End of Watch

Funerals. They are a part of life.

I can remember a time when I had never been to one before. Then, the summer before our sophomore year of high school, my sweet friend Brandi was taken very suddenly by cancer. To this day—20 years later—I can still remember the last time we were together. We were sitting on the floor in my bedroom with another friend listening to the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Our friend said, “We really need to hang out like this more often.” Brandi replied, “We’re here now, and that’s what matters.”

It sounded so strange to me at the time. I remember wondering if she wasn’t enjoying our company after all. Did she not want to hang out with us again?

A week later, her mom called me from the hospital. Brandi didn’t have much time. We should come say goodbye. I bought sunflowers to take to the hospital, but Brandi died before I got there. She was fifteen. That was my first close experience with death.

I think often of what she said that last day we were together. Wise beyond her years.

Yesterday, I woke up and dressed with a bit more care than usual. Black pants. Black sweater. Black heels. Makeup.

I drove to the cemetery in pouring rain, parked, and walked alone from my car—huddled beneath my umbrella—along a path that had turned into a creek. I felt the water seep into my black pumps. My pants were being pulled from my waist with the weight of the water they’d absorbed. I gripped my waistband with my free hand.

Have you ever been to a funeral for a police officer before? This was a first for me. When I arrived at the lobby of the huge hall, I felt like an outsider in a sea of crisp blue uniforms. I found a seat and waited for the service to begin.

After a few minutes, someone called my name from behind. I turned around and looked gratefully into the eyes of my wife. She left work to hold my hand. My heart swelled.

I spent the next 90 minutes buried in the arm of my wife. We listened to stories of the life of a young woman. A young officer. A young wife.

I counted my blessings. Over and over again.

We’re here now, and that’s what matters.

I held my composure fairly well until the End of Watch Broadcast and gun salute.

It was beautiful to watch the LAPD community come together to honor this young woman. Catch and I did a double take when we realized the man we were staring at was, in fact, Charlie Beck—Chief of the LAPD. We watched as he handed the folded flag to the officer’s wife.

After the service, Catch and I had lunch together in our old neighborhood at our favorite Mexican restaurant—close to the cemetery. We drank a margarita and toasted the life of an outstanding woman gone far, far too soon.

We followed each other home, pulled into our driveway, and stood at our front window to watch our little girl as she realized we were there and came running to us. I silently sent out my gratitude to the universe for that moment—and for every moment that follows.

We’re here now, and that’s what matters.

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