Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Train Story

By Warren Sparrow
(CHS54's Official Foreign Correspondent)

Forever in search of a story, I found one today at an unusual place and at an unusual time.  Lydia, a/k/a Becky, and I were at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Conover, North Carolina, when the moment arrived. 

We had driven the 66 miles to Conover for the memorial service of Ms. Miller, the mother of our best friend.  We had intended for it to be a surprise for our friend but we had to abandon the plan in order to get good directions to the church. 

We found the church without incident, using Mapquest and our friend’s help.  The church property adjoins a railroad track, a fact that made it easy to find.  A traditional green tent, easily seen from the main road, marked the spot where the service was to be held. 

We arrived at St. Timothy’s about 30 minutes before the service. After the traditional milling around, the service began smartly at 2 p.m.  It was a bright fall day, perfect for football but not so perfect for old people at a graveside service.  The tent offered a respite for those fortunate enough to get seats.  Thank the Lord, we were among the “chosen ones.” 

St, Timothy's Lutheran Church, Conover
The preacher was a pleasant man, eager to talk about his relationship with the “departed.”  He was eager to tell us that he had made many trips from Conover to Clemmons (50 miles) to visit Ms. Miller and her husband who had died a month or two before Ms. Miller died.  Seems like they had been married 69 years! 

Anyway, the service proceeded without incident until it came time for the preacher to say the final rites.  As the big finish began, the warning bells went off at a railroad crossing nearby.  I could see the cross-bucks, the flashing lights and the safety gates. How timely, I thought.

Despite the intrusion, the preacher continued as if nothing had happened.  Indeed, there were a few moments when nothing happened.  I wondered about that.  The crossing-guard rails were down, the red lights were flashing.  Where the hell was the train?

The preacher went forward, starting to read a concluding prayer from the program.  About half way through the prayer, the train with three engines came “a rumbling through.”  No hurricane or tornado could do it justice.  Unbelievably, the preacher pressed on though nobody could hear him.  I was very proud of him.  I tried to read his lips. 

It was a long coal train.  It passed smoothly and the preacher never missed a beat even though we could not hear him.  He must have been used to it. 

I thought it was a sign, a reaffirmation of the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” idea.  A coal train had rolled by at the moment of Ms. Miller’s internment.  Can you top it?  Paul Harvey, eat your heart out.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina