As the nation mourns the victims of Monday's fatal school shooting in Lancaster County, Pa., the Amish community focuses on the funerals for their youngest victims. But there will be no lavish flower arrangements or fancy tombstones. The Amish approach death with the same somber simplicity that they show in other aspects of their lives.
Steve Shivery, an owner of Brown and Shivery Funeral Home in Lancaster, spent Tuesday preparing the bodies of two of the victims, Mary Liz Miller, 8, and her little sister, Lena Z. Miller, 7. In accordance with Amish custom, he returned the bodies to the Millers for services in the family home, Shivery says.
Shivery says that even though the Amish funeral service shares similarities with more mainstream religious services for the dead, its style stays consistent with the Amish way of life: No ornaments or modern technology are used. The ceremony takes the emphasis away from the individual who has died and places it more on hope, faith and the gathering of the community.
"The family has a meal and people bring cans and pies," Shivery tells ABC News. "The bodies will be brought to Bart Amish Cemetery, and the hearse is a normal buggy, just a little bit longer."
No makeup is used on the body, and the deceased is dressed in white garments made at home by the family. There will be no flowers, songs or eulogy during the two-hour German service, only a spoken hymn of the Lord's Prayer. The service focuses entirely on the concept of Christian resurrection. The Amish see funerals as a time of hope for what they believe is new life after death, observers say.
Shivery explains that the girls' funerals, which are being held Thursday and Friday, will draw exceptionally large crowds of mourners who will not fit into the families' homes. "They will have the service in the barns, as they are expecting 500 to 600 guests," Shivery says. He adds that the Miller family is doing as well as possible, but that it is still hard for them to believe what has happened to their children and to their town.
"This is just so much tragedy all at one time, whether it is one child in a family or five," Shivery says. "It is hard for them to process everything that is taking place."
For the members of Lancaster's Amish community, their faith is what sustains them.
"Sometimes we in our world try to hide death or make death into a scary thing," Shivery says. "I think they view death as a way of life also."