Thanking Those Willing To Give The Ulitmate Sacrifice

 

The police officer who puts [his/her] life on the line with no superpowers, no X-Ray vision, no super-strength, no ability to fly, and above all no invulnerability to bullets, reveals far greater virtue than Superman– who is only a mere superhero. 

                                                                                                                                                  –Elizer Yudkosky

 

Today is National Thank A Police Officer Day.  And in a moment, I’m going to offer some suggestions of ways in which you can thank an officer for his/her willingness to sacrifice for the safety of others, but before that, I want to share with you my reasons to thank them. 

 

One of the first conversations J and I had when we were “serious enough to consider marriage,” was why in the world I would marry him.  I didn’t have to blink, or even really think about why I would.  My first response was “you make me feel safe- emotionally and physically safe.”  Feeling safe is an essential quality in any relationship.  Whether it be in friendship or a romantic relationship, we are drawn to exposing our true selves to that person because in some ways they make us feel safe.

 

 

It came as no surprise to me that later on J would choose to become an officer. Making people feel safe was a specialty of his.  As well as telling people what to do ;).  Both of these qualities are at the core of an officer, but many people possess those exact same qualities, and would never make a great officer.  The difference in J and his millions of brothers and sisters in blue, is their willingness to sacrifice.  I won’t go into tremendous detail on the topic of sacrifice. If you keep up with my blogs, you know my feelings on the topic.  But today, and every day, I’m thanking police officers for their willingness to keep sacrificing for me and C.  Yes, I could thank them for the hundreds of calls they run a year, for standing out in the rain for hours working an accident, for skipping lunch and diner sometimes because there are 5 calls backed up in the system.  But instead, today, I’m keeping it personal. 

 

To MY brothers and sisters in blue, and their families too, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your willingness to continue to sacrifice after J made the ultimate sacrifice.  So many of you have sacrificed your time, money, items, etc in order to help C and me after J died.  The calls, check-ups, “how are you’s,” haven’t stopped.  When I made it to the ER on the morning J was hit, some of you were there before me.  Wives stood beside me in their PJ’s and bed hair, they prayed with me, braved the unknown with me, and most importantly were there for me.  Many other wives, even though your kids required you to stay home, you sacrificed your sleep in order to pray for me at home.  I felt those prayers- I promise.  While their wives were praying with me, all of J’s brothers in blue were actively searching.  Other officers were running calls, so that the man who hit J could be found as quickly as possible.  All of them, STILL working, after what had just happened to J.  Then, when the man was caught, you all stayed up for DAYS with me.  You slept in recliners, you worked OT so that other officers could be with me.  You cried with me, you gave me words of encouragement, and sometimes when you didn’t know what to say- you simply just hugged me.  You all were a tremendous source of my strength. 

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After J died, all of us were in shock, but none of you let that get in the way of your jobs.  For J’s brothers in blue at previous departments, many of you dropped everything to be with me.  And even if you couldn’t, you made sure I felt your love in various ways. But, the sacrifices didn’t stop after his death- they increased. Often times I refer to you guys as super heroes, even that grandiose of a term, doesn’t come close to what each of you do daily.  Today, I want to thank each of you, for giving me back the sense of safety that I lost when J died.  My blue family, you  are my sense of safety.  Thank you for giving me back a sense of safety that I felt was violently robbed from me on the night of June 14th.  Thank you for celebrating in my successes, for celebrating in my successes, for baking me apple pies, for being up HOURS with me in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep, for helping my son remember the amazing man his daddy was, and for a million more things you EACH do for me daily.  You are my family and thank you for being that. 
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Now, let’s discuss some ways that maybe you can pay it forward to an officer today.  Before we begin, please understand the mentality of an officer.  They will probably have no idea what to say to you in return, they may appear a little taken aback by your kindness, and please don’t take that negatively.  I can assure you, in an officer’s world, words of kindness are far less heard than words of negativity.  Plus, none of these officers perform their duties with a need for recognition.  They don’t expect it, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of it.

 

So, here are just a few ways that I think would make an officer’s day:

 

1. Find a specific aspect to thank them for:  Saying thank you is wonderful, but make it specific.  Thank them for their willingness to leave their families behind daily.  Or maybe thank them for something specific an officer has done for you in the past.  You don’t have to thank that specific officer if you can’t.  Because in their line of work, any officer would have probably done the same thing for you.

 

2. Mail a thank you letter to your local police department, and even your state police:  Your gratitude doesn’t have to end or even be expressed on September 21st.  Let them know you are grateful after today.  Make it a personal letter.  Thank them for fighting what you fear.  

 

3. Teach your kids to be grateful for an officer:  Have them color a card and give it to a random officer or mail it to a department.  While they are coloring, discuss with them how important an officer is, and how they deserve our respect.

