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A Lifetime in a Minute

The petals of the roses will fade in time

By Barb DukemanPublished 19 days ago Updated 18 days ago 3 min read

His name flashes on the giant screen, a photo taken from the granite monument outside the capitol. His widow takes the hand of their 7-year-old daughter, too young to fully comprehend the truth of this moment. They are flanked by uniforms she knew well, crisp and polished, white gloves gently touching her shoulder. Men and women with somber faces, leaders and guest speakers, are up on the dais watching the ceremony. Cameras all around capture this for posterity.

The auditorium is mostly silent. A few sobs are heard within the crowd, a toddler wanting to play, a fussy baby, men forcing back emotions. Tissues are passed among the rows. On either side of the audience are eight groups of honor guards standing at attention, flags and guns held in front, always at the ready. Their shiny black shoes, the cords and stripes on their coats, their formal hats with pins and straps. Hands by their sides, they do not move. They have faces of stone, silent and respectful.

His name, department, and End-of-Watch date are announced, and the sound echoes throughout the hall. She looks down at the soft red rose in her hand, affixed with a pin, and looks back up at the outline of Florida, its interior bedecked with fragrant white roses. She drops her daughter's hand for a moment, and her hands begin to tremble. Her eyes blur, and she is lost in tangled thoughts about that night half a year earlier.

What were his last words as the bullet ripped through the spot between the Kevlar panels? Did he realize he wasn't coming home that night as he bled out in under a minute? Will his killer know the pain he inflicted on so many and will last a lifetime? She thought of their 18 years together, 15 of them with the department dedicated to serving their community. They both understood the nature of his job when he joined. The ups, the downs, the many nights she'd spend alone with a colicky baby and an untrained puppy. They understood that with his job came contempt, snide remarks, and the act of always looking over their shoulders. They understood the risks. They understood he might have to protect cowards like this.

Her body sways a little; her escorts support her. Her heart is both heavy and empty as she measures the depth of her loss. He will miss his daughter's first day of middle school and high school. There will be no more camping trips in the back yard. He won't see her beautiful dress on prom night, a corsage around her wrist, a boyfriend admiring her. He won't be at her graduation. He won't drop her off at college on move-in day. He won't walk her down the aisle. He'll miss his future grandchildren. A little bit of her died with him that night.

Her head drops down to watch her daughter and sees his eyes in hers. The little girl looks up at her, smiles, and takes hold of a gloved hand, someone dressed just like her daddy did. One day she'll have to share his story with her, and the pain will rip her heart open again. She smiles back at her daughter, the only thing left of their love.

The escorts give a final salute of honor toward the solemn guards by the board. She pins the rose in the center of the state already dotted with others. She is not the first, nor will she be the last to take this journey. She steps back, muddled tears in her red eyes. The uniforms lead her back to join the rest of us survivors.

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About the Creator

Barb Dukeman

After 32 years of teaching high school English, I've started writing again and loving every minute of it. I enjoy bringing ideas to life and the concept of leaving behind a legacy.

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Comments (4)

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  • Shirley Belk18 days ago

    Such a tribute. I love how you wrote about what the officer will have missed out on in his life. The sacrifices he made. Outstanding writing, here!

  • Rachel Deeming19 days ago

    Very moving, Barb and the sentiment has been captured brilliantly.

  • Your time frame for the stories are well managed!!!

  • Barb, you've brought tears to my eyes. And it's even more poignant because your illustration is of Florida, my home state. I love that you brought honor to someone who served us, while so many today denigrate and dismiss our protectors. Kudos!

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