Beliefnet
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The bodies of the dead will be dressed by family members in white, almost the only time people of the Amish faith wear anything other than dark tones.

Plain pine coffins will be placed in a room in their family homes, from which all furniture and decorations have been stripped. Viewings will be held at least a day before the funeral.

The mothers will wear black for a year. The men will wear white shirts instead of their usual solid-colored ones.

The funerals will be in two parts -- first, small morning services at the homes and then, later in the morning, larger services in a home or a barn officiated by two or three ministers.

The two-hour services, conducted entirely in German, will be hopeful, said Alfred R. "Pops" Furman, 79, who has been arranging funerals for the Amish in Lancaster County for the past half-century. There will be no eulogies. Respect for the deceased will be expressed, but not praise, he said.

There will be no singing. No flowers.

After the service, the coffins will be transported by horse-drawn carriage to a cemetery for a final, brief viewing. The coffins will then be lowered into the hand-dug graves and covered with dirt.

An Amish bishop "will read a hymn at the grave site" as the dirt is shoveled, said Stephen Scott, a researcher at Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Groups who has written several books about the Amish.

Simple tombstones will mark the spot -- much like all the other tombstones in the cemetery. In death as in life, the Amish are all equal and do not elevate one person above another.

The Amish have long been fascinating to the rest of America because of how simply and peacefully they live. Now, the focus will be on how the plain people mourn their dead.

Funerals for all five victims are scheduled for Thursday (Oct. 5) and Friday (Oct. 6), according to funeral homes handling arrangements.

They will be buried at the Bart Amish Cemetery in Georgetown, a couple of miles from the one-room schoolhouse where the shooting occurred. Roads to the Amish cemetery will be blocked to keep media and their cameras away from gravesite preparations.

"Like other people, perhaps you, in your religion, we mourn. But where you might sit by yourself to grieve, we all gather at the family home. You are not alone," said Lizzy, an Amish woman who declined to give her last name. "And after that, friends will come by the house to visit every Sunday for a year, and stop by during the week, too."

The Amish grieve like anybody else, but their traditions for mourning the dead are ancient and a little different from those of "the English," as they call non-Amish.

Some sources state that the Amish funeral has remained essentially unchanged for 300 years.

"I have been in hundreds and hundreds of their homes over the years. They are wonderful people, and very private," Furman said.

"There will be very little, if any, eulogizing," Scott said. "The Amish feel that you shouldn't praise people, that your praise should be to God."

Lizzy, who lives near the scene of the school shooting, stood on the porch of her sturdy farmhouse this week and said the strong connection the Amish and their extended community feel for one another, and their faith, is their best armor against a hurtful world.

"Our people come right away to the house. We do not grieve alone," she said.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus