Author's note: In June, I lost a very close friend, paramedic Chris Hall. We all loved him dearly, but I don't always deal with my emotions properly, so I shoved it aside and told myself I was okay. A friend of mine suggested I write something for him, that it may help. So I wrote the poem read in this. Still, I insisted I was fine. I had lost one of my best friends, the one I could always talk to, no matter what, and the guy who kept me from getting my idiot self killed on more scenes than I care to think about. The guy who could always make me smile, no matter how hurt I was. In fact, I could have dealt with this just fine if he had been here to help me. So, yeah...I was fine. Then last week, I sat down to watch "Elegy for a Pig" for the first time. And I cried for three hours. I could almost hear him say "Finally! I thought you were gonna carry this around 'til you got up here with me!" Somehow, I thought this was a fitting tribute for him, and if you don't like it, I'm sorry. I wrote this for him, and to get it off my chest I know the LA fire department didn't use 10-codes, but I wasn't about to change his Last Call. It's four thirty in the morning, and writing this took a lot out of me, but I needed to say it all, so please forgive any glaring errors. I love you, Chris. And we all miss you.
Jim Reed stood in the line going into the church beside his partner, and fiddled nervously with the black tape around his badge. There were places he wanted to be less, but he just couldn't think of any right then. The crowd was growing, and he felt more and more uncomfortable. He had shoved the grief down deep and covered it with layers of uncertainty and nervousness. It was easier than dealing with the loss.
Pete Malloy noticed his friend's fidgeting and put a hand on his arm. "Relax, Jim. You've been a pallbearer before, haven't you?"
Reed nodded. "Yeah." He adjusted his badge once more. "Pete?"
"Is a paramedic funeral any different from a police funeral?"
Malloy shrugged. "Not really. The drunks and druggies that hate the establishment scream 'good riddance, paragod" instead of 'good riddance pig'."
Malloy shrugged. "Like 'pig' makes any more sense…"
Reed looked down at his freshly-shined shoes. "Chris was a good man."
Before Malloy could reply, a young woman in a class A paramedic uniform with short brown hair slipped past them, fresh tears falling. "How's Amy taking it?" He asked Reed, watching the fallen paramedic's partner disappear inside the church.
It was Reed's turn to shrug. "Jean and I went to her apartment last night, Jean made a cake. They were real close, Pete. With her not having any family here and all, they took her in pretty quick. In fact, we had been to see Jenny and the girls, but she told us Amy needed us more."
It was easier to talk about Amy, who had lost her partner, than it was to talk about Jenny, who had lost her husband, or the two girls who had lost their daddy. Jim couldn't think about that, and Pete couldn't even comprehend it. But he could feel for Amy. He had lost a partner once…He wiped quickly at his eyes, and stood up a little straighter. "Yeah. Chris was a good man. And a damn good medic. We used to go fishing together, back when he first moved here. Could tell the most outrageous fish stories, and even when you knew, absolutely knew it couldn't possibly be true, you just couldn't help but believe him."
They were called to attention, effectively ending the reminiscing. Malloy, Reed, and the rest of the uniformed officers formed two lines flanking the sidewalk leading in, and stood at attention until everyone was inside, then filed in themselves. There was no more time for idle conversation as the funeral began. The fallen medic, who had been killed in a car accident on his way home from a shift, had so many friends and family, even the large church was filled to capacity. Jim was glad the sitter had cancelled at the last moment. Jean didn't need to see this. He knew her, and knew that she wouldn't make it through this without seeing him or Pete in the casket.
There were four speakers in all, his captain, his lieutenant, his pastor, and his partner. They all said nearly the same things, but it was his partner who finally broke past Malloy's well-placed walls.
"Chris Hall was a good man, a good medic, a good husband, father, and friend. And he wouldn't want us to cry for him, or hurt over his passing. He dedicated his life to trying to ease pain. But I do miss him, and I do hurt over the fact that he won't be there on Monday for my next shift, to pull a stupid prank, or argue over what to eat for lunch. And this is the first time I've stopped crying long enough to speak this much, and that's only because everyone else has left out something very important. Everyone else has said all the things he would say if he was here, but no one has said what he could say if he could speak to us from where he is now." The young dark-haired woman wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to compose herself to finish. "If Chris could talk to us right now, he would say…" She cleared her throat and put on a rather passable version of the southern accent her friend had played up when telling stories of hunting back in Kentucky where he was from. "What're y'all cryin' about? There's bass the size of Chevys here! And I finally got that 30-point buck I've been talking about for years. I'm okay here, and y'all wi-"
That was as far as Amy could make it. She broke down, and Jenny walked up to the podium and enveloped her husband's friend in an embrace, and walked the girl off the platform. Amy pulled away, whispered something to her, and walked back to Pete. She was still crying silently, but held out a piece of paper to him. "Could you read this for me, Pete? I-I just can't do it! I wrote this for him, but I just…" She trailed off.
Pete looked the paper over as he stood up. It was a poem of some kind. Amy must have written it. He nodded, and guided her into his seat beside Reed, who pulled her to him and allowed the girl to sob into his shoulder.
Malloy stepped up to the podium, and cleared his throat. A sea of uniforms, blue, white, and navy sat before him, his friend's casket behind him, and he forced himself to look at the paper. "I…uh…wasn't planning on speaking, but Amy wanted me to share this poem with you for her. My heart goes out to her. Losing a partner was the hardest thing I've ever been through, and I can't even begin to imagine what Jenny must be going through." He realized he was rambling, and cleared his throat again, looking at Amy's poem. His voice was steadier than he would have ever imagined it could be up there.
"I stay within the limit, I will not speed tonight
The empty road before me is lit with eerie red light
I feel the chill go through me, there's blood on the moon tonight
The blood of a warrior lost too early in the fight
We fight death every day, and many times we win
We lose sight of the truth, death gets us all in the end
We lost a mighty warrior, but more importantly a good man
The fight goes on without him but it's hard without our friend
He's gone to be with God now, and we're without him now the fight
Feels like this empty highway I drive along tonight
We'll keep up the battle, fight death in his name
Life goes on without him but will never be the same.
The room was silent except for a few sniffles. Pete was glad the poem was finished. He wasn't sure he could manage another word after that. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. Pete walked slowly back to the isle beside where he had been sitting and put a hand on Amy's shoulder, content to stand and let the girl have his seat. He knew what was coming, and he wished he had thought to warn Reed. This was one of the differences between paramedic funerals and police funerals.
Someone had rigged a microphone to the speaker of the radio, and the tones dropped for Chris's station. Then all other LA stations. Then the dispatcher spoke. "This is the last call for unit 645. Last call for unit 645. Paramedic Chris Hall is 10-7. May he rest in peace."
There wasn't a dry eye in the place. Reed looked embarrassed until he looked up and saw tears pouring down Malloy's face. Amy clung to Jim like a life raft, and he held her, as Pete took one last look at the American flag and the EMS flag behind the coffin, then at the coffin its self. "Goodbye, old friend," Pete whispered. "Get that thirty point buck, buddy. You deserve it." He saluted the casket, then knelt to put one arm around a grieving paramedic, and the other around the young cop he hoped never to put in her place.