COLUMBIA, Mo. -

The family and friends of a New Bloomfield police officer killed by a drunk driver are saying their goodbyes.

Michael Tufts' family held a Celebration of Life Friday night for their late son.  Tufts died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday after being in a coma, fighting for his life since he was hit by drunk driver Spencer Gordon in December of 2012.

Tufts' parents said Michael's passing was hard, but it brought relief.

"We're at peace.  He's in a better place now and he's given us permission to move on," Patty Tufts, his mother, said.

Family and friends shared tears and laughter as they celebrated his life today.

"I remember this one time, Michael went fishing with his sister and she didn't catch anything.  Well he thought she wasn't looking so he grabbed her line, stuck a fish on it, and told her she got one!" Patty remembered with a laugh.

She said it's stories that people are sharing that are helping her get through.

And Michael's girlfriend, Cherise Garrett, agreed.  She said his death means relief from suffering.

"I feel like looking at him today, I haven't seen him look that peaceful since the accident," Garrett said.

She cried as she remembered the long road to his passing, starting with the cold December night when Gordon crashed into the car Michael was driving.

"I tried to hold on for as long as I could, and then I had to think 'What would Michael want?'" she said.

And thinking about what Michael wants is exactly what the family was doing with the Celebration of Life ceremony. 

"We tried, we tried everything but I think he was waiting for us to be in a good place.  He wouldn't want doom and gloom now, he'd want a party," Patty said.

"Michael is a person with a big heart, so he'd want anybody and everybody to be there," Garrett agreed.

People packed the funeral home -- with a constant line of family, friends and fellow officers -- to pay their respects.

"The response from the New Bloomfield and police departments all over has been awesome," Michael's dad, Robert Tufts, said.

"I think if he's watching somewhere, he definitely is jumping for joy," Garrett said.

"This isn't goodbye, it's see you later," Patty said.

There will be a processional with several area law enforcement agencies taking Michael to his final resting place on Saturday.