On Saturday I went home to attend the funeral of a woman who died at the age of 89. She was roughly my age when she and her husband became one of the founding families that established the community I grew up in. There were photos on display near her casket. In one photo, she and her husband were pictured with the other founding family in their old age along with both families’ various children who continued the community in the area with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The photos viewed by gathered progeny and the living representatives of ancestry, silently demonstrated the connection of this individual to an existence behind and before her, yet intimately connected to her.
Her funeral was a celebration of continued community rather than an obligatory blood family gathered to bury their dead. I ate lunch across the table from two Amish men who were discussing the value and quality of grain in Pennsylvania Dutch. I discovered the young Amish man was from the parent community this woman grew up in. He was her brother’s son’s son. I spoke to the two women next to me in Pennsylvania Dutch. One of the women had been up for the deceased’s husband’s funeral as well. She told me she had met my family during that visit and we spoke of our mutual grief: her young daughter had died in a car accident only two months after my sister had died in a car accident at 22. She had showed us photos of her daughter. Later, I sent her a note and the poem I had written and read at my sister’s funeral. I had forgotten but her memory of the comfort received, demonstrated her appreciation for our participation in shared suffering.
I spoke Pennsylvania Dutch to the Amish. I spoke Spanish to the Columbian family and the Guatemalan family, who were new to the community. I was invited to stay with the relatives of the Columbian family in Columbia, if I should ever travel there. I felt a rejuvenation of spirit that none can express as I was connected to those who knew my Doddy’s name. I spoke the language of my past and of my future. I was more than a first name remembered for only a moment.