I’ve struggled for days on how to express how I’ve felt about the sacrifice J made that night. I’ve felt compelled to attempt to explain to people our lives as officer’s families- not with the idea that you can empathize with us, but so that maybe in some way you can appreciate the sacrifice a little more. So many of you want to honor J and remember him, and I hope this post helps. I also hope that it serves as inspiration to become your best person.
Tonight as I sit in what I like to call my inspiration chair, my eye keeps being drawn towards the shadow box I had made of J’s badge, name tag, SWAT patch, chief’s coin etc from his former department. Everyone looks at the shadow box and remarks on how beautiful it is. And, I must say I agree. They did an outstanding job at capturing the professionalism and honor of being an officer. But tonight one portion of it keeps capturing my eye. The picture J had taken when he graduated the police academy. Beside it, there is a poem. The title of which says “I Fight What You Fear.” I chose this particular poem and portrait to put in the shadow box because above all others it was always J’s favorite. Tonight, I doubt I write much about the grieving process because honestly, not much has changed in my life, but instead, I feel compelled to write about the idea of him fighting what we all fear and how has served as inspiration in my life and hopefully will in yours as well.
J and I rarely had conversations about his fears. Not because he didn’t have them, he did. But because, he simply didn’t allow them to consume his life on a regular basis. I always admired that trait. It was something I aspired to emulate; however, I never seemed to firmly grasp how.
As an officer’s wife, I had my FAIR share of worries and fear. And, then of course I also worried about C’s future, his past, his present, his bumps, his bruises, his learning, and the list could go on and on and on. My list of fears – wow, I couldn’t even begin to list them. But at the root of them was my fear of failure. Failure as a mom, a wife, a teacher, a person- you get the picture. I admired how free J was from fear, and I often attributed that to his job. Sometimes it almost angered me how he seemed to disregard his own safety in order to save or help someone else -especially a brother. I’ll admit it, yes, sometimes that angered me about him. (I now realize how petty that was, and how proud I should have been of him for possessing that trait. We’re all human…) I wanted him to be safer- to color more inside the lines. And then, other times, the same exact traits that I disliked, I loved about him. I loved that he valued “keeping the good,” even if that meant a sacrifice on his part. Ultimately, I realized this trait was something few could emulate. J faced his fears on a nightly basis. And I grew to love this about him, even if that meant that he put his life on the line nightly. I grew to be able to know that by fighting what you fear, he was being the person he was destined to be. Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry about him, and that I was at first okay with death. Or, really, even that I am now. I’m not okay with it. I didn’t want it to happen, but he died fighting what you fear- which meant, he in turn was happy. What better way to go than by honoring his destiny and therefore his maker?
To be an officer, an effective one at least, one has to be willing to sacrifice his life for the greater good. To not just possess that trait but willingly exercise it hourly on the job. I know I don’t possess what it takes to do what they do. I worry too much. They take action, and worry later.
I find it sometimes comical that God would have me marry an officer. I’m a worrier, far less now than I have ever been before, but worrying is what I do. For God to have me marry into a profession that is the epitome of worrying, is pretty comical to me. J took to heart fighting what I and so many others fear – the unknown and the uncontrollable. These two are probably at the root of all my fears and are ways I feel I might fail; yet, J faced them nightly with strength, assurance, and determination. I admired his ability to take control of a situation, solve a problem, secure weapons, convince people to comply, be the bigger person, and above all do what was right- even when the entire time he was continuously facing the unknown and sometimes the uncontrollable. He was my polar opposite- and because of that, my perfect match.
I never asked J why he liked this poem so much, but in reflection, I can tell you why. Few people can fight what the world fears. Few people can take the weight of the world’s fears on their shoulders, and not only bear them, but also eradicate them – if only for a short time. Few people have the opportunity to eradicate the fears of others. Numerous people talk of it and even boast about it; however, few people have the strength and courage to do so. My husband was born to be an officer. He was born into this brotherhood before he was even old enough to join. God formed him and so many of his brothers with the distinct ability to do what few others can. And generally, the world repays them by ostracizing them. And, yes I know those of you are reading this blog are not in that category, please don’t think I am saying that. But not only does an officer fight what you fear, he also sacrifices so much in order to do so. And he does this day in and day out in order to fight what YOU fear.