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4. Buy them lunch, or present one with a gift card: So often those who wear the blue uniform forgo lunch and dinner in an effort to catch up on backed up calls.  J often told me stories of leaving his food at the drive through window to respond to a call in progress.  Many of our officers eat 6 hour old corn dogs from gas stations, a random package of mint M&M’s, a can of soup without a spoon that they found tucked into their duty bag.  Believe me, an officer appreciates good food. 

 

5. Bake the department something: I promise, officers eat anything!  Before you bake them something, please consider that departments have numerous shifts.  It isn’t just day officers who help protect us.  Partner up with a friend, and bake something for all the shifts at your local department. 

 

6. Donate money to your local department: All your departments have training budgets that are depleted quickly.  Officer safety is important because of their own families, but it is also important because a safe officer makes you even more safe.  Ask to donate to their training fund.

 

7. Thank an officer’s family: This officer you see daily, is what he/she is, because his/her family is supportive.  They sacrifice just as much as the officer’s do. They are the pink behind the thin blue line, and they deserve a thank you as well.  If you see an officer and his family out to dinner in the future, cover their ticket, or at least help pay for it.

 

8. Tell them you are praying for them, and really mean it:  We’ve always prayed for officers and their families, but now, we pray for them all the time.  When you see an officer responding to a call, take the time to ask God to protect him/her as they perform the duties few are brave enough to do.  Honestly, this is the very best thing you can do for them! 

 

I encourage you to allow your gratitude to extend past today.  A wise dear friend of mine told me once to have an attitude of gratitude.  This phrase has allowed me to generally remain positive throughout the this storm in my life.  Today, thank an officer in some way, and while doing so, remember that it could have been any of them and their families who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  And remember, that EACH  of them would have done so willingly.  I’ve yet to be able to truly define what being an officer is like.  Their bravery, and ability to withstand pressures, is often times likened to a superhero. While that’s close, I don’t think it gives them enough credit.  So, until I find a way to describe them, I’m just going to keep praying that our nation will begin raise the title of police officer to be synonymous with the status we give superheroes. That our nation will truly begin to be grateful for the sacrifices made.  And until that happens, I’m just going to keep praying for my blue family.  After all they’ve done for me, it’s the least I can do for them.

 

Today, when you thank a police officer – think of J and know it’s putting a smile on his face, and then say a little pray for us as we continue to work through paying the ultimate sacrifice.  Thank you in advance for expressing your gratitude today and in the future!!
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Embracing the New Me While Ensuring Our “True Love Story Never Ends.”

Last post, I began by saying that I was beginning to like the person I am becoming.  I debated on erasing that line numerous times throughout the writing and editing of that post.  I simply felt torn.  An internal monologue of epic proportions seemed to be on repeat within my head.  “What if people thought it was simply ‘too soon’ to begin to like the person I am after J’s death? What if I haven’t grieved enough in their opinion?  What if I seem too happy?”  And yes, I know you will all leave me comments about how I should permanently delete that playlist entitled “Self-Doubt Monologue Number 512” from my internal music selection.  That instead, I should only play “Eternal Sunshine,” Or “Wonder Woman’s Theme Song,” or something far more positive.  I agree, I should, but if you read the last post, you’ll see ultimately I decided to leave it in place.  And, no one has said anything – big surprise.  My mind is my own worst enemy.  You all have been nothing but supportive from the start. 

 

After writing that post, I haven’t been able to get that picture of me looking at J’s casket out of my mind.  I can’t express my gratitude for my mother-in-law capturing that moment.  It was such a beautiful moment.  It’s where my journey to the new me began.  It was my last earthly goodbye.  No words can express the amount of love that picture captures.  At first it seemed odd to me that this picture would become symbolic in my mind of the path to the new me.  And, again, I began to doubt whether I should be feeling this way.  How could I ensure that our “true love story never ended,” but yet still become the new me?  How could those two paradoxical ideas become meshed together?
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In the days and hours before that picture was taken, I had no idea who I was.  I simply just reacted to whatever situation was thrown at me. I’d make a decision, and I’d move on to the next.  Checking off tasks, hugging people, thanking people, attempting to sleep, and starting the process over again the next day.  Ironically, even though I was making every single decision, I had never felt more out of control in my entire life.  I was terrified.  At visitation, I hugged, thanked, hugged, thanked, hugged, thanked, and continued the process.  This redundancy makes me seem ungrateful, please don’t read it as that. I was just a robot at that point.  It wasn’t until the moment in this picture, that I actually truly said my goodbyes.  And when I walked away from his casket, I walked away with a million paths before me, and I had no idea which one would lead me down the right path to the person God intended for me to be after J’s death.  I’ve recently spoken to close friends about the need for affirmation in my life that I’m making the right decisions.  That, if I could just see some type of measurable progress, positive or negative, than I could readjust my sails, and continue to navigate a new path.  Yet, walking away from his casket, I have never felt so alone.  Even in the midst of so many supportive people – I was alone within myself.  I didn’t know ME anymore, and inside myself, I was stripped bare. 

