October 24, 2014

The Grave-Worker’s Tale…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:01 pm

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“Ah, Lord!” he muttered, shaking his head sadly,
thinly, wearily in the dark. “I have seen them all…
I have seen them come and go….” And for a moment,
he was silent. “It’s pretty strange when you think
of it,” he muttered….And he was silent, and
darkness, mystery, and night were all about us.

—Thomas Wolfe
_______________

It was just an ordinary late afternoon, last Saturday. Big Blue and I were cruising around, running some errands. And it was a little early to be stopping by, when I came to Vinola’s. But I pulled in. Rosita had told me. She and a few friends were checking out the place tonight, soon before six. The restaurant part, I mean. I love Vinola’s. I think I might have mentioned that before, on this blog. I’m always raving about the place on Facebook. I brag about how great it is, wherever I go. The food is just fantastic. If you’re ever in the area, you really should stop by and check it out. There’s a restaurant, there, for all you people who won’t sit at the bar. If you stop by, tell them Ira sent you. And spend lots of money. I’m figuring to work up a few comp drinks, here. Anyway, I had told Rosita often, at work. You and Ken should check it out sometime. And tonight, she was there, with a few friends. So that’s why I pulled in early, to see them.

They were sitting at a table right close to the door, when I walked in. I sat with them and chatted for a while. Rosita had ordered an “Ira,” a real sweet drink Amy the barmaid named after me a few months back. (Nah, the story of how that all happened would take too much time, so I’ll skip it. I’m pretty proud to have a drink named after me, though.) They were waiting on their food. How’s the drink? I asked. They all beamed. “It’s really sweet and good,” Rosita said. Well, I said. If you’re not used to alcohol, I’d suggest that the three of you just share that one. It’s got a lot of different stuff in it. We chatted along. Outside, in the parking lot, a pickup with a cattle trailer was backing in under the big old oak tree. I looked. It’s not often you see a rig like that pulling into Vinola’s. The driver got out, walked around to the other side, opened the rear door, and pulled out a wheelchair. The guy in the passenger’s side lifted himself over, and they trundled in. I watched. Right up to the bar, they went. It was a little high for the guy in the wheelchair, but he made it work.

I walked over to the bar, then. It was pretty full, for it being so early. I took a seat at the far right end, behind the beer taps. Amy smiled in welcome and mixed up my Rob Roy. She brought it over with my usual glass of water. I hear someone ordered an “Ira” tonight, I told her. She laughed. “Yeah, when she (the server) first asked for it, she said someone wants an ‘Ora.’ I told her to go back and ask again, and she came back and said ‘Ira.’ I knew what to mix up, then,” she said. I laughed, too.

I just relaxed, then, and watched some football. I chatted a bit to the guy next to me. Kind of lean and wiry, he was, with a little blond mustache. He didn’t seem all that talkative, so I didn’t push anything. A few minutes later, I asked him, though. You get here often? I really like this place. I call it my bar. I live only a few miles away, so it’s real handy for me to get to.

“I’m here a lot,” he said. “Just earlier in the day. I got a forty-five minute drive, to get home. But I work two minutes from here. So it’s pretty nice for me, when I’m leaving work, to have a drink before that long drive home. But it’s usually around mid-afternoon, when I stop by. So I’m here late, for me.”

We chatted a bit more. And then I asked what guys ask each other. What do you work? He told me. “I work for (I forget the name), a burial vault company. That’s what I do. I go out and install burial vaults.”

I looked at him, extremely interested. A guy who worked in the death industry. I’ve often seen those trucks going down the road, pulling those funny little trailers. I’ve often wondered how it would be, to work for a place like that. Where you’re out at someone’s grave, almost every day. Not that there’s anything wrong with such work. Someone has to do it. Still, it’s the kind of thing I’ve always kind of shrank from. Working in graveyards. I never figured I’d ever experience anything like actually doing such a thing. Now, here was the next best thing. A guy who did.

Wow, I told him. You mean you go out and install vaults that will hold the coffins? That’s pretty wild. And I asked a lot of questions, rat-a-tat. Do you dig the graves, too? How about covering it, after you put that lid on the vault? What’s a vault made of? How do you deal with being around death, so much? Practically every day like that?

