Rest in Peace, or, The Funeral That Never Was


Henry and his sister Mede, circa 1912

Life on a farm allows one to share completely in the fullness of life. Crops grow, animals are born, and families increase. But along with life comes loss. Crops wither, animals die, and family members pass away. Children, along with their parents, attend funerals and witness the rites and rituals. And as we all know, children imitate what they see. So is there any wonder why a young Henry and Mede Jaeger decided to have a funeral for a dead bird they found on the farm? While Henry sneaked into the house to get his father’s long black Sunday coat, Mede filled a small box with hay and carefully placed the bird on top. Henry preached from a book supposed to be a Bible, all the while dragging the long coat in the dirt. He did not like the Mede, the “mourner” was only pretending to cry, so he slapped her hard across the face. When she really did begin to cry, he continued along with his sermon. The funeral was cut short, however, when their mother spotted them and yelled in German, “Kinder (children), what are you doing? What are you doing with Papa’s good coat?” At the sound of her voice, Henry dropped his book and stumbled over the coat tails just as Mede threw up the box. Out tumbled the dead bird as the two children fled in different directions. When questioned about this event 90 years later, Henry  said he never knew what became of  the bird.

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