Friday, December 11, 2015
As much alike as we are different—Carolyn R. Wilker
In our mailbox Tuesday was a Christmas card from an Amish school friend named Rachel. It’s hard to believe after so many years ago in our one room school house that we would one day be corresponding again, but thanks to another friend, Gayleen, we were reconnected years later.
I opened the card from Rachel first. It’s probably been close to a year since I'd last heard from her. Summer is a busy time on an Amish farm—on any farm really—and especially with doing things in a more labour intensive way without hydro. Her lifestyle is so different from mine, but the friendship remains. The card message said: “May our world be filled with Peace this holiday season” and then a personal note to me in her handwriting.
About fifteen years ago, Gayleen, whom I had known since childhood, planned a visit to see Rachel on her farm and wondered if I’d like to come along. After all, I knew most of the Amish children who went to our school. The visit to her clean and neat home and surroundings helped to rekindle that relationship. I was grateful to be included.
What do you give as a hostess gift to an Amish friend who writes? Letter stationery, of course. I wrote a note, thanking her for her hospitality and the opportunity of meeting three of her grandchildren. She wrote back again in the fall when the farm work slowed, thus I had her address when Gayleen became very ill a few years ago.
I wrote to Rachel each week and kept her up-to-date on Gayleen’s condition. I knew Rachel would want to be informed and that she would be praying too.
When Gayleen died, I was in mourning. Here was a friend I had known all my life, as children, as adults and parents. We'd shared prayer concerns and our faith too and she had been at my book event in our home town.
Winter weather or not, I had to get word to Rachel. Would she make it to the funeral all those miles in horse and buggy, or might she hire a driver to take her? It would be her call. A letter would not make it there in time, and so I brainstormed with a friend and came up with a plan.
I called the farm supply store in the nearby town to see if they had any business dealings with Rachel and her husband. I said it was important to reach Rachel and why. Bless the woman’s heart, she went through her sales list and gave me the name and contact information of a neighbour who lived down the same road.
I’d followed up and introduced myself to Rene, who promised to pass along the message. I gave him the details of the funeral and visitation. He asked, “Did I know that her husband had been unwell.” Yes, I knew. A winter storm prevented him from getting there that day, he said; he barely made it home from town in such a storm. I thanked him and left the message in his and God’s hands to make it happen and I hoped that Rachel might still find a way to come.
Rachel’s letter arrived only days after our friend’s funeral saying she’d wanted to come, but winter storms and her husband’s frail health prevented her. She would have hired a driver except she had no back-up care for Ed. She thanked me for my letters, and in her letter commended Gayleen to God.
And so this short letter, inside the card, this week began,
Dear friend, Just a few lines of Christmas cheer and may you all have had a good year.
Rachel wrote that she’d been in touch with Lydia, another of the Amish girls who had been a special friend of mine during those school days, and told me that she had sent my book to Lydia. I was excited to hear that Sherrill had sent a copy to Rachel and that it was being passed along.
Perhaps Lydia and I can re-connect too, I thought. It would depend on how Lydia feels about my school house memories, with them included, and if she wishes to re-establish our connection after so many years.
The note continued with news of Rachel’s husband regaining some movement but still confined to a wheelchair, and she told me about Ed’s sister dying of cancer. Rachel closed her note with these words:
Life changes every year, we must live close to God who is unchanging. May you know him this Christmas season.
I found the perfect card and got it in the mail the next day, along with a hand-written note. She may live a different lifestyle, much more restricted than my own, but she believes in God too. We have things in common. Not surprising really since we’re all human and God’s children. I’m thankful for my Amish friends.
Carolyn R. Wilker is an author, editor and storyteller from southwestern Ontario. Sign up for her newsletter, FineTuned, about writing. She's on Facebook too.
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