The traditional Jewish greeting between Rosh HaShannah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is G'mar Chatima Tova -- May the final writing be for good.
The day after Los Angeles Police Department Officer Kenneth Aragon -- a nineteen year department veteran -- died from injuries sustained in an early morning December third motorcycle accident, the Los Angeles Times devoted less than a dozen lines of print to his life and death. Those few words presented the barest of information about this life lost.
This morning's Los Angeles Times devoted far more space to Officer Aragon and even a bold face large type headline: Officer killed in crash had been drinking at Police Academy bar. The caption under the photograph of Officer Aragon states that his blood alcohol level was over the legal limit. Nowhere in this four column article replete with references of careless karaoke and ninety minute disappearances and drunken debauchery is there any mention of a life well lived in the service of family and community. And certainly in the few sparse words the day after his death was there any mention of Officer Aragon as former marine and constant mentor.
The day before he died, Kenneth Aragon participated in a toy drive to help children in need have holiday gifts to open. He was an integral part of the explorer program at the Northeast Police Station where he helped with events and fund raisers to benefit under privileged children. He helped children and adolescents achieve physical fitness. He coached a girls' softball team. And he adored his five children.
Was he a flawed person? Of course. But then, aren't we all flawed in one way or another? Of course.
And yet the Times made no mention of the gaping hole this death leaves in lives and communities and chose, instead, to make its final writing of him focused on a flaw. Those who never knew him will remember him not for the life he lived but for the death he died. And those who did know him must wrestle with the words the Times chose for its summation of his life.
G'mar Chatima Tova. May the final writing be for good.
Ordinarily this greeting speaks of the final writings of our own lives and our hope that the words of those writings will be if not completely positive at least fair.
The Los Angeles Times teaches us a new meaning of that ancient phrase. When we speak of our fellow travellers on this narrow bridge of life, may we speak not only of flawed moments but of lives lived remarkably and well.
That is certainly the least we can do for those who spend their lives standing between us and danger.
May the memory of Officer Kenneth Aragon be for his family, his friends, and for the community he served a blessing.