To The Editor:
We have been humbled and our hearts deeply touched by the overwhelming expressions of love, support and generosity that have been demonstrated by you [members of the community] following the death of our son and brother, police officer Justin Maples. Words can never express the depth of gratitude we have for what this great community has done for our family.
We would like to thank each of you personally; however, we would no doubt unintentionally leave someone out. So we want to take this opportunity to thank all of you so very much for all you did for Justin while he was with us, shortly after his death, at his funeral and to his final resting place, and what continues to be done. These events have been burned into our hearts and their memory will last forever. We will treasure them always.
Justin was the fifth generation of Maples in Cleveland. He was a Christian and loved his Lord and his family. He was proud of his heritage, his family, his community, his vocation and his country. He loved UT football and would tear up with us on the “Hill” as the Pride of the Southland Band played “Rocky Top.” He was doing what he always wanted to do. He was from a long line of military and law enforcement men. The night he was taken from us, he was in pursuit of justice. He heard the “last call.”
Thirty-six years ago, my wife and I decided to move from Missouri back to my home in Cleveland to start a family. When our children grew up, we were so pleased when they chose to stay in Cleveland to start their careers and eventually raise their children. We have always known what a great community Cleveland is, but it became even more evident after the tragic death of our son. Justin didn’t choose to be a police officer for the fame or glory. He chose it because he wanted to make a difference, and to help make our community a better place. We are so proud and honored that he gave what he could back to the community that we all call home.
Many people have described Justin as a hero. In our eyes he was just that — “our hero,” because of how he lived and not because of how he died. We all believe our loved ones are special. That’s as it should be. But on Thursday, May 24, 2012, around noon you were the real heroes. You lined the funeral procession route, stood in the hot sun, waved, held signs, blew kisses, said “God Bless you” and waved our American flag.
Men and women dressed in their military uniforms, saluted ... we saw tears, signs saying “We Love You” and so much more. There were young and old alike, from all walks of life, a cross-section of our community. We shed tears with you as we felt your support and love. How beautiful it was! As they say, look in the mirror and you will see what we saw as we passed by ... “that a hero lies in you.”
The night of Justin’s visitation, a young man in his school crossing guard uniform came up to us. He knew Justin and just wanted to tell us how sorry he was over Justin’s passing. We asked him who he was. He told us his name and said, “I am just a crossing guard.” We hugged him and cried together. Just a crossing guard? We said, “Son, there is no such thing as ‘just a crossing guard.’ You protect the lives of young children. We can think of no more honorable vocation than to protect the lives of young children. You sir, are ‘A Crossing Guard!’”
By definition, this humble young man is a “Hero!”
You see, we have heroes all around us. Most go unnoticed, most will come and go and they will never receive any earthly honors, recognition or awards. But to our Heavenly Father, who sees all and who loves us all equally, no kind deed goes unnoticed. Throughout time, God’s heroes have received a crown that will never tarnish or decay! So the next time you see a hero, tell him or her how proud you are of them.
We are reminded of the words from the poem by John Donne: “No man is an island, entire of itself ... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
We are all on this island we call earth, but this is not our home. We strive for the temporal, and the momentary. However, if we fail to care for our fellow man, our character is lessened, and we are in jeopardy of losing the Eternal.
Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless; until they rest in Thee.” We are at peace, and rest in the knowledge that Justin Durwood Maples — beloved husband, father, son, brother, grandson, nephew, uncle, cousin, friend and pursuer of Justice — is at peace.
He has passed over. He is home. His tears have been wiped away. He is in a place that knows no sadness and he knows no pain. Saint Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)
Justin now sees what we see dimly. He now knows fully what we know in only part. Someday we shall join him. How about you?
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you Peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Thank you. We love you all.
— Charlene & Barry Maples
Brittney Maples Gobble
(In memory of Justin Durwood Maples, born into this world Jan. 10, 1977; born into Eternity May 20, 2012. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen!)