Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thinking about Death

A long procession of police cars with their overhead lights on. Police officers standing at attention saluting. A 21-gun salute. A lone bugler playing TAPS in the background. Bagpipes---oh, the friggin bagpipes. A radio announcement broadcasting the end of the tour of duty of a police officer. A helicopter fly-over. Police funerals are very somber occasions. Macabre as it may seem---about weekly, I imagine what if one were mine.

What if something happened to me, either on-duty or off, and my brothers in blue came together to send me off. It's always a very troubling thought. Not because of what it means for me. I am reasonably determined, depending on the day and my state of grace for that day, that eventually I'll be in Heaven. I may be shutting out the lights in Purgatory--but I'll get to heaven. What bothers me is how it will affect my wife, kids and friends. I think I am a decent enough person that they might be slightly bothered by my early demise.

People don't like to think about their deaths. I suppose in my job it is natural. You see death quite often in many forms. I believe that thinking of death is a valuable exercise in this line of work. It's important to realize that you have a dangerous job. It's necessary to realize that you can get seriously hurt or even killed. When you keep that in mind you are more likely to keep alert. You are more likely to be aware of your surroundings. You won't take people for granted. You are run scenarios through your head--"if this happens what should I do." You are less likely to get lackadaisical because you don't want to have that police funeral anytime soon.

Thinking about death can be very important in the spiritual life. It's said that it's very important to meditate on the "four end things" which are-death,judgement, heaven and hell. It's sort of like checking our moral compass to make sure we are heading in the right direction. When you pause and reflect that we are all going to die eventually. We are all going to be judged. And we are all going to either Heaven or Hell. It's that gut check that may shake you back to reality and realize, "Oh crud, I need to straighten up!" much like a cop needs to realize that if he does not practice good officer safety that there is a good chance that he might get kicked in the crotch---if he's lucky.

Mark Hart--aka-The Bible Geek--has said that Heaven is an invitation and Hell is a choice. By occasionally thinking of your own death and the judgement afterwards, you have a better chance of accepting that invitation. As for me, I'll keep my eyes on the bad guys hands and have a better chance of keeping that police funeral at bay.


  1. I have been thinking about my own a lot lately. Not in a morbid sense...but as you mention...kind of checking moral compass type of stuff. What's kind of sad is I have had to make some decisions regarding some relationships that I have noticed when I make effort to keep thos relationships...I sin more...and so I have discerned the need to maintain more of a passive role in one particular relationship as opposed to active. It's kind of difficult to realize when that sort of thing is needed and then...the question: Am I doing the right thing now? Good post.

  2. Jamie - I have been reading your blog for several months now and have thought of commenting on some of your other posts, but something has always stopped me. Today, as I read this post, I felt compelled to finally write something.

    First, I want to thank you for sharing some amazing insight about our Catholic Faith. You have such a down-to-earth perspective of what our Church teaches and how you live it out every day. It inspires me to continually work on my own faith journey.

    Second, I want to thank you for your service to your community and to our country as a Police Officer. A few months back, I stumbled upon your blog by complete chance, but I feel a deep connection to you. You see, I am Catholic as well, but I am also a Police Officer's wife.

    As I read your blog today, I again identified with your thoughts. I also think of death on a regular basis and for a lot of the same reasons. I pray for the physical, mental and spiritual safety of my husband and all officers every day, yet with the confidence that if, God forbid, the worst happens to my husband (or me for that matter), that I will once again be reunited with him in Heaven. And that alone comforts me on those nights when he is out on the streets and I am home alone with our kids.

    So thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And thank you for shedding that shield of personal protection to share it with the rest of the world. As an officer, I know it must be hard to open up to so many strangers because your training and instinct teaches you to be cautious and not to trust too quickly. (My husband and I tease often of his "paranoia" when dealing with people he doesn't know.) But I hope you know how much you sharing your spiritual journey helps those of us who "follow" you.

    Keep up the blogging and may God continue to Bless you and keep you safe until He decides that you have fulfilled your purpose here on this earth.

    And someday, I look forward to meeting you in Heaven! :)

  3. Michelle---you are a saint. I can't picture you sinning. :-)

    Pam-thank you so much for your kind words. I can't express how much it means to me.

    Maggie--I thought at first you said it made you cry and my response was, "yeah, but with all your hormones dogs throwing up make you cry." :-)