Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Memoriam

We said good bye to Keith yesterday, one more step on the road to dissolution in the bond between our world and his. It was a beautiful day in the Keys, warming up under hazy sunshine as a massive crowd gathered outside and in, at the church on William Street, with law enforcement from every agency showing up to help in the process of letting go:It was a slow shuffle into the church, trying to keep one's mind on higher things, allowing the mind to veer away and not to let slip the feelings that have been swirling the past several days. Its a strange way we have of attending these kinds of functions in the western world. I've seen Indian widows on the sidelines of their husbands funeral pyres throwing up their arms in a whirlwind of emotion, casting out the inner demons in shrieks of despair that rend the air. In Latin America I've seen similar volcanic eruptions of feral anger and sorrow. We, on the other hand stand around like mannequins and pretend it's just another sunny day in paradise. If, God forbid, tears start to roll we apologize, embarrassed and turn away. Stupid, I know, but I'm as bad as all the rest and wear my mask of silent indifference.I stood over Keith's mortal remains a moment, marveling at his composure in the face of so much love, so much emotion all through the church as he lay in his final resting place, his dark blue K9 uniform solid in contrast to the clouds of white silk surrounding his body. Then I marched out stoically in proper mannequin style to the sunshine outside.
Make no mistake, the memorial service was good bye but it was also a promise to the young man whose career has ended so prematurely. Keith won't be forgotten and those of us that live on and remember him will be reminded who he was at every turn. That was brought home to me when I showed up for work last night, a little bleary eyed I admit from lack of sleep and surfeit of emotion and I was greeted thusly:Sergeant Brandenberg, his fellow K9 officer caught me admiring the display and asked what I thought. Overwhelming was my response and he smiled. "It took them two days to make that," he said with pride pointing to the particular wreath:"Will you do that for me, when my time comes?" I asked, trying to lighten the tone. "You can't have the K9," said the canine sergeant. "That's ours. But we'll think of something for dispatch." I'll bet they will too. They flew flags across the county at half staff for Keith, making room as is the way, for the flag of Death to fly at the top of the pole:I nearly broke down when I saw Keith's patrol car parked in front of the church, his partner's name Daxo, printed on the side. The older I get the more I prefer dogs to the company of humans which reminded me of the times Keith came into dispatch with Daxo. "Don't do that!"Keith would yell at me when I went to pet Daxo. "I keep telling people not to touch a K9's head. He's going to hurt you!" Bugger off Keith, I said, dogs like me, and Daxo did, nuzzling my crotch offering me his nose and behaving like a pet which perhaps may have pissed off his handler ever so slightly. It was a distraction having a large panting German Shepherd sloping round the computers while we tried to dispatch, and it was all too easy to mind Daxo when it was Keith and one of his stories wanting attention.

It was just another sunset in the Keys the end of another day, the beginning of another work night for me, another round of dispatching, talking on the radio, herding hedgehogs and keeping those youngsters with guns safe. And this morning at the end of the shift when I take off across those same Saddlebunch Keys towards home there won't be the K9 car bounding home ahead of me with Keith and Daxo, like Calvin and Hobbes concluding another night of adventures together. Not today, not anymore.