In fighting what YOU fear, he is placed in a situation nightly to face HIS own fear. I never discussed with J what his most haunting fear was, but I can tell you with absolute certainty, that I am now living his most deeply rooted fear. In fighting what everyone else feared, he faced his own fear of giving the ultimate sacrifice and leaving behind his wife to raise a kid and face the world alone. And when his fear came true, it further solidified that fear in his brothers and their families. Today, I stand as living proof to so many officers and their families that their fear is an all too rational fear. However, unlike so many others who run from their fears, we still find it in ourselves to put that fear in the back of our minds, and continue fighting what everyone else fears.
J has always been a sense of safety to me. He was so brave and free spirited, and I quite the opposite – safe, and square. That’s not being negative, just truthful. When he gave the ultimate sacrifice to fight what you fear, he left his wife without one of her main sources of safety. That my friends, is what he feared the most. And every officer you see in your daily lives fears the exact same thing. Yet, they still continue on.
Often times our fears are irrational or unrealistic; however, J’s wasn’t. So many times the fears he and his brothers fight for you are unrealistic, petty, and irrational; however, they still fight them. In reflection, I look at all of the fears I’ve had in the past, and at the time they seemed so vital, so real, and so pressing; however, I find it a little odd that in losing my sense of safety, I have gained an indescribable amount of certainty in my decisions. Although I still seek validation, it is with certainty that I face the unknown in my life. While J’s ultimate fear has come true, through it, I seemed to have lost some of my sense of worry.
I’ve come to realize, since writing this post, that in all honesty, everyday he fought what you feared, was preparing me to fight what I feared might happen all along. Each close call, each happy ending, each “disturbance with unknown weapons,”- each of them prepared me in some way for facing my fears today. I have absolutely no idea the direction in which I’m headed, but more and more I seem to be at peace with that.
My fear for so long consumed me, it caused worry, to second guess my own decisions, to fret about things I had no control over, and yet, since J gave the ultimate sacrifice, I seem to be making life changing decisions with very little fear (only validation from those close.) His ability to fight what you fear, is something few people outside the law enforcement family truly understand, and that isn’t a jab. It’s a reality. If you understood it, more could follow this career path. However, this is what makes them and their families stand out even more so. Our willingness to sacrifice is a calling.
Since J’s death, I have found I am slightly more able to embrace change, to go confidently in the direction of a dream, and to worry less about the approval of others. I pray that those close to me can find that same peace. That through J’s death, they realize how important it is to fight what you fear. J’s brothers do it nightly. Their wives the same. We push it aside and to the back of our minds, but each night, we sacrifice so that you can go on living with a sense of safety. The question is, do you want to go on living within the prison of your fears? Or do you want to break free? Each night I watched my husband break free from my hug, tell me he’d “always come home to me,” and go face a fear that could easily become a reality. Yet, he did it willingly. I sit now and watch so many who are close to me live within the walls of their own fears. Walls that keep building higher and higher with each “it’s too late,” “I’m not strong enough,” “what if it isn’t the right decision.” And, in essence, they aren’t living – just existing.
The poem meant the most to J, because the title of it was as close as I could ever come to verbalizing who he and his brothers are as people. As I pick up the pieces of my life and start to rebuild, I can’t think of a more fitting way to honor him and his sacrifice than to fight on a daily basis what I fear. I’m by no means saying fear still doesn’t exist in my life, but I’m choosing to fight it. To keep going and to become a happier, better, and stronger person because of it.
As I close, I sincerely hope that no one took offense to what I’m attempting to say; especially the idea that unless you are apart of the law enforcement family, there are just some aspects you will never understand. Understanding, even in a small way, our lives, helps you understand the sacrifices. However, we all make sacrifices in humanity. So in general, the idea that understanding others and their sacrifices brings us closer together in humanity, is a real truth. An essential part of human growth.
I pray that J’s ability to risk the possibility of his own fear coming true nightly, might serve as some insight into the level of sacrifice he gave that night. And in doing so, I hope that it also serves as inspiration for you to fight what you fear as well. Fear is a personal subject; however, it is an aspect of our humanity we can never fully escape. The question is do you want it to consume you or, do you want it to drive you to overcome it and become a better person?