On a rainy day in Abbotsford, British Columbia the landscape of ordinary streets changed into a sea of uniforms, flags and citizens. They came from all over Canada, Scotland, England and the United States to pay tribute to a fallen officer, Cst. John Davidson of The Abbotsford Police Department.
As my friend (who knew of him through her daughter) and I walked towards the centre in which his Celebration of Life ceremony would be held I was struck by the amount of people, the security presence, the sounds of air traffic but little to no talking. There were no cell phones ringing, no laughter, no children at play or any of the usual noises that permeate our neighbourhoods; just the sound of boots walking.
The main centre was reserved for “blue bands” which was all police and emergency personnel. A centre, a short distance away, would hold the overflow of people who wanted to attend and watch the proceedings on large screens. We sat in quiet contemplation, stood when asked to stand and when guided towards moments of silence it was as if we were one mind.
Scrunched up in so many hands were tissues ready to meet the eyes and cheeks that carried tears for someone we’ve never met. For those that did know Cst. Davidson it was particularly hard to fight back emotions as they spoke about their beloved friend, colleague, husband, father, brother and uncle. His life played out to us through stories, pictures and video. We understood that he would not at all expect or enjoy the focus that was being placed on him but people like John Davidson – who selfishly give – don’t understand our need to give back.
When the service was over we walked towards the final procession area. For miles again a sea of officers, first responders and civilians stood along a street, in the cold, with rain pelting down upon already soaked uniforms -all of us ready to say our final “Goodbye and Thank you.” The gun salute rang out to momentarily end the silence and then the police motorcycles rumbled passed. With lights flashing and cars approaching the shout signifying to stand at attention was next and as the car carrying the body of Cst. John Davidson, and the cars for his family passed by, arms raised in salute.
When I got home I shared the experience with my husband. I showered to try to get rid of the bitter cold that ate through my clothes to my bones. My mind stuck in time, November 19, 2017. Later that evening as I laid down in my bed I couldn’t help but think, as my husband arrived next to me, that at least we have this moment again. My mind wandered to Cst. John Davidson’s wife who now faces long nights in a bed without her love. I think of his siblings and mother along with his children who must rely on their memory for pearls of wisdom and the essence of who he was. I know all of this well, having experienced at the age of nine what it’s like to hear my mother cry herself to sleep after my fathers sudden death. I know the emptiness of a house that was once a home because of the absence of someone so loved. But this isn’t about me.
It’s about a brave man who chose a career that is both dangerous and rewarding. It is about a man who loved nature, physical fitness and who pushed himself and others to be the best they could be. He believed in the power of people to change and had a way about him that even those receiving a ticket would shake his hand. He had no tolerance for drunk drivers. He helped youth to reject drugs that were taking them out one by one and cycled to raise money for cancer. He had a sense of humour and so much more that made John Davidson a soul that will be missed.
Thank you to the family for allowing us to mourn with you in such a public way. Know that when you think there is nobody remembering you or him, you are wrong – I am. (And I suspect many others beyond your police family will be too)