As Mennonites, we seem to have a complicated relationship to the dead. Officially, we, as Brüderthaler, seem to have a belief against honoring the dead. Interestingly, my grandmother reiterated this when I questioned whether or not she wanted to view Grandfather’s grave in the country churchyard. “No,” she replied, “he is not there – that does nothing to remind me of him.”
This is despite the fact that she often joins her non-Mennonite family in recognizing their duty to decorate and clean the graves of her non-Mennonite family located in the city cemetery an hour away.
Half-Swedish, I also belong to a Scandinavian culture that has often historically blurred the lines separating the living from the dead -- the paradoxical personal resolution of the opposing cultural beliefs that I have had no problem resolving in favor of the Swedes.
The theory behind the Brüderthaler tradition is that in the graveyard, we have merely buried a husk and that the essence of the person is now in Heaven with the Heavenly Father. If we want to speak to them or miss them, the appropriate response is to not waste one’s time in an empty graveyard, but instead to live a Holy life so that we too might join them in paradise. The bodies are of no account, merely resting in storage, carefully arranged so that they will raise facing Jerusalem (east) when they are called for at the end times Resurrection.