It was 12:15 A.M. on a cold night. I had just left the police station and climbed into the blue Alfa Romeo of the Italian carabinieri. All Italian young men are required to devote a year to military or government service; I had been assigned to the police. My duty for that day was patrolling the cities of Jesolo and Cavallino, just northeast of Venice, between midnight and 6:00 A.M.

I had not always gotten along with my partner because of his temperament and my lack of patience. However, our relationship had improved substantially during the previous week.

Suddenly a call for assistance came over the radio. “Avanti dalla trentuno,” I answered. Headquarters informed us that a bank robbery had just taken place in a rural town north of Venice. My heart accelerated as I anticipated the potential danger. The officer on the radio stated that a policeman had been shot during the robbery. The four men responsible were armed with Kalashinikovs, Soviet-made automatic weapons. They were supposedly heading at high speed toward Jesolo in a white Lancia.

“Ricevuto,” I signed off, automatically reaching for my weapon. I turned to my partner and asked, “What are we going to do if we run into them?” His answer was cold and direct. “Shoot.”

My partner quickly shifted gears. My mind started reviewing all the different circumstances in which I could find myself in the next minutes. I was aware that our lives were in danger and realized that if we confronted four armed men, our chances of staying alive were not good. My partner was silent, showing little emotion.

Am I willing to die for this job and my country? The question that arose in my mind was quickly answered by the words of the oath I had taken at the beginning of my service. I had promised to serve the people of Italy and to protect them from criminal acts, even if it meant losing my life.

As we turned onto the main street of Jesolo, my right hand tightened on the grip of the gun. The thought came again: Am I ready to die? Am I ready to go back to meet my Heavenly Father? I started thinking about my family, my life, and my testimony of the gospel. I pondered my weaknesses and almost instantly realized that my conscience was clear. I had no major regrets and felt that I had apologized to all the people I had been unkind to. That thought gave me an incredible feeling of peace. My racing heart slowed to normal, and my mind relaxed.

We did not confront the robbers that night. I concluded my year of service in the police a few months later, never having to fire a gun. But I will never forget that experience. It helped me recognize that our Heavenly Father could call me home at any time—and I want to be ready to leave this earth with the peace of a repentant and clean soul.

Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson