Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Welcome Home -- Pat Patterson
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:10-11
It was powerful!
Bagpipes played as the horse drawn caisson rolled past an army of gray-clad Troopers. Upon its carriage deck lay a flag covered casket that held the body of an old friend of mine. A true warrior. A brother in Christ—Trooper 352: Andrew James Stocks, N.C. Highway Patrol.
We called him A.J.
The Caisson moved quietly to the clicking hooves of six magnificent black creatures, well groomed horses in regal parade dress, one without rider to signify loss. The horses stopped. Six Troopers stepped forward and removed the casket. They marched quietly into the building and set it in a place of prominence in the front of the church. And the service was awe inspiring, a beautiful memorial to the life of a true first responder—A.J.: U.S. Marine-Crash Firefighter, N.C. Paramedic, N.C. Paramedic Instructor, U.S. Army Ordinance Soldier, and lastly, N.C. State Trooper. Yes, A.J. dedicated his entire career to the service of others. He lived so that others might live and, in the end, gave his life selflessly in the line of duty. He was and still is a true hero.
I felt myself jump at the offering of the twenty-one gun salute. Tears filled my eyes as I heard the bagpipes play and the peaceful closing hymns. But I felt my life change at the offering of the radio report that ended the service. A strong male voice came over the air. I felt confused. It surprised me.
“Raleigh, Troop C—”
Silence fell over the room. At first I thought it was a mistake, someone’s radio, a Trooper’s handheld crackling to life. But then it came again, crisp and clear, a strong voice from somewhere overhead.
Dead silence this time. It wasn’t a radio; it was a real dispatch going over the air for N.C. Troopers everywhere to hear.
“Troop C…Attention! Trooper 3-5-2 is 10-42.”
10-42…Ending tour of duty.
A.J.’s work on earth was complete, and with that God moved him to his new home in heaven. I know he’s there because we talked about it. I asked him one day, “A.J., how can you know for sure?” And he answered, “Because Jesus Christ died for my sins.”
So now A.J. has a new home, and oh, what a mansion! Can you imagine it? Built by God’s own hands? It must be marvelous. And Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And I will come back and take you to be with me.” He did too. Jesus came and got A.J. that day.
It was his last day on earth, his first day in heaven.
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
I believe A.J. would have been proud of his funeral. I know I was. But you know, something occurred to me as my wife and I walked away from the church. The N.C. Highway Patrol, A.J.’s family, the United States Army, and what, I’m sure, amounted to dozens of unnamed friends and volunteers who worked tirelessly to produce that service, had but three short days to do it. Three days! And look what they accomplished. It was the most touching, the most powerful service I have ever witnessed.
So just think: Our God—the maker of all creation—has had an eternity to create our next home. Eternity! What will it be like? We can only imagine. But guess what, A.J. already knows. So wait for us there, A.J., we’ll be home soon enough. In the meantime, rest in peace, Trooper.
And welcome home!
Pat Patterson is a novelist, a paramedic, and an instructor of Emergency Medical Science. His stores are true, based on real experiences from the streets of Durham, North Carolina where he has served as a paramedic since 1992.