Wednesday's service for Stanley was amazing. It was held in Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College and it was packed. The number of law enforcement from all over the state that came to honor this retired officer and friend was amazing. I have never witnessed anything like the rows and rows of uniforms....grown men and women...the toughest that we see on a daily basis, wiping tears away and embracing each other for comfort. Stanley not only served in law enforcement, but also as a member of a Harley Davidson club. His chapter and members of other chapters filled row after row in the auditorium as well. The service was great....they had two ministers speak as well as the former police chief of Southern Pines and the current police chief of Southern Pines. All four men spoke through broken words at times to honor and salute such a wonderful member of our community. Aside from that, they addressed Pat, Huggie, Mike and Kelli specifically...as well his siblings and his dad. It was heart wrenching to say the least. I sat there with people I didn't know paying respects to a man that we both obviously did know. Everyone cried, held hands and at one point, everyone laughed.....I'm pretty sure it was the comment saying Stanley loved his grandchildren so much you would have thought he invented grandchildren. One of the things that sticks with me the most was when Dr. Bill Rolland (Stanley's former minister at Manly Pres), said his "heart was broken because we lost such a good man. That the world operates according to physical law, and that God makes a choice whether or not to override the laws that he created. He rarely chooses to do that, and we don’t know why he does sometimes and not others. I hope to learn these answers when I get to heaven because this bothers me.” He also quoted Mother Theresa with her answer to the simple question of "What will you do when you get to heaven?" She said she would walk up to God and say, "You've got a lot of explaining to do." With all the questions surrounding this tragic accident, these words stuck with me. No matter how hard it is to understand, sometimes we just have to rely on God's timing and find comfort in the fact that there is a bigger plan for us all. Sometimes, the unanswered questions restore our faith in His timing and His plan. This provides little immediate comfort to those grieving but in the long run, the answers (or at least an understanding) may be revealed.
After the service concluded, all the law enforcement lined up outside to receive the casket and move it to the hearse. It was another awe-inspiring moment where uniform after uniform formed a pathway to lead Stanley on his final journey. Led by Huggie and Mike holding their mom's hands, we watched as the beautifully flag-draped casket was carried by 6 officers. I went to my car and got in line for the procession to the cemetery. Once the procession started, I was floored by what I saw.....every road we came to had a member of law enforcement blocking the intersection so we could pass. They stopped traffic on both sides of US 1 to allow Stanley's final ride pass. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen....people stopped on the side of the road and got out of their cars to honor him. One family I drove past had two little boys...one of which stood with his hand over his eye in salute. I wish I could explain how long this procession of cars was but I'll never know anything other than it was REALLY long. Law enforcement cars from all over the state, the Harley Davidsons that roared in front of me and the countless friends in their own car that followed Stanley to Vass. It was unreal. Once at the graveside, I witnessed one of the most beautiful and tear-filled services to date. Stanley's casket was brought in on a caisson with the family walking behind him (I later learned the caisson was the very one that escorted the bodies of Kennedy and Reagan). There was a SP police car which gave the final call for Stanley over the radio. The flag folding and presentation to his wife, Patricia. There was a 21-gun salute. Words were spoken, tears were shed, hands were held. After Patricia received the flag, I watched both boys reach over and grab her hands and touch the flag themselves. I can only imagine what a powerful moment that was. When it was all over, Huggie, Mike and Patricia all went over to the top of the grave stone and placed their hand prints on it....a symbol of forever for the Klingenschmidts. From now until the end of time, those four can be together....in spirit and in love. The entire day was truly special and I was honored to be there for it.
Once we left there, the Klingenschmidts welcomed family and friends to their house for dinner. It was so nice to get there and see the family relax a little bit. Chris Higginbotham and Leonard Mark came to the service and their house as well as some of Huggie's friends from Charlotte. I figured I'd stay about an hour and head on back to the beach. Boy was I wrong. The hours passed by and it was 9:30pm before I could bring myself to leave. We laughed and reminisced and laughed even more. Mainly about old times but also about how Stanley was up in heaven shaking his head at Leonard and Chris who got lost and had to break into his processional line and how they decided to race down Chicken Plant Road like they were still in high school. His Charlotte friends learned that Huggie could in fact, sing and went on a hunt for a video tape of it. They were also enlightened to all the fun and trouble the boys (okay, and occasionally me and a few others) caused in high school and college. Those 3 hours at the Klingenschmidt's house, combined with the 4 hours prior laying Stanley to rest will stay etched in my heart forever. There was no where else I wanted or needed to be at that time.
Stanley will always be remembered in our community....for his service as a police officer, for his time spent on a baseball field, his devotion to his family, his church and in teaching those around him. He will be remembered as a hero....someone who gave his life while giving to others. Leading a charity ride to benefit Special Olympics, as a retired police officer, on his Harley Davidson. His last ride involved three things he was so passionate about. What an inspiration to us all. No one will miss Stanley more than his family....for there is a lot of love within this family. But there are plenty of friends, acquaintances and even strangers that will miss his presence and his passion for life. I'm sure he impacted enough people that together, we can continue to do good work like him and spread his enthusiasm around. Everyone was better for knowing Stanley and I'm thankful for my friendship with Huggie that allowed our paths to cross.
As the days have passed since, I've kept in touch with Huggie....simple texts to let him know I'm still thinking about him or stupid texts that have no purpose other than to make him smile. I bought several cards and will send them periodically because writing notes back and forth was certainly one way Huggie and I became such good friends in high school. But all that aside, our hugs are how we speak when we can't find any words. I had very few words for Huggie this week.....I did have plenty of tears and worry and the desire to help him through this however I can. But getting the chance to be near him, talk to him and share one (or 5) of our precious hugs made my trip home everything it was supposed to be. I can't imagine Huggie and I going too long between talks any more....and hopefully a lot less time will pass between our next embrace as well.
(pictures from SPPD facebook page)
(pictures from SPPD facebook page)