I found myself at his memorial today along with approximately 5,500 other people who were either lucky enough to have met and been a friend to Officer Kilcullen, had simply a passing encounter, or just wanted to pay their respects. There was a sea of uniforms, dark blue, light blue, shades of green and red from the many law enforcement personnel who were in attendance. One officer on the shuttle with us was from California. One honor guard member was from Canada. Others proudly wore badges from Gresham, Multnomah County, Portland, Bend, Rainer, St Helens, Cottage Grove, and every place in between and farther away. There were TSA agents and Forest Service enforcement there too. An equal opportunity mourning location.
I'd never been to a police memorial before. What struck me was the silence. A silence so loud that my heartbeat seemed a disruption, my occasional sniffle an obstruction to the cause. Bag pipes that I'd heard before never sounded as beautiful, and photos I'd had the opportunity to review before never shined so bright. The Honor Guard, slowing walking two by two to the front of the room then back somehow made me feel secure in knowing that even though Chris was gone, someone else would still be there to fill the gap. The end of watch call out brought tears when I thought I'd finally found the strength and courage to hold them back. And now, hours later, I am still fighting a battle inside myself, willing myself to be a better person and to remember that the best people always leave us early. They are here briefly to show us the way then they go, confident that we can follow the example they have left us.
It is because of Officer Kilcullen's tragic death, his life cut short much before his time, that I am trying to be a better me. Trying to follow the advice Officer Kilcullen's dad gave at the funeral. John Kilcullen made a point to remind all of us that making time for family is important because you never know when you won't have tomorrow to share with them. I've been thinking about this more as I age. It's not just family though, it's friends as well. I rush to work then rush home to rush to the gym to rush some place else. When there's a break I am alone, content in the quiet peacefulness of my own world. I don't stop to question what would happen if tomorrow never came. I am always so sure tomorrow is a few hours away, waiting patiently for me. I don't call that friend whom I care about when I stop to think of her because I am sure there will be time later. The years tick past as if they are simply seconds until I realize that friend I held dear is almost a stranger and that family, well I don't even know them, either.
I hope this tragedy that has befallen Officer Kilcullen's family (which includes EPD) will make everyone stop and do what his wife requests. It's not much, just tiny things that will make you a better person and the world a better place. Because, as Mrs. Kilcullen said, and everyone would agree, that's what he did.
"Be kind to one another.
Do something nice for a complete stranger when no one is looking.
Volunteer at a school.
Adopt a sweet animal at Greenhill (Humane Society).
Tell your wife that she is stunning without even trying.
Give someone a compliment because it is true."
It's time to follow his example.
Christopher Kilcullen March 22, 1968 - April 22, 2011