When is a “Line-of-Duty” death NOT a “Line-of-Duty” death?
Article by: Kate Moore, Beyond the Rainbow Pet Hospice & Memorial Center
This week we provided services for a local law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. Now, every funeral director I know has had that feeling in the pit of their stomach when the evening news announces that an officer has been killed in their community. The adrenaline starts pumping and we immediately go into “planning mode”, waiting for the phone to ring or a department official to walk through our front door. Perhaps there is a feeling of dread…knowing that if you are called to serve this family, that your facility will be inundated with people, press and police for the next week. Or, the thought of pride that YOU and YOUR staff will be honored to provide this service to the family and department for an officer that truly “gave his all”.
If you are like I was last week, you immediately made a list of details that would need attention: a location that would hold a large number of people for the service, state and local officials to notify, Proclamations to request, bagpiper on call, memorial items to order, and the like.
We knew by noon the following day that we would be providing the services. We were told where the body had been taken for autopsy, and that the family wanted a direct cremation as soon as possible after the autopsy was completed. Also that they wanted services at their local church and that they were tentatively planning it for the next week. This was a Friday, so at the family’s request, we cleared the following Monday morning to meet with them and the involved parties to plan the memorial service for this officer and his family.
Monday morning came and we met with the family, Sheriff, Chief Deputy, Lieutenant and minister. I had printed an Order of Service as a starting point for the meeting and a couple of readings that are appropriate for a Line-of-Duty officer’s service. We walked the church, arranged for rooms for the family to gather, found a conference room off the sanctuary where the Honor Guard could convene, and discussed where the press could be during the service. We walked outside and mapped out where we would park the family, the department heads, the press, and a place for overflow parking. Then we decided here we could direct the officers and their dogs when they needed a “break”. WAIT A MINUTE…did I say DOGS ???!!!???!!! 4-legged, canine, sniffing, barking, dogs ?????
Did I mention that this officer was a K-9 deputy killed while pursuing a felon trying to run into a dense forested area? If I had mentioned it at the first on this article, would you have continued reading? Why or why not ?
It was interesting to me that as this week unfolded, the funeral program company that prints our memorial folders, called me to ask if we “really wanted to print 750 programs for a dog?!?!?”, and that I received this call from a fellow funeral director in my community: “Kate, I heard something and I wanted to call you. Are you doing a funeral …(he hesitated)… for a dog?” My reply to my friend was: Why yes, we were handling a service for a line-of-duty law enforcement death. And, yes, the officer had 4 paws instead of 2 feet, but why did that matter? He kind of laughed at my response and didn’t really know what to say next.
So I ask YOU, Mr. or Ms. Funeral Professional in your town…Would you have responded any differently if you were called to provide a funeral service to a 4-legged member of your local law enforcement department? How is it different that a Sergeant lost his partner? That a department lost an officer? That a town lost a loyal and trusted member of their community?
The day of the service came and we had, as anticipated, a full house. The church would seat 800, and there were very few empty seats. Most of those empty seats were between a handler and his or her K-9 and the next team from another department. You see, we had over 50…yes 50…different departments from across the state come with their DOGS to show their respect and support for this DOG that had done his job…run into the woods and taken the bullets intended for the men he stood between. And we had 500-plus officers come from several states to show their support to this department that had lost an officer. From the arrival of the cortege, to the recession with the bagpiper, this service was conducted exactly the same as we would have done for any other funeral service for an officer killed in the line-of-duty…EXACTLY !!!
The service was on the evening news of all 4 of our local stations, and the photos and posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages have had more views than any other posts this month. So, I ask you again…Would you have treated this officer’s death any differently in your town?
About the author:
Kate Moore is a 25-year veteran of funeral service and has owned and operated funeral homes in Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas with her partner, Terry Branson. In 2009, they opened Beyond the Rainbow Pet Hospice & Memorial Center; the first total end-of-life care operation of its kind, providing in-home hospice and euthanasia services to pets, visitations, funerals and cremation services and grief support to pet parents and families that are saying good-bye to their furry family members. Kate and Terry were founding members of ICCFA’s Pet Loss Professional Alliance; Certified Pet Loss Professionals, and Kate is Co-Chair of the PLPA Education Committee. Want to know more about adding pet death-care to your funeral home? Call Kate and Terry at 817 249-7700. They will be happy to help you get started in your community.