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Folds of Honor

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Officer down.

She heard the call go out over the radio and her heart sank. Lucy knew who was responding to the call. She knew who was down. The frantic voice over the radio told her it was not good.

That’s why she found herself sitting in the waiting room at Shaw Memorial, waiting. Lopez was sitting right beside her. Of course, she is here, Lucy thought to herself, they are best friends, they have been for years. At times, Lucy found herself pacing in the tiny room. She probably looked crazy to some and Angela even tried to get her to sit down, but she couldn’t. She could not just sit there. Hours had passed and there was no word except from a nurse telling them he was still in surgery.

The small room was filled with their little group. John, Jackson, Angela, Harper, Grey, and several other officers that he had been friends with through the years. It was the thing about their group they were there for each other when needed, even if it wasn’t asked.

The surgeon walking through the door caught everyone’s attention at the same time. She knows. She can tell by the look on his face that tells the story no one wants to hear. “No,” she whispered to herself as the doctor approaches. “No.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the doctor starts, swallowing heavily as he does. “There were complications…,” he continued, but the words were lost on Lucy’s ears.

Her legs wobble and she’s not sure who grabbed her to keep her from falling. Someone sits her down in a chair and her dam breaks. Tears spilling as sobs wracked her body. Angela pulls her into her arms. Tears are silently sliding down her cheeks as she holds Lucy close. The whole group was crying. Every officer in the room had tears sliding down their face. Another officer was gone. Another member of their family was gone.

--

She’s not sure how she got home. Everything around her was a blur and smudged together. Jackson offered to stay with her tonight, but Lucy never gave him an answer as the group stood in the living room. Their living room.

Instead, she disappeared into the bedroom leaving the group to settle things among themselves. She needed to be alone. Her eyes land on the bed they shared. The bed that he forced her to make every morning since she moved in six months ago. She already slept over nearly every night except on the few nights they stayed at her apartment.

She moves to lay down on her side facing his. Her gaze starring straight through where he was supposed to be. Her eyes filling with tears as she peers at the photo of them at the dog park with Cujo between his legs as she leaned in to kiss his cheek. Reaching over, Lucy pulls his pillow to her chest. It smells as if he just got out of bed. It gives her just enough comfort to lull her to sleep without having his arms wrapped around her.

Everything they had planned, now gone. The marriage they had talked about in the future, not happening. Everything they had planned and dreamed together washed down the drain. Gone in a heartbeat.

--

The last three days passed so gruelingly slow. People stopped by with food and make sure she was okay, but it was still a haze. Each time the door opened, she wondered if he was going to be walking back through the door. If he was going to magically come back to her. She longed to hear his voice already. She wanted to see him again. It had only been three days, but some of the hardest days she had faced in a long time.

The service was outside. A giant oak tree’s branches covering the area provided shade from the California sun. A mighty oak that stands tall and strong through all the storms and tribulations. His casket draped with a flag.

Lucy in a plastic chair under the black canopy with Angela and Wesley on one side and Jackson and Sterling on the other. Her eyes were steady on the flag cover casket. She looked around briefly before the service started and was momentarily shocked at the number of people that turned to for the funeral.

Half of the LAPD dressed in their blues standing behind the canopy here to honor their fallen brother and friend. Several of his old military friends that she could recognize from the pictures he had shown her scattered through the crowd including Mitch. She also recognized his parents from the pictures he had. She knew that Tim and his dad did not have the best relationship, but she could see the tears brimming the older Bradford’s eyes as well as his mother’s.

He had touched so many more people than he could have ever imagined. He was a friend, a brother, a son, a leader, and a hero.

The short passage from the pastor left the door open for his friends to say some words of remembrance about their friend.

“When I first met Tim, we were eighteen-year-old kids. Kids that didn’t know where we were going or what life had in store,” Kirk, his long-time military buddy began standing in front of the crowd. “We deployed together twice, once to Iraq then Afghanistan. He was stubborn. At times, he could be a bit of prick and an ass, but he was a damn good man. He was that guy you wanted in your corner when you were in a fight. He was that guy. There was so much in life he was looking forward to,” he said, his eyes locking with Lucy’s, “it’s a shame that he won’t be here to see it.”

Sergeant Grey even said a short spill about him. Then it was Angela’s turn. She was his best friend and had been for a few years since she became a training officer. “Good afternoon,” she addressed moving to stand in front of the crowd. “Tim and I made an agreement that if something was to happen to either of us, the other would read the eulogy and I really wish I didn’t have to read this. Tim Bradford was my best friend. He was never really a personal guy. He let you know what he wanted you to know. He didn’t like talking about his feelings, who can believe that,” she asked causing a light laugh to escape some. “I think we can all agree that he was taken away from us way too soon. Every morning when he put on that uniform, he was willing to give his life so others could live. As Thomas Campbell once said, ‘to live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.’ We will always hold Tim in our hearts where he will live on until the day we meet again.”

With each shot of the twenty-one-gun salute, Lucy flinched. Then the trumpet started as the honor guard started to pull the flag that draped over his casket. Thirteen folds. Thirteen folds that represented the life, the honor, and the sacrifice that was given for the country and community. An honor reserved for heroes. One of the soldiers held the folded flag in his hands as he walked over to where Lucy was sitting. He bent down slowly and placed the flag on her lap as tears continued to stream down her cheeks.

“All units, hold traffic for 7-Adam-19,” dispatch said over the radio as silence washed over the crowd. “Control to 7-Adam-19,” they called over the radio. “7-Adam-19. 7-Adam-19 respond,” dispatched called again waiting for an answer that would not be coming. “Attention all units. Sergeant Tim Bradford, badge number 34831, end of watch June 23, 2021,” they said after a few moments of silence. “Fourteen years of service and sacrifice to the city he loved. Sergeant Bradford laid down his life so that others may live. The ultimate sacrifice that can never be repaid. Godspeed sergeant Bradford. We’ll carry on the fight. We will always remember the dedication and sacrifice of one of our own. Rest in peace, sir.”

They lowered the casket into the ground shortly afterward. A hero reaching his final resting place. Somewhere he should not have been for several more years, but life had a different plan. What about their plans for the future? Everything they wanted in life together coming to a screeching halt. It just didn’t seem fair.

Lucy was the first to stand. Her black dress flowing the gentle breeze. She grabbed a handful of dirt from the pile and slowly sprinkled it down on the silver casket. “I love you,” she whispered taking one last look at the casket in the ground.

--

Lucy found herself back in their bedroom sitting on the edge of the bed. She changed into a pair of sweats and one of his shirts when she was finally alone. Something she had done several times before now felt so foreign. It smelled like him which was a comfort but also a stinging reminder that one day the smell would fade, and he would truly be gone.

She was shuffling through his nightstand when she saw it, the little black velvet box. A mocking reminder of their future, which they would never get to see. She just looked at the diamond for a while. She didn’t want to touch it and ruin it. It was beautiful and he chose it for her. He chose it for her. He wanted to give it to her ultimately, but time changes plans.

Time. Something they had plenty of together skidding to a screeching halt. Tomorrow is never promised. The pain would ease slowly over time, but it would never truly go away. Tim Bradford was a part of her life. He would always be in her heart.

He was supposed to be invincible. He was supposed to survive. He was supposed to be here to hold her, but he isn’t. He’s gone. A criminal decided that his life was worthless just because he wore the uniform. The uniform he put on every day ready to serve the city he loved, to keep its people safe at all cost. He knew the risk of the job and he was willing to lay his life down to keep others safe…and he did.