On Monday, however, we found out that Hubs' grandpa in Wisconsin had died. We decided right away to make it to the funeral, and later Hubs really wanted to be there for the visitation as well. So instead of leaving on Friday as originally planned, we packed up the RV and headed out Wednesday morning.
My First Amish Funeral
So, if you are reading this and are not related to me, you have probably never been to an Amish funeral.
The dynamics between Amish, ex-Amish and "English" people can be a little weird. Every community is probably different, and each family is probably different. Depending on the time and circumstances, one ex-Amish will be welcome to eat a meal with the Amish family, and another won't even be let in the house.
For this funeral, we (the no-longer-Amish family members and their spouses) were allowed to attend the viewing and visitation but had our own separate place to eat and/or sit for the service. For example, instead of going through the buffet line like everyone else, we had our plates brought to us already filled with food. Which was kind of nice, actually.
The funeral and visitation were held in a relative's shop. They sectioned a small corner of the shop off with laundry line and bed sheets (fastened by clothes pins) and put the open casket in this area for viewing. So right as we walked in, there was a guest book to the left, and the casket to the right. After a quick look (nobody cried over the casket, as far as I could tell), we walked out of the little room and into the larger shop. Just past the casket, the little room opened up and we started to walk down a long line of family members to our left and right. Hubs shook hands and greeted some of them, so I followed suit. After we made our way through the line, we found a spot to sit on the hard wooden benches several rows back, with other family members. All of the benches were facing toward the front of the shop (where the line of relatives was) but there was really nothing to look at, because the casket was in the little bed sheet room in the corner. So we just sat there and talked quietly among ourselves... for several hours.
After a few hours, a bearded man came in and started to say something. Of course, the entire funeral/visitation service and most of the conversation was in the Pennsylvania Dutch language, so I couldn't understand it. Hubs did a little bit of translating for me. All of a sudden he stopped and whispered, "Oh.. be prepared to kneel."
No more than 10 seconds later, the guy in charge stopped talking and every single person turned around to kneel. This was not like the Catholic kneeling where they have nice little cushion things for your knees. Quick, I turned around with everybody else and folded my hands over where my backside had just been sitting. The cement floor was cold and hard on my knees. I peeked around me and noticed that some of the folks were hanging over the benches.
The prayer went on.. and on... and on. It reminded me of a cross between Gregorian chants and an auctioneer selling something. Mostly monotone, with a touch of sing-sing-y rhythm. And of course, it was in words I couldn't understand. I got tired of nicely kneeling and leaned forward on the bench. I could see the grains of mud and sand on the boot of the Amish man in front of me. I felt kind of weird to have my head so close to someone else's rear.
After the prayer, the "service" was pretty much done for the night and after some chatting with cousins, Hubs and I left.
The funeral was a little different than the viewing because more ex-Amish family members had come and we had our own little area of segregated seating for the "shunned"/English relatives. I did not see any other English people at the funeral service besides us.
The casket was placed, this time, in the middle of shop, with all benches facing toward it. At least we had something to look at! After the family had been seated, non-relatives started filing in, segregated by age and gender. It was estimated that between 500 and 600 were in attendance, stuffed into the shop.
When the funeral started, promptly at 9:00 am, one of the elders stood up to talk. As always, I couldn't understand 99% of what he said. Hubs was did a little bit of translating, and during the rest of the time I marveled at how many Amish people could fit in the little shop. I watched people go in and out with their children, counted how many people were sleeping (it was actually quite a few) and thought about how strange it was for me to be there.
And then, a couple hours later, came the prayer. This time, I was ready.
After the prayer, people made their way past the casket. I don't remember which order they went in, but it was still age and gender segregated for non-relative guests. The younger folks walked by the body quickly, but as the line got older, more people slowed down or even paused before returning back to their seats.
Finally, the family members were allowed to view the body one last time. First the more distant relatives walked by, then we walked by, and then the Amish family members (children and grandchildren) were allowed the privilege of going last. The procession and funeral seemed very mechanical to me up until this point, but I was almost relieved to see a few tears shed by the closer family members.
Then the casket was closed and carried out by the pall-bearers. They put it on a special hearse buggy- basically a buggy with an extended back end, like a pickup truck.
My Six Hours of Fame
Before we ever arrived at the funeral, Hubs warned me that we would be stared at. A lot. Every time we drove out or in, it seemed, there was a group of 10 or so Amish boys standing around gaping. When we met with the other non-Amish relatives, we could see some more Amish staring at us from behind a buggy. As we walked through the crowd of people and into the shop, little tykes holding onto mama's hand stared, and their heads turned with us as we walked by. I never felt so much like royalty!!
As we pulled out of the driveway to leave, a group of boys stood in the yard, watching. I waved, and Hubs rolled down the window. Before he could say anything, one of the older boys called out, "Put the ped-al to the met-al!" in a heavy Dutch accent.
So we did... as much as possible with a 1986 Toyota motorhome.
Second Leg of the Trip: The Upper Peninsula
After leaving the Amish, we visited one of my friends in Madison, and then headed up to the U.P. The scenery was beautiful! We were able to stop at several tourist-y areas on the way home. Our first stop was Fayette, a ghost town. Originally the town was started by an iron company.
Finally, we arrived at the Falls!
The shipwreck museum was nice, but it was $13.00 per person and we have been spoiled by similar museums that were free to walk through. However, it was still a cool little stop.
I thought the old diving gear was the best. It reminded me of my dad's copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that he read to us when we were kids.
*Interesting fact: Amish don't always obey the rules, either. Some of them actually take pretty good Facebook selfies.