When you ask people what they do for a living, they can tell if you’re genuinely interested with your questions. They can tell, if you’re being fake or real. And he opened right up, and talked and talked. We sat there, sipping our drinks, just like old friends.

And he told me a bit about his work. It’s an industry, of itself. People who work in it know each other, are connected, a lot. He used to manage a smaller vault company, west of here. But he got tired of that, and came over to this much larger company in Leola. He liked not having the pressures that come from management. He liked just working in the shop, and going out to the field. “It’s good pay,” he said. “And I’ll never run out of work. Whatever happens, I’ll always have work.” Yeah, I said. I can sure see that.

And he told me a bit about his world. Most vaults are made of concrete, although you can buy cheaper wooden ones. The concrete vaults are warrantied to remain sealed for a hundred years. What kind of sense does that make? I asked. I mean, who’s gonna dig down and check, say, in fifty or sixty years, whether the lid’s still sealed or not? “It’s just a marketing gimmick,” he said. Well, I said. It’s probably for the living, that warranty. It’s sure not gonna make any difference to the person in the ground. He agreed. “It’s for the living.”

I asked how it all comes down, to take a vault out and put it in the ground. And he told me. He goes out to the graveyard an hour or two before the burial. He backs up to the hole, and that pole and winch system on his little trailer goes to work. He sets the vault down, and makes sure it’s right. Then he pulls off to the side a bit, and waits for the coffin to get there. The vault lid is still on his truck. Often, the deceased’s name is inscribed on the lid. And mourners can come around and check it out, if they want to. After the coffin goes down and the crowd leaves, he lowers the lid onto the vault. He’s the last guy to see the coffin before it disappears forever into the earth.

I kept asking questions. Do you cover up the hole? No, there are companies who contract to dig and cover up. All he does is go put in the vault and lower the coffin and cover it up. Then he leaves. That’s why he’s at Vinola’s earlier, most days. But that day, that Saturday afternoon, he had a late burial, at four o’clock. And that’s why he was there, and that’s why we were talking.

And I told him a little bit about Mom’s passing, last April. I come from the Amish, up in Canada. They bury their dead by hand, I said. It’s all done by hand, and the coffin is lowered by hand. And it’s covered up by hand, too, with shovels. And I told him how, up there in Aylmer, the pallbearers actually get down into the hole, and stand on the lid. And how the dirt is carefully handed down, and carefully placed. Until the lid is covered. Then they throw the dirt in, I said.

He was impressed. “That’s pretty respectful,” he said. “There’s an old guy over in such-and-such township (I don’t remember which one. I wasn’t taking notes.). He’s dug graves by hand, all his life. He’s seventy-two years old, and his hands are unbelievably thick and strong. He’ll dig a grave and cover it up for four hundred bucks. That’s way cheaper than the other contractors charge, with their machines. I told him he needs to raise his prices a bit. I mean, he’s out there, digging and hacking at rocks, in every kind of weather.”

That’s pretty amazing, I said. And then I asked him. Are you ever at a burial where no one shows up? He looked at me. “Yes,” he said. “Two or three a year. But you multiply that by all the workers who are doing what I’m doing, and it adds up.”

That’s awful, I said. How would that be, if no one shows up at your funeral? Not that it would that much difference after you’re gone, I guess. But still, I feel bad for anyone like that.

“I buried a millionaire, once,” he told me. “And there wasn’t a single person there, except me and the undertaker. A millionaire.” Someone had to have lived a pretty lonely life, I said. He looked at me. “His family bought the cheapest coffin they could buy. Do you know what the cheapest coffin is made of?”

Oh, probably some kind of pressed wood, I said. He shook his head. Paused a little dramatically. “It’s made of cardboard,” he said. “That millionaire was buried in a cardboard box, and no one came to his funeral.” Ah, man, I said. I feel bad for the guy. “Well,” he said. “The undertaker told me the guy’s brother came in and said they want the cheapest coffin there was. His brother was always cheap, the guy said. So they wanted to treat him how he’d treated them.”

