Friday, 19 June 2015

Memories to Help Celebrate Father's Day

As part of celebrating Father's Day, I thought it would be fitting to post an excerpt from Hutterite Diaries. I know Dad would be so happy with this book, and the how things have been going since its release a month ago. For the third week in a row it has been on the Winnipeg Grant Park McNally Robinson bestseller list!
Beautiful is the man who leaves a legacy that of shared love and life.  It is he who transfers meaning, assigns significance and conveys in his loving touch, the fine art and gentle shaping of a life. This man shall be called, Father. — Stella Payton

Another Father’s Day without dad. It has been more than ten years since he died. On days like this, when I miss him the most, I like to engage in an activity that I know now he helped cultivate and nurture: storytelling...
...On a Hutterite colony it’s very common for members to volunteer at different tasks in addition to their daily duties. I’ve been tending the flowers at the community cemetery. I love the tranquility there, especially in the evening when the sun sinks low in the western sky. It creates lace-like shadows on the soft, cool grass.

From time to time, some of the children come to help with weeding or mowing the lawn. One day it was two school boys who worked with me. One of them proved to be a good little worker; the other one, not so much. Even with all my reprimands, he was clearly not in a working mood. The ripe raspberries that kept calling him from across the road didn’t help either.
Children always ask many questions about the people resting in the cemetery and enjoy listening to stories about them, especially if the person is a relative. “These markers are stones with stories. This stone says Edward and Marvin Maendel,” I tell them. “They’re my little brothers who died in a house fire many years ago.” The boys were silent. The past touched the present for a moment.
One year, my mom, Aunt Margaret, and I were planting flowers on the graves when the German teacher stopped by. “I think you could use some help here. I’ll go round up some boys for you,” he offered.
“That should go well,” I chuckled as I watched him leave. “I wonder if he knows what he’s up against. He’ll have to break up the Hutterite Grey Cup Game .” Watching them sometimes seems like there’s almost as much at stake as in the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup game.
Nevertheless, in a few minutes, I was pleasantly surprised when a parade of bikes headed our way. “How did you pull this off?” I queried.
“Wasn’t too difficult,” their teacher answered. “I just told them you needed help and that with so many working together, not too much precious game time would be lost.” Soon the place was bustling like a beehive. Some were planting and watering, while others were digging up around the trees and adding rich farm soil from the cow pasture. Before long the boys could return to the battle for bragging rights, with their impromptu, longer-than-usual half-time intermission behind them.
“Community action,” I mused when we were all done. It's another reminder of how invaluable multiple generations are to our communal life. In working together, tenets of our faith, values, work ethics, culture, and heritage are passed on to our children. Bridging past with present, gravestones evoke memories of those who walked before us and who call us to continue their legacy: "impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Dad, who lived by the maxim “Arbeit macht das Leben süβ” (“Work makes life sweet”), must have been smiling. Working together, three generations had transformed our cemetery, adding lovely splashes of color to the neatly trimmed carpet of grass.

1 comment:

  1. This kind of community help and working together is a great blessing!


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