With a constant smile and a warm greeting, he sold spices, fruit preserves, homemade noodles in the local Amish farmer’s market. No one was certain of his age, or even his last name.
He was known as Grandpa Jake.
I loved shopping there. He sold his spices in small, hand-labeled plastic packets mounted on a simple peg board.
On this day, I was looking for a small quantity of bay leaf.
I told him that I only use it in certain soups and stews and ended up wasting a lot of it.
He smiled and asked if I knew about bay leaf tea, claiming that with a little honey and cinnamon, was “simply wonderful, soothing, and very therapeutic.”
One week later, Grandpa Jake was gone. He complained to a neighboring vendor in the market that he did not feel well. At the hospital, they found that he had a congestive heart and fluid in his lungs.
He passed away a few hours later. The hospital staff honored his living will, there was no attempt to resuscitate.
Many of his fellow market vendors attended the traditional Amish funeral. Dressed in white in a handcrafted pine casket, he was honored in his home; rows of horse and buggies parked in the front yard.
Long tables at the entry held the straw hats of his peers, a measure of respect. Prayers were said. A simple meal was served. Friends and family dug his grave, marked by a plain concrete headstone.
And that was it. There was no obituary in the local newspaper, no photographs are permitted in their culture.
His market inventory is being sold off, profits going to family.
I stopped by to purchase a few items. Apple butter, homemade preserves, hot sauce.
And just a little more bay leaf.
Brewed with a cinnamon stick and a bit of honey, it is delightful.
And it will always remind me of this gentle man and his sweet spirit.
Rest in peace, Grandpa Jake.