Any way you look at it, that’s pretty sad, I said. It’s sad that anyone would have to be buried alone, buried by strangers. And it’s even sadder that anyone would be buried in a cardboard box. And we talked some more. I asked him. Do you ever sense any spiritual stuff going on, in your work? He looked at me, startled. Well, it has to be there, I said. It has to be.

“Not so much, with what I’m doing, and where I am,” he said. I bet the funeral home people see that stuff, I said. The undertakers. He nodded. “Now there’s one strange bunch of people,” he said. “But in all the years I’ve done this, I’ve ever seen only one body.” And he told me the story.

“There’s this one undertaker who didn’t like me, when I first came around,” he said. “I don’t know why. But he didn’t. And one afternoon, it was only me and him, out there doing the burying. And he claimed that another person had to witness that there was actually a body in that coffin. So he opened it up, and I looked.” He stopped talking and looked at me, and grappled for words. “Then the guy said, ‘Oh, the body slipped down. I have to pull it up and straighten it.’ He stood there, and grabbed the body under each arm, and yanked it around. The head was just flopping all around. I tell you, I can see that as clearly, sitting here telling you about it, as I saw it when it happened.”

Wow, I said. That’s pretty crazy. Yeah, I’m sure the people who embalm bodies see things the rest of us never see. I’m sure they do. He looked at me again, pretty intently. Then he said, “When it comes to protection from any kind of spiritual evil, or any kind of protection, really, I trust Him.” He pointed straight up. “He has protected me, all my life. He has. And I think He will keep right on doing that.” That’s great, I said. Yeah, I hear that. I trust Him, too.

He had to go, then, soon. It was dark outside, and late, for him. After a trip to the restroom, he walked back to me. He stood there, and extended his hand. I shook it. He spoke his name and I told him mine. “Maybe I’ll see you around here again, sometime,” he said. “Thanks for hanging out.” I enjoyed it, too, I told him. And yeah, maybe we can do this again sometime.
************************************************************

A few odds and ends. First, Billy the Ghost. I’m always pretty amazed when people come up and talk about something I wrote. And I’ve heard the question more than a few times. How’s Billy doing? Is he still around? They ask wisely. And I always chuckle and shake my head. Nah, he’s been real quiet, lately. The tenant’s not claiming to be hearing anything. Maybe Billy read what I wrote about him, and decided to lay low for a while. I don’t know. But he’s been real quiet.

And I guess I have a little confession to make. I need to clean up my soul. Confess, and maybe get victory in the future. My book reviews on Amazon, those have been trickling in, off and on, all along. Nothing will show up for weeks and weeks, then all of a sudden, there’s three new ones in two days, or some such thing. And all along, I’ve never, never asked for them, on any public forum. Sure, when I’d give someone a signed copy (and I’ve given away a LOT of copies), I’d suggest that a review would be nice. Some very few people posted one, the vast majority didn’t. And that was OK. I wasn’t going to hound anyone. I gave you a book. Write a review. I wanted it to be a natural thing.

The numbers crawled along, crawled upward, all this past year or two. Four hundred. Then a painstakingly slow climb to that Holy Grail. Five hundred. I wanted that number so bad I could taste it. And a month or two back, one evening I looked and it was at 486. Four hundred and eighty-six reviews on Amazon. And I thought, what the heck? I’m going to ask for some. I want to reach that plateau.

And I did something I had never done before. I went on Facebook and asked for reviews. Here’s what I posted. “Latest review on Amazon. And yeah, I sure keep an eye on it. I want to get to 500. The 484th review had a simple message. ‘It jumps around too much.’ Keep talking, you readers. I don’t care if it’s one star, or five. Just get me to 500.”

And just like that, reviews started popping up. By the next day, it was in the 490s. And a day or two later, I checked the numbers in the morning. And there it was. 500. Five hundred reviews on Amazon. And yeah, I cheated a little. I asked for those last sixteen. Still, when you look at it, that many reviews on Amazon ain’t too bad, no matter how they got there. Especially not for an ex-Amish redneck who just happened to get a book published.

