Living Hope in Death

Every time I attend funeral services for an Old Order Mennonite family member or friend, I wish those “outside” could experience their death rituals, rich with culture, community, and faith. The horse-drawn hearse and the four-part-harmony singing make me cry every time.

This week I attended the funeral for my great Aunt Mary. Later that evening, I wrote this poem about the graveside portion of the service.

Stoic Hope

Regina Cyzick Harlow


From Aunt Mary Beery’s funeral

Shovels scratch

Dirt onto the coffin

Filling the grave

Formed from dust

To dust returning


Black hats

Black shawls

Sturdy shoes



Discretely wiping tears

Faint florals blend

With horses



And moth balls

Wafting on the breeze


Blue sky

Breathing deep

Crisp air

Inhaling the promise

Of Living Hope

For those unfamiliar with Old Order Mennonites, they are often confused with Amish because they drive horse and buggy, dress plainly, and live simple agrarian lives. My family and I were raised in the Old Order Mennonite faith, and while I had my reasons for leaving as a young adult, I hold many things and people dear from their community.

My friend, Ava, wrote an in-depth article about their death rituals here. She captures the essence of what happens at the time of death through the funeral in vivid beautiful detail.

Here is a link to a photography essay of an Old Order Mennonite Family by a friend of mine, of life-long family friends/neighbors.

2 Comments on “Living Hope in Death

  1. Love your poem, it’s beautiful! I was raised Old Order as well, and hubby is from the “outside” 😉 He dearly loves to go to Old Order funerals with me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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