It's been just over a year that our family experienced 2 deaths back to back...only 13 days apart. All through our Christmas holiday in 2012 we were told that my paternal Amish grandpa "Joe" was fading from this life. I lost my paternal grandma "Barbara" in 2009. My grandparents were still taking care of their daughter with Downs Syndrome also named Barbara. She was also not doing well.
When we traveled up to Delaware it was difficult to watch as my grandpa lay in bed barely breathing at times. He was never alone. He was talked to, touched, and sung to. My dad was pale and everyone was exhausted. At any given moment his bedroom was flooded with all of his children (except for Barbara who wasn't able to join them because of her health) and their spouses so they could be there with him until the end.
On the morning of January 5th he passed from this life to the next. He had been a good man. He'd been the father to nine children. Two of them left the Amish (my dad being one and his oldest son) and seven stayed Amish. He had been a preacher in the church for decades. A servant's heart and he had the bluest, clearest eyes.
Thirteen days later my sweet Downs Syndrome Aunt Barbara passed away. I was not able to be there with her at that point but was told that the more she faded away from this life she appeared that she was growing younger. She smiled at the end and practically glowed with the invitation from heaven.
Losing 2 special people in such a short amount of time isn't easy. Part of my feeling of loss was that I'd grown up so far away from them both. And the heartache I felt for my dad who lost his father and sister...and my mom who saw them as her own family and not "the in-laws."
While they were Amish, I am pleased to say that we do have a few treasured photos.
While my grandpa was laying in bed usually Barbara was in a different part of the house but if one stirred or became agitated, so did the other. They were so deeply connected. Barbara wasn't able to walk well but suddenly this day she got up and walked to see her dad...then moved on and was so pale and shaken up she had to sit. Here her sister, my aunt, Emmy was comforting her. My sister sat alongside. Emmalene and Barbara had been quite a pair when they were children and she has many wonderful memories of their friendship.
That last visit with her was very difficult. I prefer to remember her a little more like this...
Everyone who is reading this I'm sure has experienced loss in some way. The helplessness of these experiences stick with us...but so does the joining and uniting of family. In the midst of the sadness there's always someone who is the comic relief...in our case it was Uncle Johnny and his hilarious antics. He really doesn't even mean to be funny...but just is.
We visited my Amish family in Delaware again this Thanksgiving...it was my first trip back since they've been gone. One of the things I missed most was how usually the day after Thanksgiving my siblings and I would buy pizza and sodas and my Daudy always liked Pepsi. His eyes would twinkle when he would say thank you and give us a shy smile. Barbara would refuse to eat the pizza and insist on ice cream.
I'm going to miss them. I'm going to miss the fact that my children won't ever really know them outside of these few pictures and the stories we can tell and retell. It reminds me once again how important it is to keep connections with family strong. They are so desperately important.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:7