“Plain Secrets” , is about the experiences of the writer who lived next to the Amish family who were of the Swartzentruber sect. Written by Joe Mackall.
In this chapter, ” Everyone Who Knew Him” the author begins addressing some of the horrible accidents that had recently been happening between cars and buggies, resulting in Amish deaths.
He went on to explore how people deal with such things, often throwing up their hands exclaiming that it was ‘the will of God.” The author also struggles with the simple faith that his Amish neighbor has…as in he questions it sometimes.
Later on in the chapter, the author went to let Samuel, the Amish next-door-neighbor, know that his ( the author’s ) Uncle Bob had died a few weeks ago.
” I told him about Uncle Bob. “I just wanted you to know,” I said.
“He was always nice when he came here,” Samuel said. “The girls really like him. Apple butter and eggs seemed to be all he ever wanted. He must have loved apple butter,”
Samuel paused for a few seconds and then asked what I guessed he’d been wanting to ask for a long time.
“What exactly was wrong with Uncle Bob? ”
The author explained that a tumor had been found on the frontal lobe of his brain when he was 1 years of age. The plan was to use radiation, but because that treatment was new in the 1930’s, the doctors used too much of it, or for too long of a time and as a result, his brain was damaged. Because of this he couldn’t read or do math, drive, marry or support himself.
“But he could be everybody’s friend and be the lucky owner of an endless spirit…. “Some doctor just screwed up, I said, feeling angry about a man’s damaged life and fresh death.
“Maybe a doctor made a mistake but God didn’t,” Samuel said . “God made Uncle Bob that way because everybody who knew him needed him to be exactly the way he was.
Everybody who knew him needed him to be exactly the way that he was. These words opened up new thought trails in my mind. Over five hundred people attended Uncle Bob’s funeral, making it clear that he knew and was known by people the rest of us saw only as strangers, strangers who sobbed for a man with a victimized brain and a damaged heart. Everybody who knew him needed him to be exactly the way he was. With Samuel’s words in my head, I decided to let his words soak in.”
Photos are from the photography book titled “The Gift to be Simple” which is about various Old Order and other Amish sects in the area where the photographer lived, and after being there for many years, he was permitted to take photographs. Written & Photographed by Bill Coleman.
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