Sadness fills a beautiful, peaceful valley

Rock Doves, pigeons, barn roof

Pigeons roost atop Ivan’s barn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Sadness has come to my favorite valley.

Now, there are plenty of beautiful valleys in our area. For me to say I have a favorite sounds a bit selfish. It’s not. It’s personal.

To be sure, I don’t own the undulating acreage. I just enjoy it.

You can’t find a name for my favored hollow on any map. I’ve never heard anyone refer to it by name in the three decades my wife and I have lived here.

Amish school, one-room school, Drushel Knoll School

Drushel Knoll School. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

An Amish one-room school, Drushel Knoll, might come the closest to naming this wide-open expanse of land surrounded by wooded hills. Drushel was a pioneer landowner where the school sits. The knoll is nothing more than a rise in a sweeping pasture.

To call it a valley might even be a stretch. A quiet brook lazily meanders northwest through this productive, fertile ground. For the longest time, the land was all farmland. Farmsteads dotted hill and dale. More recently, a few residences have also popped up along the skinny township road that rises, falls and rises again east and west.

This is the sacred place where I take my physical and mental exercises. When the weather is decent, I love to walk this humble road over to Ivan’s farm.

Amish school children, scholars walking

Students walk to the Amish school in the valley. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I will continue to do so, but Ivan will no longer be there. As he fixed his lunch bucket for work one recent morning, he collapsed and was gone. He was only 65.

Ivan would bicycle by our home on the way to and from his job at a local business we can see from our home. Not long ago, he had turned the hard but satisfying task of farming over to his energetic son, whose wife was one of my former students.

As my wife and I entered the farm building where Ivan’s body lay at rest, friends and warm handshakes greeted us. We paid our last respects to this quiet, hard-working man, husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend.

Tears flowed as we bent to share our condolences with Ivan’s widow and family. In the Amish tradition, family members sit in rows of facing chairs as mourners quietly pass through, shaking hands left and right, nodding heads, sharing moments, memories, and sorrowful tears.

summer sunset, Ohio's Amish country

The pond behind Ivan’s barn reflected a beautiful summer sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Wife, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, all expressed grace in the Amish manner, through their quiet, reverent presence. It was a communion of sorts, tears for wine, a gathering of steadfast people its bread.

I marveled at the strength of the family, their genuine kindness and positive comments even in the face of their grievous loss. As I scanned the forlorn faces, I saw folks I had not seen for years. Our spirits mutually embraced without actually hugging one another.

When you live in a rural community for decades, you take for granted the integral connections of one family to another. Being among those assembled mourners, the closeness and goodness of our common kinship washed over me.

Ivan was a good man, a quiet man, a respected man, a man of peace. To a member, his family mirrors his pleasant disposition.

It seemed impossible that such sadness could hover over this lovely setting, home, family. And yet, it did. It does.

A different kind of beauty flooded my favorite valley. The loving grace of community responding to a stricken, grieving family surpassed that of the basin’s enchanting pastoral physical features.

Even in death’s darkness, the light radiated in my beloved valley.

Amish farm, walking

My grandsons check out birds on the fence and phone line on a summer’s morning walk. Ivan’s farm is in the background. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

19 Comments

Filed under Amish, column, family, news, Ohio, photography, writing

19 responses to “Sadness fills a beautiful, peaceful valley

  1. Ava

    Your post is sheer beauty, Bruce. This line is writing at its finest: “It was a communion of sorts, tears for wine, a gathering of steadfast people its bread.” What a loving tribute to your neighbors to capture the essence of their sorrow in such ineffably beautiful words.

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    • Thank you so much, Ava. I’m glad you liked that line. As part of the Anabaptist community, you certainly know the heartfelt meaning of those words. Your understanding and appreciation mean a lot to me.

      Blessings,

      Bruce

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      • Ava

        In truth, that is one of the most exquisite word capturings of feeling and community I have ever read in literature anywhere.

        I loved this line too: “Our spirits mutually embraced without actually hugging one another.” Both of those lines capture perfectly the rich deep heart connections that underlie the austere Old Order community lifestyle. That you grasp that truth and put such exquisite words around it for others is a tremendous gift to both the plain people and those who see only the surface austerity. Since my Old Order Mennonite heritage is so similar to the Amish and equally misunderstood by those who see only the surface dead formalities, your understanding of the richness underlying those austere ways touches a deep place in my spirit. Thank you for walking in the “gift that is in you.”

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      • Thank you, again, for your generous and gracious words, Ava.

        Grace and peace,

        Bruce

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  2. Once again you have brought you have touched my heart with your words to describe a man I did not know and a place I have not been. Praying God’s peace for you and Ivan’s Family as life goes on for those he left behind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I echo Ava’s sentiments on your imagery of communion. I had never considered the tears and people as elements of communion. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gail Brown

    A beautiful and eloquent eulogy, Bruce. May memories of a man well loved and a life well lived warm your heart at this sad time. Our thoughts are with you. Gail and Don

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  5. Wonderful writing. RIP to your friend, Bruce.

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  6. So sorry for your loss, but what a beautiful tribute to both the man and the community that loved him!

    Like

  7. Pingback: Weekly Blogroll: Pondering Beauty; Farm Angles, Amish Hashed Browns, PB & J Shake, , and Amish Barbecued Meatloaf - Amish 365: Amish Recipes - Oasis Newsfeatures

  8. Beverly

    Mr. Stambaugh, you do honor to your dear friend “Ivan” by this tender, loving piece you wrote about him! Please remember- ” The spirit lives, as long as the living remember!” Old Indian saying (sounds like he had a sudden heart attack and didn’t suffer) My sincere condolences to you and all of Ivan’s family!! Blessings

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