This wonderful post is shared by courtesy of Cindy at Letters from Mid-Life’s blog.
We attended the annual dinner given by the business my husband works for last weekend. This isn’t your usual company dinner. This construction company is owned by a conservative Mennonite man and except for Brad, the employees are all Amish or conservative Mennonites. Some drive cars, others drive horse and buggies. Their wives and daughters all wear the appropriate dresses and head coverings according to their church mandates. Brad and I are the only non-conservative/Mennonite/Amish, or “English” as they call people outside of their faith, so each year I’m very aware that I especially am the odd person in the bunch. Brad doesn’t look all that different than the rest but I do.
It is a feeling that is self-imposed though because the other women always welcome me with open arms and engage me in their conversation without judgment or hesitation. It helps that I am a homemaker and have knowledge of domestic arts like baking, canning and sewing.
One Amish woman in particular is always glad to see me as I am her. She is probably in her late 20’s or early 30’s and she and her husband have two young children, a small family by Amish standards and there won’t be more. She has multiple sclerosis which has begun to affect her ability to speak and to control the movement of her arms and hands. But she is always smiling and trying to engage in conversation despite the challenges. When I walked into the room she immediately reached for me to shake my hand and say hello. She proceeded to tell me that her youngest child started school this fall and loved it. She asked how my children were doing and was happy to hear that our youngest daughter will be getting married.
That alone brings tears to my eyes but it gets even better. Brad and I sat across the table from this young Amish couple and what I witnessed was so humbling. As the food was being passed (we were at an Amish home and enjoyed a feast of home cooking in abundance), her husband put food on her plate. Then, he carefully cut up the food into small pieces and proceeded to spoon feed his wife before eating his own food. No one stared, neither of them seemed embarassed. I realized this was a daily routine for them, nothing out of the ordinary. She couldn’t hold a utensil easily, or drink from a cup gracefully. Everything I take for granted like being able to eat, dress myself, and brush my teeth are things she must rely on others for. Her husband seemed to take it in stride and they both continued to carry on conversation with others around the table as if this was no different than any other meal.
It was a beautiful picture of unconditional love. I suspect neither of them thought twice about who would care for her as her disease progressed. Family cares for her while her husband is at work. The children do all they can to help without question or resentment. Their faith is strong and while I’m sure there are moments of frustration and questioning, they seem to accept this as part of life and God’s plan even if they don’t know the reason why. It would be a devastating illness for any of us but I’m sure for her it is even more difficult to not be able to do the homemaking chores that Amish women are known for – gardening, cooking, baking, sewing, cleaning, canning, helping husbands with farm work.
I am indeed humbled and awed by what I observed. It isn’t often that I have the chance to observe true faith and unconditional love in action and I am better for it.