By Kevin Williams
I was in the Berne, Indiana area several weeks ago on a frigid cold day. While visiting I noticed a procession of buggies coming from the direction of one of the Amish cemeteries. The occupants in each buggy were clad in their black best and I imagine were chilled to the bone. Some of the buggies, like the second photo were packed with 5 or 6 adults all completely exposed to the roaring winds across the open fields. I've been visiting Berne almost my whole adult life and while I can't imagine possibly ever getting used to the cold one must feel while riding on an open buggy during winter, I'm assuming that one builds up a certain amount of tolerance. I don't ever want to be intrusive or disrespectful, but I think there is documentary and anthropological value in sharing certain scenes with all of you. So we did a quick u-turn and followed the procession at a distance. Sure enough the buggies led to a home where many were gathered and milling around outside. Again, hardier folk than I. There's always a bit of an internal struggle that goes into such shots especially a funeral setting. The last thing I want to do is contribute to anyone's angst by being a photographer, which is why these photos are not the best quality, they were taken from far away. I think these photos capture a tasteful tableau of the somber mood of the day without being disrespectful. Notice in one of the images, the large black object...this is the bench wagon which has come to this place to deliver church benches which were set up for the actual funeral service which was held in the house. This was close to noon, so by this point the service was completed, then there was a short graveside ceremony and now everyone was coming back to this home for a gathering. A large meal served and remembrances shared of the deceased. It's one of the endearing traits of the Amish is their sense of community and togetherness. It is as if when one dies, a part of the whole communities dies with them. So there is a sense of shared grief that is palatable and sometimes missing from the hyper-fast pace of non-Amish society.
I think it's lovely how the Amish all gather 'round each other in times of grief; well, actually in all things. It seems there is much we can learn from the Amish about the fundamentals of being decent human beings with a strong sense of community.
My family, Polish from the Detroit area do the same thing. This is not just an Amish 'thing' this is a close family 'thing' as well as a neighbor 'thing'. This is one of the values I love about our family.
I think that in the not that distant past, our families and neighbors were not that different in relation to the Amish. It is really a regrettable thing we have lost. Probably the dividing line would be placed at Post WW11 when we began scattering around the country.
That is probably a fair assessment on your chronology, I think!