It was a chilly autumn day as my mother, aunt, and I drove down the long, dirt-covered, winding, narrow road to pay our respects to our dear Amish friend, Eli, and his family. We marveled at the spectacle of the sun-kissed red, gold, and orange leaves of the many trees lining the dirt driveway. finally reaching the farmhouse, we were impressed with the many Amish buggies lined up around the immaculate blue-and-white two-story home with white pulled-back curtains in all of the windows and kerosene lamps on the sills.
We entered a large room furnished with several long wooden benches. The benches were occupied by several Amish women who wore their long dresses, black lace-up shoes, and little white muslin bonnets covering their hair. Their faces were somber and downcast, as if in silent prayer. We weren't sure if we should acknowledge them when a member of the family quietly ushered us into another room to view the body.
The room was bare except for a long wide board balanced on both ends by a chair. The body, in full Amish clothing, was lying on the board with hands crossed over the chest. The room was very cold, as the window was open, and a large tub of ice was located under the board. The Amish community did not believe in embalming.
After leaving the room, we were able to give our condolences to the family and give them the assorted pastries that my mother and aunt had baked for them for the funeral.
We did not attend the funeral and burial, as this was a private Amish tradition. Our friend, Eli, was buried in the large backyard in their small cemetery that held the remains of other family members.
I have fond memories of Eli, with his long beard and always smiling face. He was a true friend of my grandfather, and they enjoyed many years hunting and fishing together.