As my husband and I drive up to the funeral home, the parking lot and every street surrounding the building is full of cars. We have come to the viewing of the minister of the Mennonite Church of my youth – in my book known as Alvin Schmutz. His death, at 75, was sudden, a surprise to all. I have maintained a friendship over the years with his daughter, Yolanda Schowalter, who along with her husband provided me with the room to live in during that first year after my departure from the farm. I wanted to be here for her, her sisters, brother, and mother but I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I no longer recognize people I knew 25 years ago. One man I do recognize is the former bishop, Saul Schowalter. His greeting is cheerful and affectionate. He is now 84 years old. As we chat, he apologizes several times for those years so long ago. “I just didn’t know what else to do and how to treat the situation differently. Your father just didn’t listen to anything.” I hold no ill feelings as I know all too well that my father did not listen to anyone. But it is healing to hear those words of humility so many years later. I realize, too, how caught I was between loyalty to my father and what he wanted and to wanting to behave differently. It was just not possible in that situation.
Yoland had also shared with me a few days before that after a meeting we had a few months earlier during which I shared with her many things that have happened with my family in the last few years, she was able to go home and thank her parents for the parenting they had given to her. That was the last time that she had spoken to her father before his death. The tears well behind my eyes and goose bumps raise on my arms when I learn this. God has used my struggles to allow healing for one other person before it was too late. For that I am thankful.