In the 3 months after this photo was taken, I can say with certainty that this feeling of being alone within myself, caused me to hurt some people who truly love me.  It caused me to fall to my knees countless times, but to always find a way to rise up.  I walked down paths, and was only 4 steps in before completely doing a U-turn.  Sometimes, I’d get to the end, only to realize it was a new beginning.  Along the way, I’m sure I worried a lot of people, but these past two weeks, I’ve discovered that God has placed some pretty substantial meetings and people along each of these paths. 

These past two weeks, I’ve finally started to believe in the strength you all insist I posses.  Last post, I shared with you facing the scene of the hit and run, but my blessings didn’t stop there. 

 

In the past week, I’ve officially bought a house and given an interview to one very special young lady at the high school where I taught last year.  Both of these events, though seemingly unrelated to you, have revealed pieces of the new me.   They have connected some paths together that seemed to be so far apart.  They revealed a walk-way I couldn’t see, and in essence the path to the new me.

For so long, I kept trying to make myself fit into a mold that I became accustomed to before J died- officer’s wife, mom, teacher etc.  And then, when I walked away from his casket the night of visitation, I crumbled.  I refused to see this as a new beginning because in my mind, that phrase was synonymous with dishonoring our sacrifice and J’s death. Buying a house and giving an interview sparked a small change within me. Maybe more accurately put, it caused a realization of who I wanted to be.  Tonight, after intense reflection and affirmation with a friend, I’ve realized just how “right” a new beginning is.  It’s inevitable, and it’s what J would want.  I promised to “not lose myself if he ever died.”  Well, I did in some sense lose myself.  I lost aspects of who I used to be.  Being that exact person, is impossible. Actually, the pieces I lost, I didn’t need.  Fears, uncertainties, self- doubt, “squareness,” all shed.   So inevitably, I have to be someone new- meshing the two together into a beautiful, strong woman. 

 

I never would have thought buying a house would have evoked this realization.  Honestly, when I started the searching process, it was simply to “quit throwing away money on rent.”  But, I chose a realtor I happened to meet the day BEFORE J’s death.  We met through a mutual friend.  Linda, you didn’t know it then, but you were already chosen to be my tour guide along a new path.  Paths that seemed only 3 weeks ago to be randomly placed, with no links to another, a maze with no end.  God chose you to be my affirmation, my confidant, and my advocate.  Today, when I signed that contract, it was a step to the new me.  The me that gets the privilege of learning how to ensure that our “true love story never ends.” I know she had no way of knowing that me buying a house symbolized the first thing I’ve done in the past 3 months that had nothing to do with satisfying a need that arose because my husband died.  And in doing so, in buying this house, I’ve realized I’ve been approaching this idea all wrong. Mourning J’s death and becoming a new me aren’t separate entities, they are all one.  The strength and lessons I’ve learned and will continue to learn after J’s death, are what are making me the person I’m intended to be.

Before he died, I just thought I was strong.  I thought I fought for what I felt was right and even what I wanted out of life.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Throughout the process of buying a house, I’ve stood up to CPA’s, argued with a seller, and fought for what I wanted.  In the past, I would have backed down. I hated confrontation.  But, I haven’t this time.  I faced it, and I walked away with what I wanted and deserved. But more importantly than just getting the house, I walked away with the affirmation that I am a strong person.  Buying the house is just a concrete symbol, a reminder, of the journey.  A reminder that I am blessed to walk into daily.  A reminder that J would be proud of the woman I’m becoming.  That he wouldn’t be upset with me for “leaving the last house we ever lived in together.”  He would be proud of how much more rounded his “very square” wife was becoming. Okay, I’ll admit, I did buy a house with a Homeowner’s Association and rules and subdivision covenants.  Again people, we are meshing the old me with the new me. I like rules and boundaries- I doubt that EVER changes. 

 

And speaking of rules and boundaries, I’d like to also say that the interview with Sydney this week also was another step to finding, embracing, and loving the new me.  When Sydney interviewed me, she surprised me with all of the personal questions she was asking.  “What happened that night?, How did you tell C about the death of his father?”  She explained the goal of the story was for my students to really know how I was.  That they were all worried about me, but they didn’t want to bother me.  They wanted to know what my future plans were, and in giving that interview I was reminded all along of who I really am- a teacher.  I took off this year to find myself after J’s death and to handle all the business that is required after the death of your husband.  Sitting in the library Tuesday, taking pictures for the interview, and reflecting afterwards, I caught a small glimpse of me again.  I felt at home at THS.  I was reminded of how many students rushed to give me individual hugs and words of encouragement after I received an award at the local football game rivalry.  That moment was one of the most inspirational moments since J died.  They make me feel loved and needed in a way that only fellow teachers could truly understand.  They, and all of my former students in general, are members of my family.  They need ME. They don’t need an officer’s wife or some random person to give them a hug- they need me. And their emails, parent phone calls, and hugs are reminders of who I am.  I’m in no way downplaying all of the support from my Blue family.  My fellow officer’s wives and J’s brothers in blue are essential members of my support team.  However, they offer a different kind of support.  My students and fellow teachers offer another.  Just the idea that they wanted to know how I was doing touched me- reminded me of why I love teaching.     

