Editor's Note: In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve 2012, police officer Jennifer Sebena was gunned down while on patrol. She was killed by her own husband, Benjamin Sebena, an ex-Marine who was struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Both the victim and her husband shooter were members of Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Amazingly, both families supported each other through the difficult funeral.
The following funeral meditation/sermon, originally titled "Words of Encouragement," was delivered by Stuart Briscoe. Over 2,000 people attended the funeral, including about 1,000 uniformed officers.
It was Christmas Eve in Wauwatosa, in the early hours of the morning. Most of the citizens were asleep in their beds, warm, comfortable, safe. The Wauwatosa Police Department was on the job patrolling and protecting. A solitary squad car made its way on quiet streets past the Christmas lights and the Santa signs, a lone officer at the wheel. Jennifer Sebena was 30 years of age, two years on the force, and had wanted to be a cop for as long as she could remember. When she set her mind to something, she pursued it with diligence. Unsurprisingly, she graduated at the top of her class at the academy. Now she was on patrol.
Jennifer suffered from no illusions when she buckled on her bullet proof vest that night. She knew the Wauwatosa Police Department had not lost an officer on duty in their 96-year history, but she also knew that the early morning streets are not the safest places in the world. Like all her fellow officers, she knew that putting on the uniform was a passport to harm's way.
She was married to a young man she'd met through the social media. He, at the time, was a lonely Marine serving in Iraq; she was a warm-hearted girl back home who appreciated his commitment to service in the face of danger. Their relationship blossomed at long distance until one day he was hit by shrapnel, seriously wounded, and evacuated from the action. He was a wounded warrior, not only in body but in spirit. Like so many of our young people, his body was crudely pierced by red hot metal, his spirit traumatized by the brutality of war. The girl waiting back home knew her Marine was deeply wounded but believed she could help him recover. She was always dedicated, helpful, determined, and warm-hearted. They married and joined a church. She taught high school kids, he joined a men's support group.
In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, as she parked her squad car for a break, Jennifer had no idea that a shadowy figure with evil intent awaited her arrival. He took the opportunity and shot her dead. Jennifer's short life, filled with promise, was mercilessly mowed down, terminated in seconds. How fragile, how vulnerable we humans are. It takes but a moment for life to end and for eternity to begin.
Stuart Briscoe is minister-at-large of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and author of several books, including What Works When Life Doesn't (Howard Books).
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