'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

14 December 2013

An Ode To My Father In Law, Sarge

This is the speech I gave at his services today. I called him Pop out of love and respect.

We come together today to say goodbye to a beloved man and a true American hero.  We are sad and tears are not always a bad thing. We cry and grieve because we miss him. He leaves such a huge hole in all our hearts. How can it be otherwise? Tears are surely a gift from a compassionate and loving God to wash away our pain.

But we also come together today to celebrate a life well lived. A race run and won. There an old meme stating that we all want to finish the race sliding home, on our last legs, battered and bruised but unbowed, with a smile on our faces and “Man, what a ride” on our lips. Pop did that. He ran his race and he won. He made the finish line and he died as he lived, on his own terms. 

What is the measure of a Man? Pop was a soldier and a cop. He worked hard for all he accomplished and wore his badges with pride and gratitude. He was a father, son, brother, grandpa, friend and comrade in arms. He was a true warrior but he was also an amazingly gentle soul with a font of innate wisdom ever ready to be called forth when the circumstances required. He answered every call, whether from his country, family or friends. He never refused, never surrendered, never gave up, never quit fighting the good fight. There wasn’t an ounce of backup in the man. No better friend, no more fearsome foe to the enemies of all he held dear. He loved every one of us, whether by blood, marriage or simply choice. He had love enough in his heart for all. That was Pop.

Pop was never broken by the vicissitudes of life. No man is perfect and Pop was no different but he never stopped striving for that perfection. He never gave in to despair. He took life’s punches, rose to his feet time after time and got right back into the ring. He always did the best he could with whatever he had and asked for neither pity nor sympathy. Pop made his own way in the world. 

What is the measure of a man? Poets and philosophers have tried to define it for centuries but the truth is that we each define it. For ourselves and those who love us. Each and every day. Duty, honor, pride, integrity, courage. Pop had them all in spades. Soldier, cop, warrior. Pop lived those things all his life but they didn’t define him. They weren’t the sum total of who he was, just a part. He was loyal and fair and generous. His family and friends were so important to him. He always had a kind word or a bit of advice for anyone in need. He took the wayward feet of a fatherless boy and set him on the road to manhood. That boy was me. That was Pop.

Pop loved his veteran brothers and sisters as he did anyone who ever put on the police uniform. He was always ready to help in any way he could. I sent more than one hurting veteran to him because I knew he cared and was ever ready with words of comfort and wisdom. Pop was a rock who brought order and stability out of chaos and despair. He was ever calm, even in the face of the unimaginable. If you could put a face to command presence, a voice to certainty, a form to comfort they would belong to him.

Yes, tears are appropriate today, even necessary. We must grieve, we who are left behind as he forges the path ahead of us once again. But so is a laugh and a smile at a remembered story or joke. Pop would be the first to tell one today. Something about baldness no doubt.

Yes, he has now laid down his burden but his legacy lives on. The faces in this room attest to that. He is gone but he died a free man, one who loved greatly and was in return greatly loved by those of us lucky enough to have had him in our lives. What more could one ask?

So, what is the measure of a man? One need look no further than the life of Michael Stephen Gale for your answer. Jennifer reminded me yesterday that if you know a man’s character you know that man. Never were truer words spoken than this. Pop was a good man. 

Cop, soldier, warrior. A true and good man to the day he died. I can think of no finer or deserving epitaph. 

From "An Ode To A Fallen Officer"
I seem gone from you now, but I know that somehow
We will reunite in another place.
For “The good they die young,” is a song often sung,
But this verse is flawed on its face.
You see the good don’t die young, but instead they live on,
In memories, and many a heart.
The good that you do does not die when you do.
For the good, death’s not an end, but a start.

So we say goodbye to a father, son, brother, grandpa, friend and comrade. Goodbye my brother, my friend, my father in truth and spirit. We will always miss you. You did good Pop. You did good.

“May the road rise up to meet you.  May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”  



Old NFO said...

Well done, and may Sarge rest in peace... Thoughts and prayers for y'all.

Monkeywrangler said...

An Irish blessing...well said, Six. May grace and peace be yours, even in your grief.

Brigid said...

Your words, so appropraite to the man, who will remain with you always, as will the words.

May you be comforted in your grief by his strength, that is in you always.

Brighid said...

Well done sir, well done indeed.

Coop said...

Six, I am truly sorry to hear of your loss. All of you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

All the best to you and your family during this difficult time my friend


Murphy's Law said...

I'm sorry that I never got to meet him. He sounds like he was a good man and a great American. Now I see where you get it from.

Jennifer said...

Well done.
We must all grieve when we lose greatness in our lives. The hole left behind is tender and exposed, but we are glad it is there. For it reminds of the fullness of the one who has left. In time, we fill it with memories and the pain is not so sharp.

Six said...

Thanks NFO.

Thank you Monkeywrangler.

Thank you Brigid.

Thanks Brighid.

Thanks Coop.

Thanks ML. He really was. You'd have liked him.

Thanks Jen. I hope you're right.