At my friend Al “Sonny” Drake’s funeral at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, about 75 members of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club rode dark heavy metal beasts through the sacred green land of the dead, passing headstones commemorating warriors past, parking in a long line that reminded me of a fire-breathing dragon.
Beneath wooden beams of an open air pavilion, uniformed Marines gently folded Old Glory and presented America’s symbol of freedom to Sonny’s widow, Margie. Christian prayers ended as the nice pastor presented his pious smile and disappeared back into the solemn, silent crowd.
The service had officially ended for the former Pagan’s chapter president.
But the Pagan’s had the last word.
Stepping to the front of the crowd where the pastor earlier stood, an East Coast Pagan’s chapter president and military veteran took centre stage for an encore. Evoking Sonny’s bold spirit in a startling shout, he made clear his personal allegiance and his deceased brother’s final destination.
“Valhalla!” he blasted in a deep voice, referencing the hallowed Norse afterlife reserved for Viking chieftains.
“Valhalla!” assembled club members boomed in response.
“Valhalla!” bellowed the president.
“Valhalla!” rumbled the outlaw multitude.
“Pagan’s Nation!” thundered the president.
“Pagan’s Nation!” boomed club members.
“Valhalla!” shouted the Pagan’s chapter president one last time, raising a clenched fist into the air.
“Valhalla!” exploded the uncompromising grand finale.
Moving en masse and climbing on their bikes, Pagan’s wearing their colors on the backs of well-worn cut-off denim vests kicked over well-oiled engines and roared away from the remains of a good man who loved his country, loved his family and friends and loved his club.
Without a doubt, Sonny Drake lived and died a Pagan – a Pagan forever, forever a Pagan.