 

I’m slowly realizing that the new me is a combination of the old and the new. And I guess, if I had ever stopped to think about it, I would have realized early on how impossible it would be to separate the old from the new.  God has a way of turning what seem like dead ends and over grown paths which create a never ending maze, into slightly less over grown and more connected paths.  While I’m by no means to the end, and I’ll never be, my path is slightly more clear.  And, I can say with certainty that tonight I know J is smiling down on me.  He saw this potential in me years ago, and he worked until he died to bring this out in me.  And no, I’m not saying God caused J to die so that I can become who I’m supposed to be.  Now, I just know it’s okay to find the new me and still mourn J.  I’m honoring him by honoring his wish of “never losing myself when I lost him.” And strangely, buying a house, and giving an interview, seem to have solidified the idea of being able to ensure that our “true love story never ends.” J lives on through me whether I teach or stay at home the rest of my life.  He’ll live through me whether I stay here or move back to my parent’s hometown.  Most of all, he’ll live through me because I am choosing to live for myself.  I’m choosing to confront obstacles that stand in the way, and I’m choosing to in as many ways as possible still remain a teacher.  And yes, I can do that while still honoring him.  So, it is with absolute assurance, that I write tonight I’m liking the person that I’m becoming, and I’m smiling while writing it.  The storm is far from over, but I’m one step closer. 

Monica, you are right, I am more “self- assured, more spiritual, and more willing to show my growth to continue my growth.” Thank you for being my affirmation, mentor, and friend. To my friend who just started teaching, please know how impactful your job is, and how those precious babies will change you for the better, if you let them. Please know that you too have given me affirmation this week. And to my “to Jupiter and back” friend, know that you allowing me to mentor you, is also more affirmation that you could ever know. To all of J’s brothers in blue who will help me move, and to your wives who will willingly sacrifice their family time with you for you to be able to help me, thank you! You too are my affirmation that staying here is the right decision! To my other friends and family, you in your own ways, are my affirmation. I’ve just been looking for affirmation in the wrong places.

 

A Soccer Coach, Wonder Woman, and A Princess All Arrive At a Park All Wearing Rain Gear…

If you would have asked me 4 months ago if I would be a soccer coach, stay-at-home mom, Wonder Woman and a princes…well of course my answer would have been NO.  But, here I am…in all my glory, and you know what, I’m beginning to like this person.

 

When I first started blogging about 2 months ago, I discussed how my adult identity was wrapped up into my marriage, my child, J’s career and mine as well.  And that when 3 months ago exactly, our lives changed with a knock on our door, I lost half of my identity, and the other half, well I’m pretty sure she went into hiding.  She was shell shocked, and she didn’t know where to go, how to act, or who to really be.  So, I pretty much just survived, and occasionally (okay often) walked around aimlessly. 

The last week has been immensely more difficult than normal. It seemed like I was constantly adding more rain gear to weather one storm after another.  To name a FEW: 2 flat tires (same day), the guy who hit J posted bail, the motorcycle that was SUPPOSED to be paid off actually wasn’t (long story,) etc.  So, with each one I added another layer to my rain gear.  A pink rain coat, and then a purple on top of that.  Then I added leopard print rain boots, a turquoise umbrella etc. Hey, if I’m going to weather a storm, I might as well do it with cute weather attire!
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My friends seem to always weather it with me.  They put on cute rain attire, and they always weather a storm with me.  And so, when they can’t be there to weather a storm, they always feel guilty.  I keep telling them I’m not a princess, I’ll survive.  I don’t need rescuing…I can float on my own for just a little while if need be, but they never like that answer.  They tell me I don’t have to and frankly, I’m not going to. So, together, we have been weathering storms in our cute little rain attire, and honestly at times, even trendy life jackets were needed…but we survived the week.  
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  But, despite all my cute rain attire, my tiara my friends tell me I deserve to wear for awhile, and even my Wonder Woman costume (that I obviously wear underneath all of this rain attire,) I still felt empty, void, and often times depressed.  I didn’t know how many more storms my faith could weather…I kept praying, and reflecting, and hoping, and praying some more that these storms would stop. That for just a few moments, I could feel peace again. 

 

My strength has been tested so much in these past 3 months, and it seems like continually this past week.  but still somehow, I kept pushing through.  I couldn’t have done it without friends and WHOLE lot of prayer, and of course, leopard print rain boots make it a little easier to walk through water as well ;). 

Okay, well Meaghan wears SWAT gear, but hey, I think that's appropriate too!

Okay, well Meaghan wears SWAT gear, but hey, I think that’s appropriate too!

