August 24, 2007

Reflections on the Past and Future

Category: News — Ira @ 3:02 pm

“At 46 one must be a miser; only have time for essentials.”
—Virginia Woolf

Today is August 24th. Why is that significant? It’s probably not to you. It is to me. I was born forty-six years ago this day.

Forty-six. It’s a number. To those ahead of me in years, it’s a young number. To those behind, it’s older, how old depends on how far back there you are. To me, well, it’s a bit far along on my journey of life. I’m not where I thought I’d be at this age. How many of us are, really, when we take stock and are honest? I don’t feel forty-six. But I don’t feel thirty-five, either.

Forty-six. I look back on the long and rugged road that has been my life to this point and wonder how I made it through some of the tough spots. It was anything but the “normal” path expected of me or that I envisioned growing up. I’ve traveled down through some vast valleys and over some very tall mountains and sailed some rough and choppy seas. And crossed some beautiful country, too.


Each decade, in retrospect, was a voyage of its own. And as each new stage phased in, the previous one phased out and with it, a great deal that I had known and cherished. So much, so many things had to be left behind. Willingly or unwillingly. The past echoes with them all. Relationships. Family. Friends. Traditions. Lifestyle. Stability. Habits. Locations. And always, mingled with the deep brooding sorrow of the losses, a wellspring flowed, however small, of hope and optimism for the future. Always tomor-row. Always next week. Next month. Next year. Always life, beautiful just because it was life. It still is, mostly.

And so, at forty-six, I take stock. Personal life: Holding on. Marriage: A shambles. Job: Good. Health and diet: Better than ever as an adult. Fitness: Better than ever. State of mind: Fluctuating. My faith: Lord I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

In the wreckage-strewn fog of recent events, I consider and weigh the circumstances now surrounding me. Once more, a new stage has begun. It has been set for some time, and the curtain rises. It reveals one more road to travel. One more fork on that road. Choose. To the right or to the left. And then, a thousand more choices, or none at all, which is in itself a choice. Forty-six and alone. Again. Like I’ve been for most of my life.

When I review the causes, they are many, and rooted in the long-term failures of myself and others. And I recognize and mourn the staggering, almost unfathomable cost in shattered lives and broken trust. Certainly beyond my current capacity to process or comprehend. Such a steep price, for so many. For those involved and the extended families. So much rage and pain. So much heartbreak. So much misunder-standing. So many choices. So many tears. So much loss. So much to let go. So many wounds that time will not heal. And yet, only one path beckons. Forward. Whatever that means to each of us.

Every life is laced with sorrow and loss and broken dreams. Circumstances vary from person to person. Each journey is distinct. Each destination, a choice.

In 1961, the year I was born, my parents and family had lived in the new community of Aylmer, Ontario for less than a decade. A diverse group of hardy souls from many different communities had made the trek and settled there, most with families. Peter and Martha Yoder. Peter and Anna Stoll. Homer and Rachel Graber. Abner and Katie Wagler. Levi and Elizabeth Slabaugh. Noah and Nancy Gashco. Nicky and Lucille Stoltzfus. Jake and Lydia Eicher. LeRoy and Ruth Marner. A few others that escape my memory or moved away before I was born. And my parents, David and Ida Mae Wagler. Many have now passed on. Of the original group, my parents are the only couple that still survives. Their hearts remain in the Aylmer community. It is their true home.

From that place, my father launched and nourished his life long dream of writing and publishing. The monthly magazine “Family Life” was his reach for the stars. He mort-gaged the farm (against my mother’s wishes) to finance the venture. Its success reached heights he could not have imagined and propelled him into the forefront as a defender and apologist for the Amish faith and lifestyle. He remains anchored in that faith today.

When my parents were my age, they had a family of eleven children. My father was in his fortieth year when I was born. That’s how I keep track of his age, add forty to my own. Mom was thirty-eight. She bore two more children after I was born, my sister Rhoda and my brother Nathan. After Nathan, she had one miscarriage. And then no more.

The people that comprised my world as a child are now scattered to the winds. Or have passed on. I think back on some of my earliest recollections and remember. The colors and the smells and the tastes. The characters, floating in and out of my mind through the fog of years, the parameters of that childish world, so provincial, so confined, yet so vivid and alive. And always, it seemed to me, as my awareness and imagination increased with age, that I was simply an observer, a chronicler, and not really a participant in that world.

