.
Next, we were ready to open the package we had toted along to open there. My widow aunt from Worthington, Indiana, brought a whole bunch of packages from their community. It had been Hosanna’s turn to pick out a package and be the one to open it. Now as she carefully opened it little eyes from all sides peered in, crowding as close as possible. Little tablets, one for each of the children, various groceries including alphabet spaghetti which the children were enthralled with, the list goes on. The there was a cute little box with my name. Tears came to my eyes as I read the words, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” It was double special as I looked at the signature. It was from my cousin and his wife who now have four babies in heaven. My heart was touched. Surely we all have our own journey to walk, and none is easy for anyone!
I’ll wrap up with a simple but yummy chicken salad recipe similar to what my aunt from Worthington made recently when she took all of us to the park.
Easy Amish Chicken Salad
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1/2 cup mayo or Miracle Whip
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
3 tablespoons chopped onions (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
1/2 cup pickle relish (optional)
dash liquid smoke (optional)
Chop or dice chicken.
In a medium bowl, mix all together.
Serve on a slice of bread or tortilla wrap.
If desired, top with lettuce, tomato slices, or cheese.
Gloria Yoder is an Amish mom, writer, and homemaker in rural Illinois. The Yoders travel primarily by horse-drawn buggy and live next to the settlement’s one-room school-house. Readers can write to Gloria at 10510 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427.