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And so, somehow, I made it to this weekend.  The 14th and the 15th- dates I dread.  Dates that take me back, imprison me in grief, and cause that anger to seep back up to the surface.  Dates that are a constant reminder of the battles I am forced to face now.  All last night, I had a bittersweet feeling about C’s first soccer game.  You see,  the games are played at the park where J was hit by an SUV, and where hundreds of people fled the scene, and I knew that today, I would have to visit there, and face those fears once more. And, I didn’t think I was ready, but C deserves a childhood – his has been robbed enough as it is. 

 

This morning, I got all the gear ready, and we headed out.  I prayed along the way for a sense of peace, and the ability to somehow overcome the sadness and make beautiful memories at a place where so much of my anger stems from. 

 

To enter the soccer fields, we have to pass right by the scene of the hit and run, I forced myself to acknowledge it.  In essence, it’s just a place, a median, a stretch of grass, it didn’t do anything.  It’s just a reminder of the actions of others.  SO, I faced it.  I watched as we drove by, and I prayed some more.  You all tell me I have a strength you could never possess, but you can…believe me, I wish I didn’t have to be this strong.  But, I refuse to continue to be a victim…so we kept driving.

 

I got out of the car wearing my metaphorical pink rain coat, leopard boots, turquoise umbrella, tiara, and soccer coach clothes on. I carried my soccer coaching equipment on the outside, but on the inside, I carried a burden, anger, and immense sadness.  I knew that today C played his first game without his daddy there, and nothing can describe that feeling to you.  J was at every game. He LOVED to watch C play because J loved to play soccer himself.  Watching C play created so much pride in J, and I wasn’t sure that I would be enough today. C LOVED to have his daddy at games. He sought after his praise and approval, and what if mine wasn’t enough? 

 

But, I trudged on. And let me just say, all of this clothing is restrictive and heavy.  It isn’t that easy to coach 6 five year old boys wearing all this metaphorical clothing.  How does one run and balance a tiara at the same time?  So, I lined up our boys, and we started warming up.  And with each goal, each kick, and each “coach Stephanie did you see that,” more and more peace came over me.  By the time the game started, I was smiling.  J was there. That horrible spot that was symbolic of so much anger and bitterness within my heart was becoming a place of happy memories exactly 3 months later. God was giving me my peace in a place where I NEVER imagined feeling it at a time where I really didn’t think I could.  And not only was he giving me peace, our boys were doing amazingly wonderful!  9 to 3. And no, the score really doesn’t matter- what matters is how they felt- how I felt, and most importantly how C felt.  He was SO, so proud of himself. 

As the game continued, he kept going, and kept working, and I couldn’t help but keep thinking how his daddy was smiling watching him today.  How less than half a mile away, J’s last thoughts had been of me and C, and how today, instead of feeling sad, we were able to find some happiness in the same spot.  Let me tell you- God is amazing. 

So many people lifted us up in prayers today.  So many people told me today that they couldn’t do what I did – that they couldn’t have faced those fears.  I did it because my baby deserves to enjoy his childhood.  He deserves success, and he deserves to know that his daddy is beyond proud of him.  Afterwards, some people told me how sad it was that J couldn’t be there to watch C, and how sad C must have been because of that. 

No, he wasn’t sad today, and neither was his momma.  Tonight as I hugged him and kissed him goodnight, I reminded him again of how proud his daddy IS of him.  And, the biggest grin came over his face, and he told me “yep, I know it, I felt it.”  Yes, you are right, it is sad that my baby doesn’t have his daddy with him on Earth, but he feels him.  And even though I don’t think I’m doing most anything right when it comes to all this, today was my affirmation that I am.  Today, I shed restrictive metaphorical rain gear and tiaras.  Today, I faced something I never thought I could, and today, I walked away rewarded.
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Today was the first day that I felt J as closely as I have.  He’s with me “to guard me and to guide me.” (Lyrics from our wedding song.”

 

 

He’s here with me to let me know that while this is my fate, I’m not alone. That I have some amazing friends who would put on their rain gear with me, and straighten my tiara that they force me to wear.  And that each of them are wonder men and women in their own ways.  But mostly, they are my constant reminders from God that he is in control, and He is giving me what I need. All of this metaphorical rain gear has given me a new perspective of one of my favorite lines from a hymn:

 

“Every blessing your pour down, I’ll turn back to praise.”

 

There are blessings hidden in every storm. How could you argue with this? Today, at a place I hated, I received a tremendous blessing…and all it took was a soccer coach, Wonder Woman, and a princess walking into a park, for me to realize that I’m beyond blessed even in the midst of a terrible storm.
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The Paradox of Sacrifice: A Reflection of 9/11 and J’s Death

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Picture Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_workers_killed_in_the_September_11_attacks

341 Firefighters FDNY

11 EMTS/Paramedics/Emergency Medical Personal

60 Police Officers from various departments

First, let us stop and absorb those numbers.  Concentrate on them. Add them up.  412 sacrifices.  412 lives lost.  412 families who are forever affected. And when you are finished reflecting, please know that the topic of this post is not meant to downplay, diminish, or overshadow any civilian death that senselessly occurred on September 11, 2001. The grief each of their families feel is just as real, horrible, and intense as those families who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the same day. 

