Richard Kauffman: It happened on Good Friday
It was Palm Sunday April the 9, 1865 and there was an uneasy calm outside, as the leaders of two previously opposing armies climbed the staircase of the courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia.
Lee’s Army of the Confederacy had laid down their remaining arms that day and there were no more shots being fired; no more lives being lost; because on that day, when one should have been celebrating Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Generals Lee and Grant climbed that courthouse staircase and signed the terms of surrender and the terrible Civil War was over.
There was joy mixed with sorrow, not because one side won and the other lost, but because on that Palm Sunday in 1865 the mauling and killing had finally ended.
On that particular Sunday nearly all the pain and sorrow of the last four years that Lincoln had endured seemed to have been lifted and the healing already begun. That was Passion Week in 1865 and he’d told Mary more that a few times during that week, “This is the happiest I’ve been in years.”
Even so Lincoln’s friends worried about his safety. If it bothered him he didn’t show it, for any amount of worry he may have had was overcome by the joy he felt because the war and killing was over. It was time to heal. It was reported he told his closest friends, “Long ago I made up my mind if anyone wants to kill me, he will do it. There are a thousand ways of getting to a man if it is desired that he should be killed.”
The President went on a carriage ride with Mary on that Good Friday. She too had suffered much over the past few years. Ever since their youngest son Willie had died she’d been hit with fits of depression and the President feared for her sanity. He wanted to be alone with her that Good Friday, and as the carriage rolled along he said, “We must be more cheerful in the future. Between the war and the loss of our little Willie we have been the most miserable of folks.”
Then came Friday evening, April the 14th and the President wanted to visit Ford’s Theatre to see the play “Our American Cousin.” You know what happened that fateful night of the 14th, when a single shot from a Derringer proved fatal.
Another series of events took place across the sea some 1800 years before. It was the first Palm Sunday ever and this time a man rode a donkey into town and the people cheered as they threw down palm leaves in front of his arrival. Five days later this man met the same fate as did President Lincoln, though not in the same manner; for this one died the worst of deaths … that of being nailed to a tree.
Two men … two deaths; both on Good Friday.*
*Why on earth do we call that day Good?
Two men … two deaths; one died that a nation might heal; the other surrendered his life to cover the sins of the world.
Richard Kauffman lives in Nevada County.
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