On The Outside, Looking In

Short Stories

On The Outside, Looking In
Faith Restored


Driving along a country lane, I am in awe of my surroundings. Its April 1995, and yet I feel I've just crossed over a time threshold. What amazes me the most is that I know I haven't traveled back in time, nor am I visiting a 'living museum', but traveling on a back country road in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
That day, in early April, was the beginning of my quest to know and learn all I could about the people called the Amish and Mennonites.

From the moment I saw a buggy for the first time, I knew I had to be more than a tourist. I wanted to stop and meet with and talk to, these 'Plain People'. But, I did not want to intrude, so upon returning home from that trip, I borrowed many books from the library about the Amish and Mennonites.

That June, I returned to Pennsylvania for another trip. And again in October. Then again in March and April of 1996! I simply couldn't get enough of the place and the people who made me feel so good inside my heart and soul.

On that March trip, I bought a book I had read about in yet another book. The book I purchased was titled, 'Goodnight My Son'-A Treasure In Heaven', written by Esther Smucker, an Old Order Amish woman from Lancaster County, PA.

Her book was about the tragic death of her 5 year old son, David Jr, who was killed by a speeding car, in front of their home. It tore at my heart and I don't know how I was able to get through that book in only one night, through so many tears.

Esther also wrote of the sad death of another son, Johnnie (a twin to Jacob, their oldest child) at 7 months old, due to SIDS, 10 years earlier.

Throughout her story, I could feel her strength becoming my strength! I could feel something stirring in my heart that I had lost 8 years before, when at almost 5 months pregnant, my precious baby died inside of me. On that horrible day, I lost my baby and...I lost my faith.

All I knew was that my baby was gone and God was responsible. I blamed God, myself, my husband, the doctors and anyone who was convienant.

For years, I suffered the emotional agony of my baby's death. Even though I still prayed every night, to God for my baby in Heaven and for my children here on earth, I always felt something was missing.......and that was my faith.

Esther's moving words and her ability to accept everything as God's will, was incredible to me! She was someplace that I wasn't.....at peace with God and herself. With her moving story, Esther showed me the path I needed to take to get there.
I knew my baby was in Heaven, but Esther showed me that my baby was 'In the Glory of Heaven!'

I was overwhelmed with so many feelings at once! I just let them come and took it all in. I no longer felt anyone was responsible and I felt my faith coming back. I was able to be at peace with what happened and more important, I was able to let my baby be at peace. I was willing to let Jesus take the burden for me.
My spiritual renewal came at a time I needed it the most. You see, right after that, I found out I have Lupus (SLE). I believe God knew the path He was leading me on when I first visited that area in Pennsylvania a year before!

The Amish and Mennonites were my way back to God... Esther was my guide along the way and Jesus was lighting the path for me.

I wrote to Esther the day after reading her book. I poured my heart out to her and told her how I felt I knew her and her son's, David and Johnnie, through her words. I told her how she and the 'Plain People' in general, (due to my strong intrest in learning about them) have helped me in finding my faith in Jesus again.
I mailed out that letter without even having her exact address. I went by locations I figured on a map, that coincided with areas in her story. I hoped it would find its way to her! And amazingly...it did! Mind you...there are MANY 'Smucker' families in Amish Country!

I believe my letter was carried to her, on a wing and a prayer.

She wrote back to me and I recieved her letter a day before I was due to leave for Lancaster County again.  In her letter, she told us (myself and my then-husband) to stop by on my journey, as I had mentioned in my letter, that we would be coming to the area again, soon.

Well, we did stop by and it was an incredible visit! I felt that I knew her for years! We sat and talked for awhile, then we went to the barn to meet her husband, David. They have a beautiful farm and our eyes couldn't even see the end of it from where we stood. Esther then showed me the 'Remembrance Garden' for her boys in Heaven. I had brought flowers to plant there -Peter Pans- the significance being that Peter Pan was forever young...like our babies in Heaven. Esther said to plant them there in remembrance my baby too! I was so very moved by that. She knew my baby never had a burial.

Her daughter Emma, 5 at that time, had never heard of Peter Pan, and for that matter, Esther had not either. (Fairy tales are not books usually read by young Amish) So I explained the story briefly and told Emma I would send her a copy of the book when I returned home. Esther said it was fine to do so.

When it came time to leave, I was saddened, for I felt a special bond with Esther. Here we were from two seperate worlds brought together by common grief.
After leaving, I stopped at the little Amish cemetary where David Jr. and Johnnie lay resting. It moved me to tears.

Esther and I correspond often and I have learned a lot from her, about her, and about myself.

Someday it is our hope to move to Lancaster County. I feel so strongly that I should live there. You can feel peace all around you there.  That is where I want to grow old.

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