Monday, June 17, 2013

Do the Amish talk about death and the afterlife?

Last week I introduced proverbs the Amish use, Rules of a Godly Life.  They're so contrary to contemporary culture today, because they make you stare into eternity and face some facts. Death is a reality, one over the ages has been erased from the American psyche.
Here's another rule and tell me when was the last time you read something so blunt

And when you go to bed at night, pause a moment to realize that it is unknown to you whether you will awake again on this earth

What  nice way to tuck in Susie and Johnny?
This is a sobering thought and something you most likely wouldn’t want to think of before you go to bed.  But in the 18th century it was a common thought.  In the New England Primer, a text used by most schools in Colonial America into the late 19th century, this prayer was printed:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

If I shall die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.


But a newer version came out, one that would erase any fear or thought of death:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord, my soul to keep;

Angels watch me through the night

and keep me in their blessed sight.


It’s a cute poem, but not a powerful prayer.
The Amish recount death daily in their culture by reading The Martyr's Mirror, a huge collection of stories of their forefathers and the persecution they endured. The story of Dirk Willems is known by most Amish, and is an example of suffering. Below is a video with original pictures from Martyr's Mirror and then the story of Dirk Willems. As you can see, the Amish don't erase death out of their vocabulary.
When I visit Amish friends, death is often talked about. I don't know if it's because I'm a trusted English friend and they feel free to open up. Many folks say the Amish don't talk about death and people that have passed on. This is a mystery to me since they reflect on it more often than anyone in our American culture. Another mystery: they're considered some of the happiest people on the planet by many polls. So, is there a correlation?


Video with original picture from Martyr's Mirror and the story of Dirk Willem


  1. I have to agree with the Amish, if I understand their view on this subject. Death is just another part of life, and as a Christian, it's only sad because we are temporarily separated from the loved one who has died. We must go on without them for a while. But I fully expect to see those I love, again, when I reach my final destination, and I look forward to that day with joy and great anticipation. I don't fear much in this world. After all, what's the worst that can happen? Someone will kill me? And I will reach that ultimate destination sooner!

  2. Leslie Merry, thank you for your insightful message. I agree. I look at my parents being in another country where that I can't through to...not yet ;)

  3. Mother was from Western Pennsylvania. I was born in 1951. At bedtime she prayed that older version with me. It was slightly different, using the word "should" instead of "shall". I like the plain speech of the older prayer.