My son, the fallen police officer, has gone to be with the Lord, killed in he line of duty. The day dawns like any other. It is rainy and an overcast in Oklahoma, and the cobblestones are slicked with the wetness of the skies. It is a gloom, gray day, and it mirrors the looks on the faces of the people gathered together in the graveyard and the way they feel inside.
They stand in a semi-circle around the gaping hole in the ground, silent and grieving as the priest talks about finding comfort in tragedy and the plan of God. The priest says that God should not be questioned, but there are so many questions in the graveyard that morning.
Most of the people gathered are police officers come to bury their own. They are men and women of different races, skin color, and builds, but there is one thing prevalent about them: their black uniforms are sharp, and their badges gleam in defiant pride against the inevitability of death. They are all in black, umbrellas held aloft, backs straight in honor of their fallen colleague.
The skies cried, and so did the thin, older woman standing at the front of the crowd, directly in front of the trench. She seems to sag from the weight of her grief, leaning on her gray-haired husband and young daughter who seem to be holding her up on both sides.
She is a mother who never thought that she would have to commit her child to the earth, a mother who hoped for grandchildren and a full life for her son. She has been robbed of her hope. She doesn’t hear as she is told to be comforted and take heart. All she can think of is her son, who is now lost.
There is sadness in the air that day, grief at aborted potential. There is pain aplenty to go around, and it shows on the faces of those gathered, but there is also anger at the unfairness of the situation, there is no one there who isn’t thinking “what if, just what if?”
It is the funeral of a police officer, and his gleaming mahogany coffin wrapped in the American flag has just been lowered into the ready, cold arms of the earth. He was a young man by all accounts who dedicated his life to keeping law and order. He is too young to be dying, at an age when his contemporaries are exploring their worlds and setting up futures for themselves.
The death of a police officer is not different from any other. It is the same final inevitable end that comes to everyone. But you could walk into a funeral, and just by the atmosphere in the air, you could tell if it was an officer who passed when their time came, or if it was one lost in the line of duty.
Theirs is a job that puts them on the frontlines of a battle against the worst of humanity, and they take that responsibility without expecting thanks in return.
Most of the time, they are the bad guys, the ones who are vilified by popular media. Every call they get is another situation that could go south in an instant, claiming their lives. At the funeral of their comrade, they mourn all that he could have accomplished with the talent he has been imbued with. There is also the nagging thought that it could have been any one of them, and still could be. Any call could be their last call.
It’s no wonder that there is a tight comradeship between them. When you depend on your fellow officers to cover your back and make sure you get home at night to your family, they become closer than brothers and more precious than sisters. Their fellowship goes beyond race, creed, and beliefs and transcends death.
All the ceremony, pomp and pageantry that surrounds the burial is just a small way of honoring the life that has been given in service of others. It is emotional but fitting as they salute and his mother is handed a medal that commemorates his work as an officer. It is not enough, but it is a touching tribute to the service and sacrifice of the officers who keep us safe.