My mentor, R. Brooks Fleig, served as a commissioned police officer and chaplain in my hometown of Sulphur, Louisiana, for twenty-five years. He organized a multi-faith prison ministry at the Calcasieu Parish Jail, serving over twelve hundred inmates. He was always present for what he termed “high crisis intervention.” He was also an expert in occult crime and gave training/lectures to law enforcement departments throughout Louisiana and Texas.
Brooks recalled, “For the first 15 years, I wore a uniform with rig belt and carried a .45 colt as a sidearm. It was a full-time job, and I worked 60 to 80 hours a week and took care of The Shepherd’s Rest. This was a nonpaying job. I felt as long as the Lord met our needs, I was free from taking any money from the departments.”
There’s one service he performed for our community that constantly comes back to my mind. In more than two decades of working with law enforcement, he delivered all the death notifications in our parish 24/7. The records show he did this more than six hundred times.
When someone was killed in an automobile accident, when a person committed suicide, when a daughter had been raped and killed, or a son had overdosed on drugs and died – Brooks was the one who went to tell the family. He always left out names but often told me the stories.
He would say, “You’ve always got to be prepared for anything – watch for the runners.” Occasionally when he delivered the news of someone’s loved one having passed, a family member would run to get a gun or knife in order to commit suicide immediately. I recall he hindered several people from this process who were so terribly stricken by grief in the moment. Nevertheless, Brooks had nerves of steel strengthened by Christ.
“About a week after the notification of the death of a wife, I received a phone call from the family that her husband was depressed and thinking of suicide. Upon arrival at the home, I entered and found the husband sitting at the kitchen table with a colt 45 auto in his mouth. When I started talking to him, he attempted to respond, but I could not understand him with the gun in his mouth. I told him, “look, if you want to talk to me, take that gun out of your mouth.” He did, and I was able to retrieve the pistol without incident.”
Many police officers become hardened from having to deal with so much darkness. But not Brooks. The more horror he saw, the more suffering he tried to relieve. When I was in my late teens, a few years after our relationship started, he began a new ministry that I simply couldn’t fathom (or stomach). He had a few volunteers that helped him, but not many.
Here are Brook’s words –
“Sometime in the ’80s, I was called to a home where the husband had killed himself with a shotgun while sitting in a recliner in the family room. I looked at the mess, and I knew the Lord would have me do more than just tell the family about the death. I knew we had better clean it up before it started to stink. At that time, I was with Sulphur Police Department. I talked to the mayor and chief it was approved. Later, when I went with Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, we continued the crime scene and suicide clean-ups until 2000.”
When my cousins’ son shot himself, Brooks was there as well. There were many teenage suicides during my adolescent years – Brooks ministered to numerous families. It could just get darker and darker, but he’d just shine more light, tirelessly.
I learned that you could accurately judge a person’s character by how dirty they’ll get their hands for God. What a person does unto the “least of these” is what matters in eternity! The people that assisted Brooks and his wife in performing this service were some of the best examples of Christ-consciousness you’ll ever witness.
I’m still chasing Brooks’ example to this very day. When the shit hits the fan, I’ll try loving more intensely because of the extreme examples I had in my mentor and the people he hung out with—unsung angels.
I encourage you today, where there is ugliness in your life, don’t look away. Lean in. Ease suffering that makes you uncomfortable to see or think about. If you want profound spirituality, then go deep and get messy with your labors of love.
In Maharaj-ji’s service –