The Best and The Bravest
Chaplain Bill Wolfe, PoliceLink
Welcome to the June 2009 Edition of the Chaplain’s Corner. This is one of those months when the words just don’t seem to jump out of my fingers. I’m writing my June column just days after the conclusion of Police Week and just days before I have throat surgery to regain my voice. (Everyone seems to delight in telling me how bad I sound on the radio.)
Claudia and I had the privilege of attending the Police Memorial Candlelight Vigil in Austin this year, followed by attending the annual memorial service for law enforcement at the VA Hospital in Kerrville. Thirty-six names from 2007 and 2008 were added to the wall in Austin. Thirty-six too many of Texas’ best and bravest. It’s already been four years since the mourning band came to Llano, and there is still some “pain around the edges.”
It seems that much more often than is fair, the best and the bravest are taken from us before we’re ready to let them go, be they LEOs or firefighters or military men and women. Some are taken from us days before they’re to retire. Some are taken literally mere weeks out of the academy.
And sometimes the best and the bravest don’t get a chance to even get into the academy. My heart is heavy right now from the loss of “Officer Jay” McGuire. Jay was an honorary member of the Minneapolis Park Police Department and Minneapolis SWAT team in Minnesota. Jay valiantly fought a fight against a staggering foe, ending his watch on May 14, 2009 … just a few days ago, just weeks after his birthday. Jay was an incredible example of faith in God no matter what the circumstances. After intense chemo and bone marrow transplants, Jay lost his life to a silent killer…leukemia. “Officer Jay” was just eleven years old. He will be missed greatly, but never forgotten.
But not all the best and bravest are taken from us. Many times they are the survivors who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. As I sat at the candlelight vigil at the Memorial in Austin and looked around at the various families wearing T-shirts or buttons or other reminders of their loved one, I thought about the courage they had to face a world now changed so dramatically that “back to normal” was not possible. At times when I contemplate the “Heroes Sunday” our church in Waco holds, I think that the real heroes are the survivors, the ones who have to pick up the pieces and march into the future with a boldness and confidence that they don’t always feel.
The best and bravest don’t always succeed in the tasks perceived to be set before them. But what they do succeed in is motivating those who watch them, inspiring those who love them and care about them to be and do that which they feel they have no ability to be or do.
Once we’re touched by a tragic loss of a loved one or close friend, it’s not easy to hear the piper play “Amazing Grace” and then to pick up the pieces of our lives and continue on. And we can’t, usually, do it all by ourselves. That’s what friends are for. And Jesus is the Ultimate Friend. He is the One that can hold us close, carry us in His arms when we don’t think we can continue, and heal the hurt in our hearts to where we find the strength to carry on. He’s the One who can give us that peace that comes from knowing that, while our loved one is separated from us for a while as we continue to travel our path here, the separation is not permanent. There will come a day when we’re reunited on the other side.
Officer Jay’s step-dad closed his journal post telling us of Jay’s home-going with these words: Your prayers mattered and helped us in ways that even we probably don’t understand. Keep praying. Keep hoping. Live to the fullest. So with that admonition, let me close out our time here with a prayer.
Precious Lord, I lift up the families and friends of the fallen heroes across Texas and across our nation. Lord, I ask that You’d give them strength to face life going forwards. I ask that You’d help them through their grieving process and bring healing to their hearts. Wrap them up in Your arms and let them be conscious of Your presence with them and in them. Help them to find found memories of special times that will bring a smile back to their faces, even if it is just for a short time. I pray that You’d bring friends alongside to walk with them when they need some companionship or just a ear to listen or a hug when the tears come unbidden. Help us, O Lord, to find the strength to trust in You when it looks bleakest. I thank You that You are our best Friend and that You love us no matter what. Thank You, Lord, for hearing and moving in hearts and lives, for I pray these things in Your Holy Name. Amen.