It was hot out there, the sun glaring down on us in our suits and ties. The air was sort of smoky, the way it usually is down here near the Gulf Coast. A parade of suits and uniforms marched behind the fire truck. The casket was sitting in back, and the sun glared off our sunglasses and the stark metal of the fire engine. It was very green, too. There had been lots of rain down there. The sycamores, elms, and pecan trees were leafing out, and the massive live oaks lining the road provided a welcome canopy to guard us against the sun.
The bagpipes were playing songs I knew and ones I’d heard but couldn’t remember the names of. We wiped our foreheads with handkerchiefs and kept walking.
It was Good Friday.
I didn’t know I was a pallbearer until my family and I arrived at the Spring Branch Christian Church for the service, parting a sea of firemen and police cars ready for the big send-off. He had been a fireman and paramedic for almost 20 years. He had been my friend.
They had called me earlier that week and told me he was in the hospital and probably wouldn’t make it this time. It was a shock, since he hadn’t told me he was sick again. I had called him a couple of weeks back, telling him I wanted to come down and let him meet the kids. He seemed happy about that and as talkative as ever. And he...