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Chapter 10: Gettysburg
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South towards Gettysburg
Friday, January 3, 9:00 A.M.
Lacey held the Vette in the outside lane and cruised at a steady 60 m.p.h. as the commuter traffic jockeyed for position in the inside lane of 15 South. In just a few minutes she was clear of the metropolitan Harrisburg area and headed for Gettysburg some 30 miles away.
A call to the State Police regarding Tuesday morning's fatal trucking accident just south of Harrisburg had pinpointed Gettysburg on the map for her. The trooper on the desk told her the trucker's name was Ben Haydad and that his license listed him as a resident of Gettysburg, the site of the famous three-day Civil War battle of July, 1863.
Since she'd never met Ben Haydad she felt a little awkward about calling the family for information on the funeral. However, a 90-second call to a newspaper obituary desk had given her all the information she needed. Mr. Haydad was survived by his mother and older sister and would be laid to rest Friday morning at ten o'clock from the Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church.
The Vette purred effortlessly over the miles and Lacey swung onto Business 15 just outside Gettysburg around 9:30. At a stop light she looked down at her outfit and imagined the guys at the station would drop over at the sight of her in a skirt. She couldn't remember the last time she'd worn one to work.
She stopped at an Exxon station and asked for directions to the church. The station attendant told her it was out in the country, about a mile off the Baltimore Pike. The drive to the church took ten minutes and she was standing in the vestibule about 15 minutes before the funeral was scheduled to begin. She signed the register as "Lacey Bowder, Friend" and then joined the short line of mourners who were filing past the open casket. It had been placed just in front of the plain wooden altar. Lacey judged the capacity of the little church at about 130 and half the pews were filled.
An elderly man who must be the minister was standing at the head of the casket and shook hands with each mourner who passed by. He was dressed in a dark gray business suit with a JESUS FIRST pin in one lapel and an enameled American flag in the other.
Sudden tears moistened Lacey's eyes at the minister's firm handshake and whispered "God bless you, sister". She nodded wordlessly and moved on to look into the casket at the man she had only talked to in life and now saw for the first time in death. He seemed to be in his middle 30s and possessed the down-home visage she had seen on so many truckers. His work-rough hands were crossed on an open Bible and at the top of the page she could see II Corin-something.
The service lasted about an hour and was devoid of liturgical ornamentation. It began with the congregation singing "Nearer My God to Thee" to the accompaniment of an out-of-tune piano played by an elderly lady who ker-plunked her chords by managing to hit each key at a slightly different time.
The solo which followed was called "When I Wake Up to Sleep No More". It was rendered by a well-upholstered woman who looked like a farmer's wife but sounded like Nashville. Pretty good. The audience indicated their approval by several muted but fervent amens and a couple praise-the-Lords.
The rest of the service consisted of a simply-worded sermon by the pastor which dwelt heavily on resurrection and some kind of rapture. When he had announced the location of his scripture, Lacey borrowed a well-worn Bible from the hymnal rack in front of her and tried to find First Corinthians. Finally, by looking at the minister's open Bible and estimating the relative location on the basis of the number of pages on each side of his ribbon marker, she was able to find the 51st verse of the 15th chapter of First Corinthians.
Twice during the sermon Lacey read the specified passage and then went back and read the first 50 verses of chapter 15, also. But she was specifically intrigued with the reference in verse 52 to a trumpet sound which would raise the dead in the twinkling of an eye. Harry James, maybe, in his heyday, she thought irreverently.
Still not sure of exactly what was being said from the pulpit or in the open Bible on her lap, she slowly closed the book and returned it to the hymnal rack. An aura of drowsiness began to seep into her consciousness and she realized it was more than two hours past her normal bedtime. So, as the minister droned on about the difference between corruptible and incorruptible, she kept awake by scrutinizing the mourners seated in front of her and estimating their age, weight, and occupation.
When everyone stood for the final hymn, Lacey felt a little guilty at not having been significantly moved by the service. Maybe she'd feel differently at the cemetery.
