Monday, August 11, 2008

Behind the uniform

I don’t usually take naps on Saturday afternoon. However, this past Saturday we were up, dressed, and out the door long before we normally even think about rolling out of bed on the weekend. So, by about 2 pm, I laid down for little rest.

I dozed off and as I’m likely to do if it’s an unusual sleeping time, I had a crazy dream. I don’t remember a lot of the details about the dream. I know it involved a large crowd of people. The crowd, including me, was wandering through a big building trying to negotiate our way through a labyrinth of hallways. We kept looking for the policemen in the dark blue uniforms. One was positioned every few yards pointing us in the direction that led to wherever it was we were headed. I think maybe we were trying to find our way out, but I’m not sure.

The next thing I remember of the dream is that lightning struck something outside of the building we were walking through. There were cries all through the hallways to “Call the fire department, call the fire department!” Next thing I knew, we were standing outside (funny how quickly you can move through walls in a dream). We were standing around a car that was charred and parts of it still burning. The car was on some kind of tile flooring and all four corners of each square of tile was singed and curled upward. We all stood around just staring, waiting for the firemen in their reflective overcoats and hard hats to come and make it right again.

I don’t remember how the dream ended. When I woke up, the dream was still on my mind. I knew exactly where it had come from. The sights and sounds my senses had absorbed in the morning hours prior to my nap had permeated my subconscious and affected my soul.

The reason we got up, dressed, and out the door so early on a Saturday morning was to attend the funeral of one of our county sheriff’s deputies that was shot and killed earlier this week as he answered a burglary alarm call.

I did not know the officer personally. The service was held at our church because it is the largest sanctuary in town and a very large crowd was expected.

When I first heard the news of the shooting earlier in the week, my thoughts immediately went to the deputies and troopers that I do know personally. There are at least four (that I can think of right now, maybe more) law enforcement officers that attend church with us. Even more whose families and relatives worship with us.

I couldn’t help but think about what THEY must be thinking and feeling. I could not imagine what it would be like the morning after a tragedy like that to get up, put on the uniform and go to work just like any other day. What are they supposed to do with all the fear, the guilt, the questions, the doubt, the anger, the shock, the grief, and everything else I cannot even begin to think of?

What? Just what? What in heaven’s name are they supposed to do?

But I guess the real question is, what am I supposed to do?

It all made me think of another incident not too long ago.

A couple of months ago, Scott and I were on the way to the mall or somewhere (I can’t remember exactly now). Anyway, we were headed to the next metropolitan area about an hour away. Our route was detoured by a wreck that involved two people on a motorcycle and a van/SUV-type vehicle. All traffic on the two-lane road had been rerouted.

On our return trip, we stopped at a restaurant to eat as we waited for the road to open up again. One of the state troopers that attends church with us came in the restaurant. He had been working the crash. We spoke to him and asked about the incident. We were curious about exactly what had happened that had slightly detoured our evening outing. He shared a little bit about the scene…and it really wasn’t appropriate dinner conversation. But we had asked for it. He said it had been a long time since he had seen bodies messed up that badly in a wreck. The road re-opened, our curiosity somewhat satisfied and eager to get home and see the film at ll, we spoke our pleasantries and went on our way.

It didn’t occur to me until about three days later that I should have asked that state trooper that night how HE was doing. He just witnessed death, and a very ugly, bloody one (two, actually), and I didn’t even think to reach out to him and offer him some comfort and support. How could I be so insensitive and take for granted that he wasn’t affected by it?

Saturday I stood in the back of the church as I watched rank after rank of officers stand at attention as the casket passed by. I watched them file silently in front of me filling every seat in the church. Row after row of uniforms lined the pews. The service moved out to the courtyard and I stood behind them as Amazing Grace flowed from the winds of the bagpipes, taps rang out from the bugle, a gunfire salute blasted the silence, and helicopter propeller blades cut through the sky. All the while, not one of them moved a muscle except to salute on command.

I stood behind them watching it all.

Actually, I guess the proper perspective is that they were standing in front of me. After all, that is what they do day after day. They stand in front of me, protecting me from danger. They stand in front of me, making a way for peace and order.

Because they stand in front of me, they see much more of the evil in this world than I do. They see it first and they see it on a daily basis. I think they see so much more than their fair share of it and therefore that is why they strive so hard to protect the good.

Again, I guess the real question is, what am I supposed to do?

Besides striving to never take any one of them for granted again, I will stand behind them.

I will stand behind them with thankfulness and compassion.

I will stand behind them with respect and support.

I will stand behind them.

When the slide show ends, you can click on the X in the top right corner of the slide screen to replay it.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

1 comment:

THE ROOST said...

You are so right! What a tragedy......I am sorry for your community. The policemen put their life on the line daily.