Years ago I was attending the funeral of a fallen officer, who had been killed in the line of duty. As always, there were hundreds of officers from all over the state in attendance. We lined up and marched into the church at once and filed into the reserved pews. It just so happened I was in the front of the church near the officer’s widow and young (three or four-year-old) son.
As the ceremony progressed I could not help but be fixated by the contrast in the pew occupied by the family of the fallen officer. The pretty young woman was devastated. She was dressed impeccably in black. She could not be consoled, so great was her loss. Her grief was obviously shared by those who tried to comfort her.
Due to the intense focus of the adults, the officer’s young son was contained, but unattended in the pew. He was a spitting image of his father, only a smaller, cuter version. He was dressed in wing tips, a suit and tie. His hair was neatly combed and held in place by some gel foreign to him; at first he sat quietly twirling his hair and rubbing his fingers together as if analyzing the content of the gel that held his hair so neatly in place.
The little boy kept himself busy reading his favorite books and occasionally would quietly ask, “Why are you crying, Mommy?” He seemed to be satisfied with letting the question go unanswered. By now many of the officers present affected by the little boy’s query instinctively brought their white gloved hands up to their eyes momentarily as they tried to regain their composure.
Then it happened. The little boy stood up in the pew and looked back at all of the officers that overflowed the church. He smiled a huge smile and said to the all the officers present, “Hi!” Then he began to walk about the pew, straining to look left and right as if he was looking for someone in particular. After his search appeared to be at an end he looked at the officers in the pew behind him and asked with a smile, “Where’s Daddy?”
The officers remained silent white gloved hands stayed at sides of all. No one tried to answer that little boy’s question and no one tried to hide their tears.
I’ll never forget that moment.
If I would have been closer, if I knew the family better, or even if I would have had more courage I could have given the son of that fallen officer the answer he deserved. Sadly I remained deeply moved, but silent.
Although I did not know every fallen officer, whose funeral I attended over the years I can say that the ones I have known were:
Good men and women, the best of us really.
Men and women of faith.
Men and women, who loved and cared for their families.
Men and women, who put service to God, country and family above themselves.
Women and men who loved and were loved.
Brave officers who gave their lives in defense of the defenseless.
Now is a good time for all of us, not only to remember how our fallen died, but also reflect on how they lived.
After missing the chance years ago I would like to take this opportunity to answer that little boy’s question that I did not have the courage to answer so many years ago.
I hope others, who have suffered a similar loss might find comfort in these words.
In the words of St. Matthew, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”
“Where is my Daddy, you ask? Have faith son. Daddy is in Heaven.”