Outside, the January day was crisp and cold without a cloud in the sky. Lacey breathed deeply to cleanse her lungs of the cloying odors of cut flowers and cheap perfume, intensified by an overheated building. She didn't feel like getting involved with the grieving family and had started toward the Vette when a hand touched her elbow.
"Excuse me, Miss, but is your name Lacey Bowder?" The questioner was dressed in a black suit with a gray striped vest and a white carnation in his lapel. Must be the funeral director.
"Yes sir, I am."
"I'm Herman Walker. Pleased to meet ya. I guess you can tell I work for the funeral parlor. Drive the flower car and help out with odd jobs, kinda. That's when I'm not on the road with my rig."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Walker," Lacey said. She smiled brightly but groaned inwardly at this unwanted involvement. "You say you're a trucker. Were you a friend of Mr. Haydad's?"
"Sure was, ma'am. Before he moved out to Pittsburgh, me and Ben rode many a mile together in the cab of the same rig. Our regular run was down 81 to Staunton. Caught your Truckstop show lots of times around the Harrisburg area."
Lacey decided Walker must have picked up her name from the guest register. Should have signed it Lavender, she thought with mild irritation.
"If you don't mind, Miss Lacey, I was wondering how you came to be at Ben's funeral. I know he was a fan of yours but far's I know, he never met you personal."
Lacey felt slightly ashamed of her earlier irritation and quietly told Ben's friend of how she came to be at the funeral. Walker nodded soberly.
"Ben would be right proud to know you come down from Camp Hill for his funeral, him liking your show so much an' all."
Lacey smiled and placed a gloved hand on the trucker's muscular arm. "I'm really glad I could be here, Mr. Walker. Since I don't know the Haydad family at all, I don't want to intrude at a time like this. So would you do me the favor of expressing my sympathy to Mrs. Haydad and Ben's sister?"
Walker nodded and then offered to give Lacey a lift to the cemetery in the flower car. She wasn't sure if good funeral protocol permitted a non-relative to accept such an offer but she did so anyway, not wanting to drive the throaty Vette in the procession. The Vette's twin glass-packs were so prone to rumble and back off.
Lacey had to wait in the front seat of the flower car for 20 minutes until the procession was ready to move. Walker must have spread the word that a minor celebrity was in town because a number of trucker types stopped beside the car and shook hands with Lacey through her lowered window, quietly expressing their appreciation of her attendance at their friend's funeral.
She watched as Walker helped escort the family members to the limousine parked just ahead and then they were rolling slowly back to town and the Gettysburg Military Cemetery. On the way, Walker explained that Ben Haydad had been in Viet Nam and would be buried in a special section of the cemetery reserved for veterans of relatively recent wars.
Not wanting to be any more conspicuous than she already was, Lacey walked across the drive and examined some of the Civil War markers while the funeral director and his assistants arranged things for the interment. Many of the men who fell in battle July first, second, and third, 1863, were buried shoulder to shoulder in long curving rows. In addition, large groups were placed in common graves under a single marker. Lacey stood for a long time and stared at one such marker which represented 538 unknown Pennsylvania soldiers in a single grave. She couldn't avoid a horribly morbid thought. What does it look like down in there with all those bones and tattered blue uniforms all mixed together?
To clear her mind, Lacey returned to the sidewalk and strolled up to the peace memorial which stood on the spot where Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg address. You were wrong about one thing, Honest Abe. The world will always note and forever remember what you said here.
Lacey heard car doors closing and realized everything was in readiness for the graveside service. It began with the soloist of the day prevailing a capella through an unknown song called "Going Home". The words were beautiful but the arrangement did need accompaniment.
After three verses and choruses the minister stepped to the head of the casket which had been lowered until the four-foot arrangement of white carnations which topped its lid was even with the snow. He opened his large Bible and announced that his only remarks at the grave would be taken from the first letter the Apostle Paul wrote to his fellow Christians at Thessalonika. He specified that he would be reading from chapter 4, beginning with verse 13, and continuing to the end of the chapter.
As the clergyman began to read in a somber but well-projected voice, Lacey checked her digital watch. Eleven fifty-nine. Just for something to do she held the button down and watched the LCD numerals switch to seconds. The bits of time blipped away to high noon. Fifty-six, fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine ...
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