Sunday, February 17, 2013

Raise Your Glass

On Monday, 11 February 2013, at about nine P.M., our beloved son-in-law lost the biggest, toughest fight of his life. No encounter in his long career as a police officer ever threatened him more, or was the winner, until now. It is not the way it’s supposed to be: that a child dies before his parents, before they have given all the love they have, before they have emptied themselves, before the child has been able to fully repay that love.

It wasn’t what his parents prepared for; not what he expected out of life, not what our daughter planned for when they married. A police officer herself, her worries were not about internal enemies: something inside the man that would bring him down. He was too strong for that, they thought; too tough, this man who earned real black belts and demonstrated time after time that he could “take it,” could be down and fight his way back up.  No external enemy was the “perp” here. Instead it was his own body, his very being that brought him down.

In this fight, there was no fairness, no justice, no medal to be awarded. “The Big C,” as healthcare pros like to call it, respects no strength, no determination, no will to live. And so it won the fight, as we all, even he, knew it would. It didn’t stop him from fighting, from pushing the limit as far as he did. Only when there was nothing left with which he could fight did he lay down his sword, and present himself for the final thrust.

He’s been likened to a Samurai, this man who declared war on evil, yet (though he might have liked the idea) he would never have accepted that rank. He was simply one who saw there was evil, but also knew there was good, and set out to redress the balance.

If you have ever put on a uniform in the service of the public good, then you have been part of something much bigger than yourself. Those who serve with you are your brothers and sisters and your family. In the military, it is the regiment, but it could be a fire department or a rescue squad or a  police department, and when you gather, as we did this week, you think of those who have fallen, and with a glass held high, in a call that resonates beyond mortal hearing, say: “To the Regiment!” And “To absent friends!”

And to the man behind the badge: “To Mark!”

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