Yesterday, I had the awesome, yet heartbreaking opportunity to witness the funeral of a young man that was loved by many. He was and is a son, brother, a grandson, a father, a veteran, and a friend to many. This young man was also a police officer in the local police department and the Honor, Respect, and Loyalty paid to him from his local brothers in Blue was unlike anything I have ever seen. Police officers from Lamar county, Madison county, officers from Texas and Georgia and the whole police force showed up to pay their respects to a fallen brother, along with others that I am unable to recall. What an experience! My words can only shed a small amount of light onto an experience that was heartbreaking, yet so awesome at the same time. Literally, hundreds of Police Officers, paramedics and firefighters were in attendance. Police officers often times abuse their authority and/or labeled “BAD” cops, but what I witnessed yesterday changed the way that I view their career choice. As I thought about the negativity that is associated with the few bad ones, there are many many good ones that try and do the right things. Let us remember that these men and women are doing a job that comes with minimal pay, they do it out of love for service. It is often a thankless career choice and the lives that are touched or changed by an officer is often silenced by the loud roar of anger and hatred toward a small number of “Bad Ones”. You do not hear people cuss the bad “Doctors”, “Preachers” or “Teacher”, etc. We live in a society that requires men and women to enforce laws, without these laws we would be an uncivilized society, nobody wants that. So, today I salute you, Officer Zac Denny, Lt Mark Denny and the other men and women that serve their communities.
Zac’s parents, are two friends of mine that I have known for 30+ years. Zac’s uncles were very close friends while growing up and Zac’s Grandmother’s house was a second home to me as a kid growing up in Rawls Springs, so we have a history together. The neighborhood kids always met up at their house and we tore up the ‘hood’ out there in the 80’s. Great memories! As a kid you never think of something like this happening to a loved one or a dear friend, Its So Unfair!
However, as I watched with wide eyes and a tear throughout this event, I was struck with a some very obvious characteristics of a mother. A mother that was laying her son to rest in a grave, to never see again. To never hold again. To never listen to his heartache again. A mother that will never look into her baby boys eyes again. A mother that will never know what many opportunities and accomplishments he may gain. It is so final! A mother that, her last look at her son was in a casket wrapped in a flag with many articles surrounding him, like his sunglasses, dog tags, I think were in there. Finally, as soft music played the funeral directors carried them away for a final word, possibly a prayer and the casket was quietly shut. That was the last time she would ever see him again on this earth. I wondered if she realized that this was it. The time no mother or father should experience. The final call! I saw a proud father speak of his Boy. How they had their ups and down and had since made peace. How beautiful! I saw a proud, strong father stand and talk about his boy, his accomplishments, What a great soldier he was and what a great police officer he was. How, one night he had worked a long night of overtime, his son was involved in some police activities and the fear he experienced from hearing radio silence. Then, there it was, the squelch broke and his son replied with a 10-4, suspect apprehended and all is well! What relief his dad must have felt upon hearing that. I heard how over the last couple of days of his life, the family had spent some time together and how the bonds of family were built stronger. How this young man had made things right with other family members, that at one time may not have been so right. I wondered if maybe, God was preparing him, for that final call. To make everything right with himself, just in case something was to happen. Life is crazy at times and I can’t help but believe this was the case. I heard a Dad, proclaim to his son, that as his father and the grandfather of the young child(Zac’s son), on behalf of this child, “I’ll Take Over from Here!”
There were other family members experiencing very much pain. A sister, a young senior in high school. She didn’t say too much. A quiet young beautiful girl with much pain and feelings of not understanding, I am sure. That’s okay, because her mother and dad were the example of how to live life in times of adversity. They will walk with her closely these next few years and guide and protect her. I saw the grandparents grieving and supporting their children through all of this. I saw numerous aunts and uncles grieving, wiping tears, along with other extended family members and friends.
When all of this happened, Zac’s mother and my wife are dear friends, she told my wife this, as her son was battling serious injury and grave chances, she told my wife, “God is still Good, no matter what happens.” Now, my mind, thought well you are a better person than I because I’d be saying the opposite, knowing me. Throughout this terrible ordeal this woman has been an example of what Christian people should be in this life. She has showed unwavering faith, strength and peace, in what has been the most difficult time of their lives. She is a rock, a foundation, PETRA! We visited the funeral home on Tuesday night and while waiting in line with my 17 year old daughter, who recently lost a dear friend (a second mom really), This mother put aside her grief and and showed true concern and care and compassion to my daughter concerning this other issue. Even today, not even 24 hours after having laid her son to rest she texted my wife and other close friends in a group text and she said this, “God is so Good!” Wow! Today, I honor you, you are an inspiration with a quiet roar that God is proud of. I believe that he is going to provide you with much peace and love to you and your family the next couple of days especially. God Bless You!
Arriving at the graveside services, parking was not a planned event for this many people at the small cemetary in Rawls Springs, where he was laid to rest by his Grandfather. Police cars, Police motorcycles and ambulances were the vehicle of choice for a lot of folks there. We walked a 1/4 mile after parking on the side of the road. Zac’s police car was on a wrecker with the lights on, blue lights will never carry the same dread for me now. Following a 21 gun Salute and taps, a few words by the Minister, a Final Call was given on the police radio, loud enough for the whole community to hear. The dispatcher called out, “Standby to copy the final call to 306, Officer Zac Denny. Hattiesburg to 306…..Hattiesburg to 306…Hattiesburg to 306. All units, 306 is forever 10-7.” Strong! Heartbreaking! Honor! Respect! We never know when that Final Call is going to ring, May we always be ready and may we never forget 306, Officer Zac Denny!