Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Went to a Funeral Today

Although Marlin Yoder didn’t grow up in the Amish community, his grandfather did and all of the relatives before him. His last name speaks of his Amish roots. When I first started writing Amish, he told me if I ever needed information, he had lots of stories. And he was a great story teller! I knew he was sick and planned to visit him. I also wanted to find out why his father left the Amish community. But he passed away two weeks later. I missed out on saying good-bye to one of the most admirable people I know, and hearing first hand about the true-life experiences of the characters I craft every day. Marlin would have made them real.

His Amish relatives came to the funeral. They were an Old Order group from Kansas who wore the traditional black and white clothing. It was interesting to hear them reminisce about Marlin and even more so what they chose to remember him by, it was so Amish. He had a bird call no one could quite figure out what bird it actually went with, if there was one at all. He had an incredible work ethic that is so common for the Amish, and he loved to sing! Amish are big singers, they sing for two sometimes three hours straight at services. Can you imagine? My throat’s dry already:) And he clapped his hands, which isn’t so uncommon for any of us who sing worship songs, but not for hours. He loved his students unconditionally, and prayed without ceasing. We’ve all heard comments like that, but Marlin truly lived that way.

What would my friends and family say about me? Probably not about bird calls, singing and clapping. Maybe the work ethic part. And I do pray, but still not compared to Marlin. Would something profound or really deep come to mind? I hope so, but probably not like the comments I heard about Marlin.

I tell you all of this two-fold. Because many of you are writers, and we all know how important it is to be accurate with the facts when writing. I often hesitate when there is an opportunity to interview someone, or make a connection with a person who might have some insight on what I’m writing about. But I’ve learned to seize the moment by visiting Amish/Mennonite churches and taking a trip to Lancaster. I have come to find out people are usually eager to answer questions for you, and your story will be a lot better for the effort.

But more importantly, this experience has made me think about how people will see me when it’s my time to go. I’m learning how to make my life simpler, yet memorable and perhaps little things like bird calls and singing your heart out are more important than I thought:)

Question…What is your interview style, and how do you find people to interview?
Personal Question…If you could write your obituary what would it say?


Jillian Kent said...

I'm sorry that you missed saying good-bye to Marlin. I'm sure he would have appreciated your blog post. I love the picture. I can't imagine all that singing either. I'm sure my obit would include something about my writing life, my concern for those with mental illness, how much I loved my family and critters, what a movie nut I was and how I loved books and chocolate.:)

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

When I went to my dear Aunt Rhoda's funeral last February, I thought about what others would say about me at my own funeral. Sort of morbid. However, the time is now to make a difference and impact others' lives. Great post!

Beth Shriver said...

I enjoy getting to know about you, Jill. I too have a great love for my pets, movies, books and chocolate!!

Beth Shriver said...

I guess you're right Andrea, we all do the self examination thing to some extent at a funeral, but this one touched me more than usual. I agree that we need to live for the here and now so that we live up to the standards we've made for ourselves.

Jan said...

When my father died our minister asked both if I had any memories I wanted to share, or if there were any special hymns I would like to share. I had both. My Dad had a beautiful tenor voice and I clearly remembered him singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" in the shower, or as he did his wood-working. So we sang that song at his funeral, and it was the best and toughest moment of the service for me. Thanks, Beth, for reminding us what matters, and what sticks. Thoughtful article.

Beth Shriver said...

Thanks for sharing, Jan. You have some beautiful memories!