However, today, I would like to reflect on how these numbers and a Facebook post reminded me again why first responders and emergency personal  and their families willingly sacrifice on a daily basis.  You see, for the past week, I have found myself consumed with an anger at being the wife of an officer.  I began to resent it…to despise making any more sacrifices, and for those of you who regularly follow my blog, you understand that this is a dramatic change of feelings from when I started to blog. 

I found myself having conversations about how “I’ve made enough sacrifices for J’s career, and frankly I’m just tired of it. I’m done…I’m tired, and I just want to be Stephanie.”  And then I would follow up by saying something to the degree of, “I’m tired of being solely known as the ‘widow of a fallen officer.'”  I even went as far as to say that ” I’m done asking C to sacrifice for his father’s career, and his father isn’t even here anymore.”  Yep, I’ll admit it, those exact words came out of my mouth less than 3 days ago.  And honestly, now I’m ashamed, but in those moments, what I felt was real and valid and probably even understandable.  I kept focusing on sacrificing for J’s career, and in doing so, I lost sight of the true importance of his career.  That I wasn’t sacrificing for HIS career, I was sacrificing for EACH of you.  For those of you who are resenting me, or saying in your mind, “how could she feel that way.  How dare she!”  I’d like to say, I’ve made it a practice to be honest with you about this process because it lets you know I’m human.  Far too many people put on masks and create a façade of being a robot.  We play into societal pressures of conforming our emotions to those that are acceptable.  Well, I was done being a robot 3 months ago, and today let’s talk about the real feelings this level of sacrifice causes and how each of us is required to make sacrifices in order for the good of our future.

Sac·ri·fice: Noun: an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

Our nation’s success, and please don’t get political here, has always been based upon the idea of sacrifice for the greater good.  While I will agree, often times in our day-to-day living, we lose sight of the importance of sacrifice.  I just admitted to it, and my family paid an ultimate sacrifice, yet I still forget its vital role in ensuring our nation’s freedoms and level of power in the world.  We as individuals, and therefore as a nation, have a sense of entitlement that tells us “other people can make a sacrifice for the greater good, my role in this world is too important to sacrifice.”  But, sacrificing doesn’t just mean giving your life. You don’t have to be a first responder or emergency personal in order to sacrifice.  So let’s discuss two different methods of sacrifice and how both are essential to the future of our country. 

When my drastic change in feelings begin to seep into my mind and poison my thought process and my heart, I welcomed it. I was tired of putting on a show of how proud I was to be an officer’s wife.  And, while I am in no way speaking on behalf of any of the men and women who lost their spouses or family members on September 11, 2001, I dare say that at some point, they resented having to make this sacrifice too.  I didn’t get a choice in whether or not I wanted to sacrifice my husband’s life for the greater good of the community.  Yes, I could have told him, “don’t be an officer,” but I can assure you, that wouldn’t have gone over well. Therefore, this past week, I’ve resented being forced by another to make this sacrifice.  I got caught up in the negative feelings of how horrible my life is, and how C will spend the rest of his life referring to his daddy as “watching down on us from heaven.” And, for a little while I liked being this angry and upset.  I let my flesh take over, and I actually liked saying “I’m DONE.”  I felt like no one else had sacrificed to the level I had, and while people were appreciative of our sacrifice, I still didn’t find that to be enough.  I lost sight of the foundational role of sacrifice in our country, and in a sense, I lost sight of myself. 

This morning when I woke, little reminders began to flood into my mind and my life: an unexpected conversation with a friend who is considering law enforcement, a Facebook post from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a random news story about the sacrifice of the first responders of 9/11, and I began to realize, I’m not alone.  That sacrifice should be an act one is proud of making.  One that we should be accepting of and willing to do.  Then, I began to realize, just because one is proud of a sacrifice and is willing to make it, doesn’t mean one has to like it.  I don’t have to LIKE that my husband was killed in the line of duty protecting others.  I don’t have to like that our country lost 412 first responders exactly 12 years ago today.  I don’t have to like that because of that numerous families are STILL coping with the idea that their loved one was willing to sacrifice.  And so I find myself living within a paradox.  The realization that it’s okay to feel proud of my husband and the many others who have given their lives for the greater good, but that it is also okay to not like the fact that we had to make that sacrifice.  Do I wish it could have been someone else on June 14th, 2013- not in a heartbeat and not ever.  I would never wish this pain upon anyone else.  Do I wish that it didn’t have to happen- of course!  Do I wish that we could exist in a utopian society where sacrifices wouldn’t have to be made- nope. 

Maybe that last answer surprised you?  Honestly, it surprised me.  If we lived in a utopian society, there would be no appreciation for how wonderful we have it.  It would just be acceptance, the normal way of life.  Unfortunately, we have to exist in a society where sometimes we are reminded by horrible events of the good that still exists within society.  It refreshes our society, opens our eyes, and reminds us of the vital role of sacrifice within our country. In a way, the level of sacrifice cleanses our society, and washes the dirt out of our wounds.  It becomes a rally point.  A means by which we redefine our country.  The statistics of how many first responders gave their lives that day is surprising.  People say “that’s too many,” “they were senseless deaths.”  I agree.  It is too many. They did die a senseless death.  All of these 412 men and women should still be walking the streets today.  Protecting us, rendering aide, and hugging their family each night.  But, the reality is, they aren’t.  And while some say their death was in “vain.” It wasn’t.  The evil in which our society constantly tries to stamp out is one of the few areas in which the people of our society can still agree to fight against. 

Often times it is impossible to get our society to agree upon what the “greater good is.”  How do you know that you are sacrificing for the “greater good?”  I can answer that question because of my faith.  And, I pray you can too.  The reality is, people need to see the good in the world, and people can see the good in the world because of the sacrifices of others.  Evil people, those who reek havoc are inclined to do so because of their inability to sacrifice for others.  Their inability to recognize that there is a greater need in the world other than their own.  Willingness to sacrifice so that others can succeed or have a better life is what makes any relationship work, and it is what makes police officers, firefighters, EMS and other first responders, and their families a different type of person.  Those brave 412 men and women who gave their lives 12 years ago knew the definition of sacrifice.  They are constant reminders of the good that still exists within society. 

In one of the darkest moments of American history, their level of sacrifice is a shining beacon of hope and a reminder of the greater good within our society.  And even though all of their families, and even myself, don’t like the death of family member.  We wish we could take it back, and we wish that we weren’t forced to endure the lasting effects of the sacrifice.  We still did it. And, we will continue to endure, to sacrifice, and to remember because we are the good in the world.  Their sacrifice shines brighter in my mind then the vial monsters who so cowardly attacked us that day.  If I sit quietly enough, and I pray enough, J’s sacrifice shines brighter than the wickedness that took him away from us.

And, as an extra silver lining in all of this.  The sacrifices of civilians and their families shine just as brightly.  While my situation is far less grave and less traumatic than 9/11, and I would in NO way compare my situation to the events of 9/11, both still are reminders of the good in the world.  In moments of turmoil, sadness, and confusion, normal every day people emerge as heroes too. Their emergence is because of their willingness to sacrifice.  The good people in the world still sacrifice.  They work at TJMaxx and buy a fake pearl necklace, they donate their extra money that would have bought them a nicer meal to a 9/11 relief fund, they attend a benefit pancake breakfast and empty all of their change into the bucket, they take time out of their day to continue to pray for those affected by the tragic events of 9/11.  All of these are examples of sacrifice.  Sacrifice comes in the so many different forms, but no matter its form, it’s an example of how you are being the good in the world. 

And so today as our nation stands tall and remembers all of the heroes who gave their lives so willingly 12 years ago, I’m reminded that the need for sacrifice didn’t end 12 years ago- it is and always will be a constant need within our society.  I’m beyond grateful to live in a country whose citizens are willing to sacrifice.  And I’m even more grateful to be blessed to live in a community whose citizens are still sacrificing to honor my husband’s ultimate sacrifice.  It doesn’t bring him back, and honestly I’m still angry that he’s gone, but it reminds me of the good in the world.  It allows me to continue to be the pink behind the thin blue line.  The reminder that there is still good, and to continue the fight. And that real love stories, no matter if the seem to end with an ultimate sacrifice, have no endings. That despite the fact my life seems horrible right now, in the end his sacrifice is a reminder of the good in him, and the good in me, and ultimately the good in the world.
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A Fake Pearl Necklace and a Good Cry In The Car…Steps To Remembering I’m Blessed

A Beautiful Soul Purchased These For Me Today

A Beautiful Soul Purchased These For Me Today

 

I’m sure you are thoroughly confused by the title of the post, as well as you are probably wondering why I’m blogging in the middle of the day ;).  However, I couldn’t wait to share with you my story from today. 

I woke this morning feeling “blah.”  I’m sure you understand those days when the only adjective fit to describe your mood is just “blah.”  I took C to school, and I began to mentally prepare myself to tackle the gazillion tasks set before me today.  J’s death has brought with it endless errands, phone calls, text messages, emails, conference calls, visits to lawyers, CPA’s, banks, and the errands could continue on.  This “stay at home mom,” never really actually “stays” at home.  It is very easy to lose sight of any type of positive attitude in the midst of what feels like trudging through financial documents, legal conversations, and arguments with satellite companies.

As I arrived home to gather up the documents needed for today’s adventures, I began to feel angry at all the tasks set before me. I tried really hard to remember that I’m blessed, and that this too shall pass. But I sat in the spare bedroom this morning, and looked at the mounting paperwork that needs to be filed, and I took to navigating the IRS website in search of some kind of tax identification number. And, of course because of my attitude, nothing seemed to go right.  I found myself becoming more and more angry.  Nothing seemed to keep my anger and frustration at bay this morning.  Even though I’m blessed with great friends who are willing to lend their knowledge to help me with these situations, I just kept thinking how unfair this was for me to have to tackle at 29. 

