Over the next few days, arrangements were made for last rites of my friend. His children were informed of his passing, and I finally got to meet them.
When we met, I told them what a wonderful friend Jackson had been to all those who knew him, and how much he meant to me. They asked me to speak at his funeral, since I had such a first hand knowledge of his recent activities and I had been so influenced by him.
At the service, I looked out over the sea of blue uniforms, and felt a sense of coming home. I would soon belong to that brotherhood, just as I belonged to a brotherhood of believers in Christ. Not as important as the brotherhood of Christ, but it would be a partnership, nevertheless.
I began to speak...
"Eleven years ago, I was just a boy, still wet behind the ears when I met Jackson Finley. I'm honored to be able to speak on this important day on his behalf. It was Sergeant Finley who came to my home to tell me about my Da being found beaten to death. I had met him earlier when he came with others to look for my Da after he had been in a fight and killed someone. Jackson gave me my first Testament and also my first lesson in self-defense. He was the first to invite me to ask Jesus into my heart.
Later on, he kept me from straying into a life of crime. Then my family left the town where he was and I lost track of him. I never forgot him, and when I left the armed services, I went looking for him. I just found him a few weeks ago, and was elated. Once again, he helped me.
Jackson was compassionate, a true believer, and he lived what he spoke. He will be missed. I loved him like a brother."
I left the dais, wiped my eyes and sat down.
The pastor got up and preached a short sermon from John 14. Everyone then arose from their seats, the family passed by the coffin once more, and everyone filed out.
I had been chosen to be one of the pallbearers and loaned a uniform to wear. Taking my place with the others, I stood nearby while the casket was closed. Then we carried my friend out to the hearse. Within minutes, the whole cortege was at the cemetery and we once again carried my friend's remains, this time stopping at the burial site.
As we carried his remains, the bagpipes sounded their mournful song, "Going Home - The Fallen Soldier". That was the first, but not the last, time that I heard the pipes on that tune. It brings shivers to my frame even now.
Following the pipes, a twenty-one gun salute was given.
The graveside service was short. I spoke to his children and their families once more, then it was all over.
Later on, I happened to reflect that I had not seen his sister or her husband at the services. Perhaps her husband's illness prevented her coming.
As often happens, all the policemen congregated later at the bar in the local pub to drink to Jackson's memory. I went, but chose not to drink; I could not forget what drink had done to destroy my family. I didn't believe Jackson would feel honored to have them drinking in his memory anyway.
I went back to the place Jackson and I had shared. I wondered if I would be able to continue staying there; and figured, 'probably not.'
Removing the uniform and hanging it up carefully, I crawled into bed and went to sleep.
(To be continued)