*Story by Chief Moody
At the end of our lives somebody, usually a religious person, stands before us and points out some “super special” things that we brought the world. It’s a nice thing to do, but it’s often a bit of an exaggeration. Yet on that rare occasion, it’s no exaggeration at all.
His name was Gary Beach. He worked for 33 years at the Salina Fire Department. He was short in stature, a decent firefighter, a good officer, and a great man. He was also my officer for the better part of the first five years I spent with the SFD.
For most of us, our body’s response to happiness is a smile. It’s like a physiological connection exists between the heart and the lips, but for Gary it went farther – much farther. For Gary the heart bone was connected to the smile bone and the smile bone was connected to the laugh bone. And it was a laugh like no other.
You need to start with a snapshot of his face in order to describe the laugh. The Joker in the Batman movie – that’s a pretty close description, and with Gary the size of the smile was a direct indicator of what was to come.
Following the smile there was usually a few words – a comment – followed by a laugh that would instantly hit an octave level close to that of a peacock. Up and down, up and down, comments followed by laughter, comments followed by laughter.
Gary would already be in the “super special” category if this was where it stopped, but it didn’t. Occasionally, Gary’s laughter would catapult into what would best be described as a “Grand Mal Laugh”. It would go on, and on, and on, and …
As it endured you honestly wondered if he would become anoxic and pass out from lack of oxygen. Sometimes, you would discover that you too were holding your breath. Slowly but surely everyone would be laughing.
We try to understand why the “super special” folks like Gary are taken from us all too soon. With Gary I think it’s pretty clear. The Lord simply needed his laughter in Heaven.