NICHOLASVILLE — For the second time this week, hundreds turned out to pay their respects to a Central Kentucky first responder who died in the line of duty.
Friday's funeral for Jessamine County paramedic John Mackey came only two days after the service for Richmond police officer Daniel Ellis.
Mackey, 40, died Monday after he was struck by a car last week in downtown Nicholasville.
Ellis, 33, was shot and died last week while investigating a robbery.
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"We've had to join together as EMS, police, fire," said Andy Carter, associate chaplain for Lexington firefighters. "And although the events of this week have been tough and terrible, I've been able to see how we're all just one big family."
Carter, at the request of Mackey's wife, Janine, wore a kilt, as did several mourners who attended the funeral. Mackey reveled in his Scottish heritage, and once attended a weekend-long paintball game wearing a kilt.
Carter said the purpose of the funeral was to be a celebration of Mackey's life.
So in keeping with Mackey's wishes, a recording of the traditional music-hall song Isn't It Grand, Boys was played and set the tone for the service. Part of the song goes:
"Let's not have a sniffle
Let's have a bloody good cry
And always remember the longer you live
The sooner you'll bloody well die...."
Other mourners came dressed in the garb of a Renaissance Fair, another passion for Mackey. "If you haven't figured out yet, John was far from normal," his brother, Mike Kinney, said. "But if you have figured that out, you're kind of late to the party."
Some might wonder how one brother could say that about another. But Kinney said, "It makes me feel sorry for normal. I wish we instead could live in a world where normal is where we could be more like John. Where normal meant pouring your heart out for those in need. ... Where instead of picking out people's flaws, you search for the best in them."
Before the service started, more than 200 law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel from Jessamine and other Central Kentucky counties filed past the flag-draped casket.
Those attending the funeral at Bethel Harvest Church on U.S. 27 were greeted by a Jessamine County fire truck flying an American flag from an extended ladder.
Mackey was on an ambulance making a first-aid run Nov. 5 to the Jessamine County jail when the vehicle's side mirror smacked the mirror of a passing pickup truck on Main Street in Nicholasville.
The EMS crew turned onto Maple Street and pulled into a parking lot to check the damage to the mirror. Minutes later, Mackey, walking between two cars on the opposite side of the street from where the ambulance was parked, stepped out onto East Maple and was struck by a passenger car.
After he was taken off life support, Mackey's organs were donated to others.
"I especially love that he was able to donate an eye, a single eye," Kinney said. "I see this as John's last joke, as I imagine it going to someone who must have recently heard his mother yelling out, 'Don't do that! You'll put your eye out!' Or better still, it gets to be someone's only eye, with the recipient wearing a patch over the other."
As you might have guessed, Mackey loved pirates, too, and made the most of Sept. 19, which is "International Talk Like a Pirate Day."
After the service, the casket was wheeled outside the church and uniformed employees of Jessamine County Emergency Medical Services loaded it into an ambulance. Nearby, bagpipes played Amazing Grace. Four air ambulance helicopters flew overhead, one after the other.
Then last call was aired by a dispatcher over a radio: "Your hard work and dedication will never be forgotten."
The sad pageantry of the day was a solemn reminder of another tragic day in Jessamine County. Friday was the anniversary of the 2001 shooting that led to the deaths of Jessamine County Deputy Sheriff Billy Ray Walls and Capt. Chuck Morgan. Another deputy, Sammy Brown, was wounded.