No average 29 year old knows the terms “unearned and earned income vs death benefits, employee tax identification number, estate account, last month of the accounting year,  probate, small estate affidavit…” I’m sure to most of you these terms might as well be Greek to you. 

Stop right now, and count your blessings.

 

If you don’t know these terms, you are blessed!  No one, unless working in the legal field, really wants to actually know these terms. 

So, after finally getting the tax id number found, I sat in the room and just let my pity party continue; on the way to the bank, I threw myself a grand pity party parade in my car.  I allowed my thoughts to continue to be negative.  And then, bless the poor lady at the bank…I know she was trying.  I tried to hide my negative attitude, but I’m quite certain I wasn’t successful.  Finally after an hour and a half, we achieved our goal. I walked out and didn’t even thank her.  I just kept adding more “pity” to my party, and more reasons to be upset to my agenda. 

I had totally lost sight of perspective.  Of how my life could be so much worse.  But, being Wonder Woman, I had an agenda, and dang it, I was going to check off some more “tasks” on my to-do list.  Next stop on the pity party express- TJMaxx. 

Normally, one would think- shopping, YES! Nope, not this pity party express conductor!  I needed an outfit to wear to Austin. J is receiving the Star of Texas award post humorously for his sacrifice in the line of duty, and  I “had” to find an outfit.  So, I picked out the first dress that seemed to fit and conveyed a graceful and elegant tone, and I went to find shoes.  Never once did I stop to think about how blessed we are to live in a country where they honor those who sacrifice their lives for others.  Nope, I just griped in my mind about having to buy another outfit. 

Last stop on this detour was the jewelry counter. Actually, I was just going to wear a necklace J had given me and call it a day, but this beautiful string of fake (yes, fake!) pearls caught my eye.  And, I stopped to glance.  They were too expensive to justify buying, but the customer service representative insisted I try them on.  So, for whatever reason I did.  And, of course I fell in love with them. 

She asked me the occasion I needed the jewelry for, and I snapped off a response something to the extent of “my husband was the officer killed in the line of duty, and I need something to wear to an award’s ceremony.” And, then I stopped, and tears came to my eyes.  It amazed me at how nonchalantly and hurriedly I spoke such impactful words.  I stood for a second and was ashamed of myself for being so ungrateful and uncaring about such an honor.  I quickly told her that I’d just wear a necklace he’d given me, and I thanked her for her time. 
I stood in line fighting back tears of shame, and I just wanted to purchase my dress and shoes and leave.  When I made my way to the front, that beautiful soul was waiting on me.  With a gift box in her hand.  She proceeded to purchase the necklace herself, and all I could manage to mutter was “thank you and how undeserving I was.”  I’ve never lost control of my emotions in a store before, but there was no holding in my feelings at this point. 

I couldn’t help but to feel unworthy of such kindness and pure generosity.  Here I was an ungrateful and negative person, who had just spent her entire morning begrudging taking care of financial situations which secure the future for C and I, financial situations, mind you that we are BEYOND blessed to have, and this beautiful lady is buying ME a string of fake pearls.  She hugged me, and I muttered thank you again, and I managed to make it to my car.

There I sat for no less than 20 minutes just bawling and thanking God for finding the best in me, even when I can’t seem to muster one positive thought.  Somehow, in the depths of all of my dark thoughts, and in my grand pity party parade, He found the good.

So often I feel that I constantly have to honor J and his sacrifice, and I have to play whatever role is expected of me at the time, that I brush aside the overwhelming feelings that constantly seem to nip at my heels.  And then, on days like today, the rush over me, possess my thoughts, and block out the constant view of the good God is trying to show me.  They become my blinders, and I set off on my daily course.  And, then, in moments like today, a string of fake pearls, rip off my blinders, and flood me with His light. 

Thankfully, few of you have to experience the death of your husband, and all of the “duties” that become assigned to you afterwards.  However, each of us has “daily duties.” Washing, cleaning, cooking, working, coaching, feeding the dog, doctor’s visits etc.  It becomes so easy to allow the mundane and seemingly unimportant tasks to drag us down.  To pull us into a hole and continually pile dirt and mud on top of our thoughts.  We become robots, and generally negative.  While, I’m in no way saying every task needs to be completed with an “I’m blessed to be getting to wash these dishes” attitude, it is important at times to stop and remember just how blessed God ALLOWS us to be. 

So, while I’m CERTAIN, I’ll find myself in the middle of another self-inflicted pity party soon, until then, I’m going to wear my fake pearls proudly, focus on spending more time in prayer, and keep reciting one of my favorite lines from an old hymn:

“Every blessing You pour down, I’ll turn back to praise…”

Even if what I’m experiencing at the moment doesn’t feel like a blessing….

*I share with you my faults as a learning tool for us all.*