OK. My soul feels cleansed, now. One final thing, about the book. An email came in, way last spring. From some person, at Penn State Dubois. A small, small branch of the original place. Penn State. I’ve always despised that football team. But I have to say, I’ve always respected JoPa. The man was and is a legend. They tore him down, at the end, though. He died, a broken old man, because of all that. It was a public lynching. Everyone piled on hysterically, to deflect from their own sins. All of it made me sick. The way they took his wins away, that’s all just BS, too. If you judge Joe Paterno, you’re judging yourself. You’re judging the dark places in your own depraved heart.

Anyway, I got an email from Penn State DuBois, last spring. It was a “feeler” email. They give a book to all incoming students, to read, before they come. And this year, someone had suggested mine. If they did that, would I consider coming to speak to the incoming class? I almost figured the email was spam. But I answered. Yes. Of course. I’d be delighted to.

I couldn’t figure out, how my book would ever get slipped in like that. To a freshman class, in a secular University. That puzzled me. There has to be something subversive going on, I thought. And we talked, the person at Penn State DuBoise and me. “What’s your speaker’s fee?” She asked.

I don’t even know what a speaker’s fee is. Or I didn’t, back then. I almost said, five hundred dollars. That would cover my cost of fuel. And give me a little, left over. But I didn’t say it. I hedged. What can you offer? And she didn’t hesitate. “How about fifteen hundred dollars?” she asked. Yeah, I said. I think that’ll work for me.

After that happened, I got to thinking. I could have priced myself at twice that, and nobody would have blinked an eye. So now I’m telling the world. If you want me to come speak at any university event, my price is five thousand bucks, plus expenses. Am I worth that? I am, if you’ll pay me. So that’s what I’m charging. I’ll sure consider some pretty hefty discounts, like gas money and food, if you’re contacting me to come speak to your little book club. No discounts for universities, though, unless you fly me to Germany, or some such thing. Then, I’ll take what you give me. Here, in this country, my speaker’s fee is flat. Five grand. Take it or leave it.

And they scheduled me to come speak to the class earlier this month, a few weeks back. It had been a while since I spoke to such a large group. I headed out the day before, and drove all the way up to northwestern PA. Right off Rt. 80, that’s where DuBois is. I checked in at the motel the college had booked for me. I told the clerk my name. He looked at me. “Are you coming to speak about your book?” he asked. Yep, that’s me, I said. “Well, I’ve heard a lot about it,” he told me. Turned out that he was in the freshman class, but he had enrolled only a few days before classes started. So he hadn’t read the book the other freshmen had read earlier in the summer.

The next day, I wandered over to the little campus. Dressed in flannel shirt and jeans. An author can get away with just about anything, when it comes to things like that. We’re expected to be a little eccentric. I checked out the place a bit. Nice little school. At 11:30, I walked in to meet Marly Doty, the person who had contacted me. She showed me the little auditorium, where I’d be speaking. There, I met Tharren Thompson, the Director of Diversity. What a weird title, I thought. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. We hit it right off, he and I. Got along real, real well. Turned out he’s the one who had suggested my book. I thanked him profusely for that.

They had invited the public, too. And the place did not fill up, but a nice little crowd came. Probably sixty-five people, or so. It went about like it always does. I talked for half an hour, then read a passage from the book. The first date scene. And then I opened up for questions. I always enjoy that part. There’s never any shortage of those. And someone always asks. “How is Sarah doing?” I always hang my head in shame. And I tell them what I know.

It was over, then, and I stood in the back, by the piano. Signed the books people brought. And sold and signed a few that I had brought. It was all very enjoyable. I could use a few more events like that. Especially at my current speaker’s fee.

A few words about the Bible Study. The first one had only one person. The second one had three. And we wondered, as the next Tuesday approached. Would anyone new come? Allen Beiler was coming, we knew, and bringing his brother, Andrew. But would anyone else show up?