I can tell you the story, I can sing you with words, I can soar you to the heights, I can lament to you a tale of lost time and past worlds. I can tell you of life’s culmination in suffering, knowledge and death; the plower plowing, the sower sowing and the reaper reaping. I can weigh the cost to the last tenth-ounce, a father’s angry and unspoken sorrow, a mother’s silent pain to the last teardrop, the unutterable heartbreak of a wounded child.

I can tell you of betrayal so deep it stabs to the core of the heart, of the foundation of years brushed aside like so much dust, of pain so keen it numbs the brain, of walking amid ruins enveloped by dust and ashes and fog and noise. I can tell you of doubts and fears and regrets that could haunt a man to his grave.

I can tell you the sound of thunder and rain in soggy fields and the sound of cornstalks crackling as they grow from black river bottom on a muggy summer night, of the pale shadows cast by the harvest moon over stubbled fields and shocks of grain. I can tell you the particular slant and warmth of the summer sunlight and the feel and texture of the ancient and massive boulders beside our barn’s loft ramp. I can tell you the people and places and events that I have known and lived. I can tell you of life from the eyes of a wondering child, the wild stirring passions of an agonized youth, the hopeless quiet despair of a restless and deeply frustrated man.

I can tell you things that have never been told.

But, as I look back and reflect, I realize that the singer hasn’t sung, the chronicler hasn’t chronicled, the lamenter has internalized his lament, and joy was absent. And that cannot and will not stand.

“…..We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” Matthew 11:17

The gifts we have will disappear if not honed and used, and I have not used my talents for far too long. For many years, I could not find my voice. But the words are there, inside, where they’ve always been. They may be a bit rough and uncut at times. The tune may be flat in spots and the melody dissonant.

But the voice is forming. It’s not too late.

I will move forward. The voice is forming.

And it will sing.



Some thoughts on the Michael Vick situation. I’m no fan of Mr. Vick. He’s not my type of quarterback; he runs too much and consequently gets hurt almost every year. He’s arrogant and uncouth. But my personal preferences of playing style or dislike of him as a person have little bearing on my perspective of his legal troubles. He will plead guilty to illegal dog fighting and will likely spend a number of months in jail. Something about the whole fiasco still smells wrong to me. I’m not suggesting he was railroaded, but I am strongly suspicious that someone, somewhere was out to get him and ruin his career.

The blabbermouth sports press is in overload and gleefully spouting a gooey mass of sanctimonious bile. Blood is on the streets, and they are lapping it up. I’m not defend-ing dog fighting or the killing of dogs. But I think we need to put it in perspective. A hundred years ago, dog fighting was a popular and legal sport. Abortion was illegal. Today dog fighting is outlawed, and 4000 babies are ripped from their mothers’ wombs every day. Michael Vick would be less vilified had he killed his girlfriend or even his own mother. He could have financed a thousand abortions and no one would blink an eye. He is accused of killing dogs and the whole world is scrambling in a mad rush to crucify him. Something ain’t right.

My extended family has congregated to the Donalds, SC area for the wedding of my niece Rhoda Marner and Ryan Miller on Saturday, Aug. 25th. I decided not to attend, although my heart is with them and I wish them all the best. I’m sure my brother-in-law and sister, Ray and Maggie Marner, will be gracious hosts and extend a sincere welcome to all who attend. Ryan and Rhoda will live in his home community in Delaware, so I’m sure we’ll get to see them around here occasionally.
Ryan Miller and Rhoda Marner
Mr. and Mrs. Miller as of Aug. 25, 2007

Special thanks to Rhoda (my sister) Yutzy for the box of birthday tarts. My favorite.

Also thanks to sister Maggie for the box of assorted goodies. How did you find the time with the wedding coming up?




  1. Have a good birthday, or what’s left of it.

    I’m not a Falcons fan, so I have no dog in the Vick fight.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — August 24, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  2. From where I am, 46 is not very old, certainly not ancient as a 12 or 15 year old may think.

    On the honing of the writing skills, it appears to be getting sharper as the weeks roll on. The words are flowing and the writing intrigues the reader, where coming back for more gets to not be an option.

    My two cents worth. Be encouraged and Happy Birthday.

