Andy’s funeral was overwhelming. As we drove to the church (the largest in the area) I was in disbelief at the sheer number of police cars outside. There must have been well over 500 cruisers parked in the lots and lawns of the church. Police officers had come from all over the state and over 100 different law enforcement agencies to pay their respects to my friend. I think Andy would have found it hysterical.
Andy and Susanna’s pastor from their GCTS days gave the opening sermon and played the role of emcee. He did a wonderful job of communicating the true purpose of Andy’s life–serving Jesus Christ. The Lieutenant Governor of Florida followed, and we were surprised to hear that Andy’s father-in-law, also a pastor, had presided over the Lt. Gov.’s mother’s funeral. He seems like a kind man, and he also professed Christ to the gathering. After the Lt. Governor, Andy’s shift supervisor with the department spoke about Andy’s brief time on the force. He was visibly shaken by what happened while he told us several funny stories of Andy’s time as a police officer. Andy’s brother-in-law, Joe, spoke for the Widman family. Joe did a great job, and continues to do well as the rock for the Widmans during their nightmare. Susanna’s brother followed Joe, and it was so nice to hear her big brother’s perspective of Andy. He then escorted Susanna to the podium, and stood behind her while she spoke with such tenderness about her husband. She showed a lot of strength and grace, and refused to speak out of any bitterness or anger she may have in her soul. (I honestly don’t think she has any, which is remarkable.)
(One thing of note: During the slideshow of Andy’s life there was no sound other than the music and the sniffling of 2500 people crying. But at one point I heard Samuel, Andy’s 4-year-old son, cry out, “Poppa!”)
After the funeral, a long procession (and the word “long” cannot begin to describe it) traveled 4 miles to the gravesite. As we drove, hundreds of sympathetic mourners lined the streets to pay their respects. A lot of folks came out of their businesses and stood on the side of the road, hands over their hearts. It was a moving tribute for a great man they never knew. Thank you, Ft. Myers, for all you have done for my friend and his family.
At the gravesite, they gave three American flags–the first to Susanna, the second to Andy’s mother, and the third to his son. As the bagpipes played, I stood and stared, because I thought I didn’t have any tears left. But then they played the “last call.” (His badge number was 413.) “Ft. Myers to 413.” No answer. “Ft. Myers to 413.” No answer. “Ft. Myers to 413.” No answer. “Officer Andrew Widman is 10-7. Gone but not forgotten.” That was the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. My body found the tears to release, and finds them again as I write this.
One thing is clear from Andy’s funeral: his life was dedicated to Jesus Christ. The gospel went out to the whole city of Ft. Myers on Wednesday, and I think that is what he would have really wanted. Above all else, he was a man of God. That truth cannot be denied, and you can read it in every news report, and hear it from everyone who knew him.
Thank you, Andy, for the life you lived. Thank you for the kind words you have spoken to me. I will not forget them.
You may have been killed as a police officer, but I believe you died a martyr for Jesus.
You died with your eyes open and a smile on your face, and we all know that on that dirty sidewalk, outside of a night club, you saw Jesus.