We hung out upstairs as 6:30 approached. Glancing out the window nervously. And all of a sudden, through the open window, there came a clatter of steel wheels, and the clopping of a horse. There’s a buggy driving in, I hollered at Reuben. The rig pulled up to the hitching rail, and a young man stepped out. Tied up his horse. And we went and welcomed him. A friend of mine, who I’ve known for years. I hadn’t seen him in a while, though. Allen and Andrew arrived, then, and we all had a real good time. The third Bible Study had five people. Not exactly taking the world by storm, here. But still. Increasing numbers.

Then, on Tuesday of this week, I got a call from my friend, Amos Smucker. He’s a horse dentist. I’ve never heard of such a thing. There were no such people around where I grew up. And now, a horse dentist wanted to come to where we are gathering. Could he come that night? He wondered. And could he bring a friend? Of course, I told him. Anyone can come. You don’t have to ask permission. You can come once, and never come back again, if that’s what you want. You can come sporadically, when it suits you. It’s not a continuation, the Bible Study, where you have to be there every week, or you’ll miss something. No particular theme. Just listening to individual sermons. Just come when you can.

And that night, nine people showed up, including the guy driving the horse and buggy. We were kind of a rag-tag group, I guess. But we were all pretty comfortable, I think. The group doesn’t have a name, yet. Maybe we could call ourselves the Rag-Tags.

And I thought about it, later. The most honest place you’ll ever find is at the bar. That’s where people open up, where people speak from the heart. And that’s how safe and comfortable we’d like our Bible Study to be. As safe and comfortable as the bar.

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(20 Comments) »

  1. Nice stories, Ira, you sound so cheery. Good for you.

    Comment by Pizzalady — October 24, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

  2. So, Jeckel and Hyde, hope the best man wins!

    Comment by G racina — October 24, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

  3. You could name yourselves “Holy Rascals”.

    Comment by Judy — October 24, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

  4. I get the interest in your vault supplier. It’s a strange custom really as I see it. I mean the body is nothing but a shell we ride around the earth in. Why are we trying to preserve it in death? Shouldn’t it return to the earth? Anyway, glad to hear your boy’s night is working and this to say after only a fortnight. Have fun.

    Comment by Lisa DeYoung — October 24, 2014 @ 11:35 pm

  5. My dad was the Amish funeral director in the Arthur Il area when I was growing up, 2 of my brothers have taken over since then. He always had probably 7 or 8 coffins of different sizes in stock, but always had to build the rough box at notice.

    Interesting article.

    Comment by Les Helmuth — October 25, 2014 @ 1:07 am

  6. We live beside a county graveyard where in recent years they’ve hired Amish men to dig graves and then cover them up. A numer of years ago we wake up around 2 or 3 in the morning to our dog’s barking. After a little while my husband hollers out the window toward the dog’s pen, telling him to be quiet. He notices it is an extremely foggy morning. It wasn’t long before he starts in barking again. This time my husband goes out to the garage window to holler since that is closer to the dog pen. Before he said anything he stood at the window to listen. Then he heard a “flop” and then soon another…The neighbor man couldn’t sleep and decided to start on the grave he needed to dig that day and took his dog along for “precaution”!

    Comment by Suetta & David — October 25, 2014 @ 7:46 am

  7. I was at your lecture in DuBois. You seem a little shy when speaking which is Amish in nature. But you were great in the Q and A part. I enjoyed reading your book very much. And now that I have read some of your blogs, I think there is another book there about living one toe in the Amish culture and the rest of you in an “English” world. I can’t speak for everyone but I enjoy hearing your Amish-raised perspective. Just a thought.

    Comment by Marsha W. — October 25, 2014 @ 8:30 am

  8. As always very interesting reading. Including the updates. Good for with another book with people watching the ‘Breaking Amish’ shows.

    Comment by Linda Ault — October 25, 2014 @ 9:53 am

  9. Thanks for the kind words about your time at Penn State DuBois–it was very good to have you visit, and several students have said since that they really enjoyed meeting you. (And for the record, if you think “Diversity Coordinator” is a weird title, you should try WORKING that job–“weird” doesn’t even BEGIN to cover it!)

    And you’re right, by the way–there was something “subversive” going on, to get your book on a Penn State campus! ;-)

    Comment by Tharren Thompson — October 25, 2014 @ 10:06 am

  10. I love to read your blogs, they are casual and full of information about your everyday adventures. Even though we don’t live that far away I don’t think we will ever meet you in person. I’ve only known one lawyer from your area, and that was one who came down to our house in Aston when a man crashed his car into our retaining wall in front of our house and tried to claim he ran into a guard rail; but the picture of the car turned upside down in our front yard was in the paper. Anyway having a small group of people at a Bible study is not so bad; where two or three are gathered in His name there He shall be also. Also we used to hang out at a little bar in Aston about 25 years ago and we loved it there, but we have given up drinking now we are older.

    Comment by Carolann Ellmore — October 25, 2014 @ 10:15 am

  11. My father was a grave digger for many years. He dug all of them by hand. We lived in MI and the winters were very cold with the ground being frozen several feet. As a child, I would go along when dad was digging a grave and would jump in and out of the grave until it would be too deep. One time a car came driving into the graveyard and I jumped out of the grave. The driver of the car slammed on the brakes, turned the car around and got out of there as fast as he could and we saw traces of the tire marks about 1/2 mile down the road. My dad and I laughed so hard we could hardly stand.

    Comment by Mary Keim Maarsen — October 25, 2014 @ 1:01 pm

  12. I just finished reading your latest blog and wanted to share this with you. In my old age, I have become such a hermit it’s pitiful. I have to smile about it tho because it’s the way I choose to live. I wasn’t always like this…no, I used to be very social. I sang with different bands in Fla. during the 70’s so I was in a bar/lounge every week-end. Took that on as a second job. My day job was managing a convenience store, so I encountered many, many people every day at that job. I later moved back home to Ohio, married again and raised five kids.

    Now..I told you all that to tell you this…I left my house, which I still own, and let my granddaughter and her little family move in and I now live with my daughter and her husband. She used to encourage me to go places, and I think she got rather perturbed with me that I didn’t want to…..but I believe she’s finally accepted my life as I want to live it. But during the encouragement time, she said to me, “MOM, who is going to come to your funeral if you don’t get out and meet people?!!” And I said, “Yeah, Terri, I’m sure I will be terribly disappointed in the turnout.” :)

    Comment by Diane — October 26, 2014 @ 9:31 am

  13. You know there are even cheaper ways for a buriel. I heard you can rent a casket. It’s bottom opens up once the casket is lowered into the ground. The rented casket is then taken up with the body left behihd. Don’t know the rental cost, but it wouldn’t bother me if my wife rented such a thing. WE don’t have insurance nor can we afford to pre pay our funeral. Call me a cheapskate, but If my wife keeps it quiet, who will ever know? Smiles.

    On the serious side of things, I am not sure a bar is the best place for a Christian to “hang out”. WE could be a stumbling block to other believers and the Word of God throws the blame on us–the one setting the wrong example. Read I Cor. 8-11 and see for yourself. Not judging here, but giving an opinion or my thoughts. “Avoid all appearance of evil”….

    Comment by Ronald Stonis — October 26, 2014 @ 1:42 pm

  14. I really enjoyed reading about your conversation with the burial vault installer. My father is on the graveyard committee at my family’s Amish Mennonite church. Since he is on the committee the decision has been made to dig the graves by hand. He finds the hand labor therapeutic and protective of the sacredness of returning a body to the earth.

    Comment by Rosanna — October 26, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

  15. Jesus ate and drank with sinners. I see nothing wrong with going to bars for the fellowship and yes, the witnessing, also. Everything can be for good or for bad — all in moderation. A great post, as usual, Ira. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Glad the “Bible” group is going well.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — October 26, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

  16. I STILL REMEMBER THE HONOR OF MEETING YOU LAST YEAR AROUND THIS TIME…I HAD JUST FINISHED YOUR BOOK AND TALKED MY HUSBAND INTO TRACKING YOU DOWN AT YOUR WORK PLACE, AND, MIRACLE OF ALL MIRACLES, YOU WERE WORKING THAT WEEKEND. WHAT AN HONOR TO MEET YOU AND BE YOUR FRIEND ON FACEBOOK! AND I BOUGHT 2 MORE BOOKS WHICH I GAVE AWAY AS GIFTS. LOVE YOUR BLOGS, YOU JUST CHAT LIKE YOU ARE TALKING TO THE READER FACE TO FACE. CONGRATS ON YOUR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS. YOU ARE A CLASS ACT, SO VERY HONEST AND SINCERE. YOUR BOOK INSPIRED ME MORE THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW. BLESSINGS, LEA TARTANIAN

    Comment by Lea Tartanian — October 26, 2014 @ 10:08 pm

  17. Good Morning Ira,

    Enjoyed your book a couple years ago. Sure hit a nerve with me. You were expressing many of the same frustrations I had years ago. My wife Edna (from Mennonite background) left and have been criticised and maligned for many years now. We have fairly well decided the families just don’t get the Christian life of freedom from rules so we just live our lives with little interaction from the prying eyes of all the community of Plain City, Oh. Just a few Amish left there. So I do enjoy your blog a lot. Bet you still get mail criticizing you. Just keep on writing.

    Two years ago I made a side comment to my brother-in-law (a very Conservative Mennonite Church member) about the confidence we have of salvation. He attacked me saying that is a big lie! Oh my. What a mistake. Never again talk to him about spiritual things!!

    We have basically tried to connect with the family in a very superficial way of how are the crops doing, are you busy, and how is your health. Too bad we cannot talk about spiritual things at all. They are just convinced if you aren’t a member of their church we are just like all the Baptists, and other churches: lost! Oh my, we are heritics. We must be anabaptists or we are doomed. Oh my!

    So hang in there Sir Ira. Don’t give up your freedom.

    We leave for Sarasota next week for the winter. Have gotten to know the Photographer of Pinecraft some. We don’t live in Pinecraft. Like her a lot. If you come down there any time would love to make some homemade ice cream and have you and Katie over. That would be nice.

    Kind regards,

    Moe Gingerich

    Comment by Mose Gingerich — October 27, 2014 @ 8:40 am

  18. Perhaps we’re all digging our own grave.

    I like how you work hard at making the story a simple human narrative. It’s funny how I can hear so much in that. It has me thinking that Jesus did not get up so much in synagogue, or at least that is not recorded in the Book. Me? More and more, I’m praying for mercy.

    Comment by LeRoy — October 27, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

  19. I have seen my share of people passing over to the other side in the 30 plus years of being in and out of the medical field. There were times when I was in the rooms in the institutions when it happened, people would take their last breaths, a pallor, a cast, a change of features as life left. And sometimes they would already be gone when the change of shift rounds were made. I can’t say I ever got used to it, yet it became part of the job. Most of it seemed pretty peaceful, yet the one I found sitting in her chair staring up at corner of the ceiling stands out. She had spent her days mumbling and talking to herself and was mostly incoherent and didn’t seem to be aware of her surroundings. There was look of fear and horror on her face, so who knows what she saw as death came calling.

    One of these days it will be my turn, I don’t know that I’m afraid of it, maybe it will be a relief due to the circumstances I’m in at the time. A few years back I visited my friend Bill at the hospice he was at. He had lived a hard and colorful life and then he had made peace with God and himself. It was afternoon and I remember how clear and fearless his eyes looked as we talked for he knew that he did not have long. He died that night and the way he looked that afternoon stays with me. I hope that I have the courage he had when my time comes. A retired career military man, a tough guy, a boxer, yet he was one of the kindest people I ever knew. I miss that old man.

    A good article about a subject that isn’t usually a mainstream topic, thanks IRA. Peace to all…

    Comment by lenny — October 29, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

  20. Regarding what Lenny just wrote, I have to say that when my mom died, I was with her. She was in a hospice bed in a hospital. She had been what they call “actively dying” for 2 1/2 hours. All of a sudden she looked up at the corner of the ceiling and the biggest smile came over her face and she passed at that moment with the most peaceful look on her face I have ever seen. I was blessed to have witnessed that and I will never forget it. My mom suffered for many years and she died with dignity. The nurse in the hospital told me that, and she also told me that many people do not die with dignity. My mom was a person of great faith. I hope I die in the same manner.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — October 31, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

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