    Comment by Bear — August 24, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  3. Happy Birthday!! Your writings are very interesting. Your talent is admirable. Enjoy the stories of your childhood.

    May the Lord Bless. Paul

    Comment by Paul Hostetler — August 24, 2007 @ 10:55 pm

  4. Ira, Fabulous party!
    ….and to all those names for which I now have faces – It was a pleasure to meet you…

    Comment by Glo — August 26, 2007 @ 8:51 am

  5. You hint at lament for not being more, but I see you hitting your stride in this Marathon. Press on, and finish the race well. As in that ancient contest of news-bearers, there is the shout of victory at the end.

    Of course, since we’re the same age (for a few weeks yet), I cannot help but be optimistic: the alternative is to consider us half dead already!

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — August 27, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  6. Happy Birthday Ira, I could almost imagine I was reading in Ecclesiastes as I read.

    I couldn’t agree more with you on Michael Vick’s deal. I have never lost a debate to a liberal leftwing hack on the war in Iraq, as I always bait them about how terrible 3,500 killed, then hit them with 4,000 babies killed every day in this country for the last 40 years.

    Comment by Rudy Yutzy — August 27, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  7. Happy Belated B-day, Ira! Maybe you should celebrate your birthday by coming to visit us and hitting a Jets game?

    Your words on Vick are my thoughts exactly. I frequently deal with women who talk about having had an abortion with the same conviction of changing the oil in their car. It’s amazing how America’s sense of moral justice is so twisted.

    Comment by Gary — August 28, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

  8. It is good to hear you as you browse through your memories- memories of a time long past in a far away place. The memories I have of you in that far away place (at least the Iowa part of them) are nebulous, fragmented things. It is akin to enlarging my childhood to hear you talk thus; as if you were filling in the edges. Please go on.

    Comment by jason yutzy — August 28, 2007 @ 4:49 pm

  9. Congrats to Uncle Jess who is now Grandpa Jess :)
    Once again a well written memory..thanks Ira!

    PS. You missed a fun family get together at Rhoda’s wedding, where the largest Wagler family photo I have ever seen was taken! I had a large time listening to my mother and her sisters rehash stories from their childhood, including the mysterious one about the long bearded man in white.

    Hope you had a happy birthday! Love ya, Dorothy

    Comment by Dorothy — August 28, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

  10. A few thots…
    First of all, i would like to say that my heart goes out to Ira in the loss of his life’s companion. Heartwrenching. Makes one cherish their relationship with their companion more. How often do we trifle with thots/feelings that threaten those areas…failing to realize what the end results may end up being. Makes one strive to be more careful…keeping one’s guard up against things that could harm a relationship.

    Just a thot regarding those 4000 abortions a day.
    [My….my…didn’t realize there were that many!]
    BUT…according to Christian teachings/doctrines, those performing the abortions are sending more to heaven than all the evangelists put together! Would you rather die in the womb and go to heaven, or live till 70 and go to hell? I’m not advocating abortion…not at all.

    It’s TRUE…isn’t it…?

    Also…on the comment concerning the ‘wackos’ that are against smoking. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong.

    BUT…if He would happen to be against it, He would be included in that list of ‘wackos’…? If God doesn’t/wouldn’t smoke, would you tell Him to get a life?

    I’m not offended in the least…honestly….just some food for thot! :)

    No harm intended in any way, shape or form….
    Trying to think things thru….to the end…is all.

    Comment by Fritz — August 30, 2007 @ 11:51 pm

  11. “Forty-six and alone. Again. Like I’ve been for most of my life.” You wrote this same thing in your current story “Wild Hearts.” I wonder if you’re ok with being alone. Or if you need to make a plea to God. You deserve to have a body to come home to, you know, but you will have to take certain steps. One of which is letting go of the past. No woman in her right mind would show interest in a man that still dotes on his ex-wife. I’m not saying this to be mean, I’m simply making an observation. Ira, start fresh. You can do that. Remove Ellen’s pictures from your blog and put yourself out there. There is not one reason I can think of why an intellegent, attractive woman wouldn’t be warm for your form. You are worthy of love, companionship, a travel buddy, a wife, if it’s what you desire. You have a lot to offer. I say, go for it! God knows the desires of your heart. Heed my words and be lonely no more. If indeed you are. start dating for crying out loud!

    Comment by Francine — April 4, 2014 @ 1:56 am

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