“Greater love has no one that this; to lay down one’s life for a one’s friends” John 15:13
Each day brings its own set of worries. I worry about bills and how I am going to pay for college for my kids. I worry about work and the never ending chase for financial security. As a father, I worry about my kids and how they are growing and learning and maturing and whether or not I am doing all that I should. Worry is something I try to leave behind, but it is always there. When I stop and think about the things that worry me, I realize they are mostly “what ifs”. I worry about scenarios that are possible but they haven’t happened. I worry about decisions that could be made but they haven’t been. I worry about events taking down my business, but those have not occurred.
This morning I drove my kids to the Department of Public Safety, a large complex in Austin, Texas that houses our state troopers and highway patrolmen. Today is the culmination of a week of memorial for fallen officers, and the final event was a bike ride of nearly 140 miles by DPS officers that ended at the complex. My kids were there with their church friends to sing at a ceremony for the officers being memorialized as well as the officers who rode in the tribute ride.
It was an absolutely beautiful day in Austin, and we arrived at the complex early so we stood under a large tree. The temperature was hovering around 74 and there was a breeze that was strong enough to cool you but light enough to be nothing but pleasant. I watched my kids visiting with their friends and I felt my mind wondering to an upcoming business trip and soon I was worrying about my travel arrangements and my meeting schedule and the expense of the trip and the consequences of whether or not it would be a productive trip.
As I stood under the tree in that perfect weather in that beautiful setting letting my mind bring me down in worry, I began to hear cheering. I turned and saw the processional of officers and supporters on their bicycles coming in from their last 40 mile leg of the tribute ride. Leading the pack was a pickup with a large American flag, Texas flag, and a flag symbolizing fallen officers. Inside the truck was a driver I recognized from this event in years’ past, but there were also two women in the cab with him and this was new.
I have been to this event each year for the past several years so I know the drill. It is a somber ceremony. The flag is presented to the honor guard and names of brave men and women who died while serving their communities are read as a bugler plays the mournful tunes of Taps. The playing of those slow moving and achingly beautiful notes as the names of fallen men and women are read is an experience I look forward to with absolute dread. It is a beautifully sad experience that absolutely quiets the worrying voices inside each person.
After the playing of Taps, an officer comes forward and speaks for a moment about the solemnity of loss and the comfort of the brotherhood of officers. He speaks of sacrifice, something that needs much more attention among kids and adults today. He speaks of willingness to sacrifice and how men and women every day put themselves in harm’s way for each of us. His sincerity is unquestioned and his words are piercing. They always are. But this year he did something different.
After his stirring yet familiar speech, he called the two women to come to him. These were the women who were in the front of the pickup as the processional came into the compound. He introduced these two ladies, and as he did I began to recognize their names. These were the wives of the two most recently killed officers. These two ladies had ridden in the lead truck of the processional of bicycles for all these miles because they were remembering, through this outpouring of love and brotherhood, their husbands who had been killed while serving the citizens of this great state.
As Officer Gallinda introduced these ladies, suddenly the names that were read had a face. I saw real people standing in front of me with tears of both mournful loss and at the same time appreciation of recognition. Holding Officer Gallinda’s hand, one of the ladies spoke and she simply said, “Thank you for remembering.”
“Thank you for remembering”.
A few minutes earlier I was leaning against a tree worrying about the best flight route between Austin and Madison. I was worrying about the cost of the ticket and all of the work I needed to finish before that trip. I was worried about the implications of these coming meetings and how they could be a real game changer for my company. I was worried about things that all had a great big “what if” tacked onto them.
Now I was brought quickly and somberly into the very real here and now by 4 words, “Thank you for remembering”. I stood there and could no longer hold back the tear that I fought during the playing of Taps. This was too real. It was too tangible. I could look and see true pain yet appreciation in the face of these two women. They were grateful for all the people standing in memorial to their husbands and their fellow fallen officers, yet there was no doubt they were wishing their husbands were standing beside them. Instead, their husbands were represented by nameplates on a wall that served as the center of the memorial service.
I listened to my kids and their friends sing “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America”. The group was 40 or so middle and high schoolers and they definitely wouldn’t have won any competitions with their rendition of the two songs, but it was perfect for the officers and especially for the two widows. As mothers, they needed to see that real kids were there to appreciate and remember their husbands who gave themselves to keep my kids safe. They needed to hear real voices straining on the high notes and missing the low notes because that is what real kids sound like, and these kids were there on a beautiful Saturday to remember.
We left the ceremony and I felt a great deal of guilt for my worries. So today, I promise not to spend any more mental energy worrying. Instead, I will honor the simple but perfect words and request of the wife of a fallen officer.
Today, I will be thankful and I will remember.