Police captains aren’t supposed to cry. Neither are funeral home directors or pastors.
But they did.
The moments were so raw and so moving that there was no way of simply brushing past them, unscathed. Cpl. Jason Pautsch, through his honorable life and early death, reminded us of something we didn’t even know we craved remembering: We are, at the bottom of it all, good people.
I was sitting in the passenger seat of Capt. Dave Struckman’s police SUV Friday as he led the procession of Pautsch’s remains from the airport at Mount Joy to Weerts Funeral Home in Davenport.
We were on 53rd Street when we passed four men in matching green T-shirts, pouring a concrete sidewalk. They were sweating, and their cement needed their attention. But they all stopped what they were doing. They turned to the approaching hearse and placed their dirty hands over their hearts.
The somber expressions on the working men’s faces made me cry, and I turned to Struckman to say I was sorry for going on the way I was. And I realized he was crying, too.
“How do you keep doing this, Captain?” I asked.
“Thank God for sunglasses,” he answered.
Just after delivering Pautsch’s casket to the gym at North High School for Monday’s visitation, Weerts owner David Deuth light-heartedly said, “Maybe we could switch jobs for a day sometime.”
I said I couldn’t possibly do it. Far too emotional, I said.
“Oh, yeah?” he asked. “I cried all the way over here.”
Then, at Tuesday’s funeral, I was stunned to see Calvary Church’s Pastor Tim Bowman fighting back tears during the final message. I’ve never seen a pastor do that. He wasn’t crying for Pautsch, he said.
His tears were for the sister, three brothers and parents of the young soldier whom he’d known many years. But there was another reason the emotion bubbled to so many surfaces.
“I tell you, I’ve been proud to be an American this week,” Bowman said. “We do some things right.”
There is no irony in our receiving this message from a 20-year-old man who perished in the blink of a suicide bomb a million miles away. This country may be largely divided and its economy squarely in the toilet, but Pautsch didn’t see his country that way.
His convictions were made clear last year when he defended his faith in God by saying, “It’s like this: All the other pretend gods want you to die for them, but Jesus died for you instead.”
And there at the front of the church stood his eldest brother, Jared Pautsch, handsome in his Army uniform and maroon beret. As the official escort for his little brother’s remains throughout the many processions and services, Jared Pautsch looked as if he was guarding gold.
I wondered what he would do when the casket finally was lowered into the ground, and he could no longer watch over him. And it occurred to me: He’ll go back to watching over us.
This is why we weep. It is from the comfort we find in gratitude.
Barb Ickes can be contacted at (563) 383-2316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.