Ready to Die?


I was young, with my whole life ahead of me. But death might be around the next corner. Was I prepared?

At 12:15 A.M. I left the police station and climbed into the blue Alfa Romeo of the Italian carabinieri. I was putting in my obligatory year of service required of all Italian young men. I had been assigned to the police. My duty for that day was patrolling the cities of Jesolo and Cavallino, just northeast of Venice, from midnight to 6:00 A.M.

Suddenly the familiar sound of the radio caught my attention. “Avanti dalla trentuno,” I answered. My heart accelerated, anticipating the potential danger. Headquarters informed us that a bank robbery had just taken place in a rural town north of Venice. The officer stated that a policeman had been shot during the robbery. Four men were responsible and were supposedly armed with Kalashinikovs, a Soviet-made automatic weapon. They were apparently heading at high speed toward Jesolo in a white Lancia.

“Ricevuto,” I signed off, automatically reaching for the Beretta M12 under my seat. 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 were not good of staying alive. My partner was showing little emotion, and since his answer to my last question, he had not said a word.

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

As our car turned into the main street of Jesolo, my right hand tightened on the grip of the M12. Am I ready to die? Am I ready to go back to meet my Heavenly Father? were the questions in my mind. 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 clean. I had no major regrets in my life and felt that I had apologized to all the people I had been unkind to. That thought gave me an incredible feeling of peace.

We did not confront the robbers that night. I concluded my one year of service in the police a few months later, never having to fire my gun. But I will never forget that winter night. It helped me realize how our Heavenly Father can call us back home at any time. I realized I wanted to be ready to leave this earth with the peace of a repentant and clean soul.

[illustration] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson