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In Memory of Ben Coblentz

The funeral for Ben Coblentz was held on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 under postcard-perfect sunny skies.

I'm going to avoid a play-by-play account of the day, to preserve the privacy and anonymity the Amish crave and that Elizabeth deserves. Tuesday was, however, an emotional day for all involved. I arrived home Tuesday night feeling tired and sad.

A visitation was held all-day Monday. The number of signatures in Elizabeth's guestbook hasn't yet been tallied, but I wouldn't be shocked if 800 people filed by Ben's open casket, which was resting in the Coblentz home. The Amish traditionally hold visitations in their homes. The casket is typically very plain, made of a sturdy but not flashy wood. Elizabeth and her daughters greeted each visitor. It was a mainly Amish attendance.

Elizabeth is doing about as well as can be expected under the circumstances. She'll miss Ben terribly, as they truly were inseparable. I was very inspired, though, by Elizabeth's strength through sadness yesterday. Dressed in black, and clearly grief-stricken, there was a strong resolve showing through. I know she'll come through this.

On Tuesday morning, an hour-long funeral service, spoken completely in German, was held. Then Ben's body was taken by horse-drawn buggy to a nearby cemetery where he was buried in a poignant, simple ceremony. Amish cemeteries aren't ornate. There are no headstones, and no flowers on grave-sites. The simplicity that the Amish live in life is carried on in death.

After the funeral service, a large meal is held for everyone in attendance. The somber mood lifts a little as the meal turns into a celebration of life. Numerous children, bright and beaming, scamper and play outside, reflecting the hope for infinite tomorrows. The adults share stories about the deceased, laughing and finding comfort in the good memories. The Amish are a strong people, accepting that Death is not an end, but simply a chapter change, a transitioning to a better place. This doesn't erase sadness, but it strengthens stoicism.

Elizabeth is receiving many, many emails from readers. I can assure you that she will receive and read every single one. Your emails are making my days busy, but I am printing out each one and placing them into a ring binder. I will take them to Elizabeth next week. I know her and her daughters will draw great strength and comfort from reading them.

I left Elizabeth's yesterday with a sad heart, but am comforted by the knowledge that she'll be surrounded by friends, family, and faith. For the Amish, that truly is everything. It's an example I wish the rest of the world could more often follow.

In Memoriam
Benjamin A. "Ben" Coblentz
died 20 May 2000 at age 69