While it’s difficult to find a silver lining with any tragedy, I became aware of a blessing amid the sadness a few weeks ago when I was reunited with cherished individuals who played a significant part in my past law enforcement career during the funeral service of a former patrol partner of mine.
These were the friends and associates who were more like family to me, and like family we got together for the memorial service of our friend and brother who left us at the way-too-early age of 47.
In an example of not recognizing the value of those past moments of our lives when they are occurring as the times we will look back upon with joy, I was able to marvel this sensation as I time warped back to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when we were all together, newbies to the career, cutting our teeth and making memories on the streets of what a small East Bay city had to offer.
Even though I made ties elsewhere later in my career, it is from this special city that my heart still resides.
Through the years, some had left hoping to seek greener pastures, some saw the writing on the wall of their personal fate if they stayed – a few even shown the door – but it seemed we all had flourished and thrived whether staying or not, many promoting like myself, some to command positions, one advising he was days away from his long-overdue promotion.
In fact, one of us was at the helm, holding the reins, leading the same organization we started at, now as chief of police.
There was something special at that place, and hopefully the others felt the same way, as on that day we picked right up where left off.
Despite all showing signs of age, greying temples, more forehead and less hair, some of us gaining extra pounds; the individualistic traits of everyone were still the same.
The outspoken ones still stated their mind, individual body quirks and mannerisms were still there, and the same dated phrases were used as we gathered long after the service to be together once again.
Terms of endearment such as “Bubba,” “Babe,” and even “Jelly Bean” were freely voiced as we went about embellishing our war stories from 20-plus years ago, continuing to honor not only our departed friend but the memories we had with each other.
As Erma Bombeck said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”
These were the guys (and gals) that together faced near-death experiences, hazards, and other dangers that fused our souls through adrenaline, adversity, and fear.
Back in the day when we were working, and a call that was once routine went to hell in a hurry, it was these guys who were the back up. They’re the ones who were bailing me out of hazardous situations, and they could count on me to do the same.
We were a recipe for success, a well-oiled machine. We knew each other so well that we could nearly gauge each other’s every move, and we could tell from voice tone on the radio if we needed back up or if it was just time for coffee.
This was my crew; the ones that spent the majority of the day around each other – on and off-duty. We ate together, vacationed as groups, played pranks, laughed and cried, experienced triumph and fought evil forces – some being within our own walls.
We experienced life events together and had been to the weddings (some who had more than one), saw children born (who now were moved out and raised), and like that moment, were attending the funerals.
Now, some were retired like me, some were getting ready to pull the pin and join us, others had a few years to go.
This moment was an example of years of camaraderie that few are blessed to experience.
For many in law enforcement there is a brotherhood which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet. Once the badge goes on, it never comes off, and that bond will remain as a longing for those past times.
We tend to look to the future without realizing the joy and power of the current moment. Years from now you may realize those times and persons you left behind were one of the greatest highlights of your life. That’s true for anyone or any profession.
Remember, today’s moments become tomorrow’s memories. Carpe diem.
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.