On Sunday December 15th, it will be exactly six months since J passed away as a result of injuries sustained during a hit and run accident. In those six months I have changed more than I did in the 6 almost 7 years I spent married to him. 6 months- it’s difficult to imagine that I’ve lived 6 months without a touch, without a simple “Good morning beautiful”, without validation that I am doing anything correctly, without seeing him play with C, without another 3 am call discussing the horrors of his job or reporting on something amazing that happened to him that night. 6 months without washing a bullet proof vest and meticulously spreading it out so that it stays put together correctly and dries completely, without washing, ironing, and re-ironing creases into pants. 6 months without reminding him, “do you have your gun, badge, veria-card (spelling), insulin, needles, cell phone, charger, ticket book, pens, etc.” 6 months without hearing, “This is J, I can’t answer the phone right now, please leave me a message, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” because I was calling for verification on a problem, but he was on another call. So, I’d leave a voicemail, wait, and then ultimately make an “executive decision” on my own, only to receive a call 5 hours later, “hey, what’s wrong I missed your call.”
In 6 months every single role, identity, security in my life has been completely turned upside down, and reinvented from scratch. I’ve had no “guidebook,” no “instructions for how to put your life back together.” The person I am today while writing this post is a far cry from the person who got in her car on June 13th, 2013, and drove away while watching J stand in the doorway waving at us. The woman who was driving away from her waving officer was “busy, preoccupied, insecure, worried, and distracted.” This isn’t me downing myself, often times most people are that way, it’s just part of our busy lives. The woman driving away thought being an officer’s wife meant, washing, ironing, reminding, scheduling birthday parties and holidays around his rotating shifts. She thought it meant lying in bed praying that he would come home, but always believing in her heart he would. She thought being a teacher, a mother, and a wife were her identities, where her only true strengths and talents lay. She would have never thought she could handle and survive 6 months of rapid changes, never feeling her husband’s hand again, being a mommy and a daddy, or looking into the eyes of her almost 5 year old son and telling him that his daddy wasn’t coming home anymore. Never, even if the Lord himself would have come down and pre-warned me that this was my fate, I wouldn’t have believed I was capable of even mere survival, much less day-to-day functioning after the death of J. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the woman I was 6 months ago. I was happy, content, and knew how to make an officer’s and teacher’s budget stretch. I was in my comfort zone, and I would be perfectly content going right back to that zone. I’d trade every bit of blessings we’ve received for the “square, content, and naïve teacher, mother, and wife” I was 6 months ago.
The woman I am today, almost 6 months ago, is a polar opposite of the woman who answered that
“knock on the door,” at 12:40 am on June 14, 2013. In opening that door, and seeing the look in J’s brother’s eyes, I was changed forever. Mind you, a change I never asked for, prayed for, or even believe could happen to me. In that 5 minutes it took me to get dressed, get C dressed, and fly to the hospital, I became a new woman. One who was confident, who could make decisions, speak to mass crowds, and control her emotions. One who was beyond fearful on the inside but portrayed optimism and gratefulness on the outside. I can describe the woman I became then because you have told me. To be honest, I can chronologically put the events in order now, but you all have fill in the gaps. You’ve helped me to preserve these memories. In the week after J’s death, I learned what true brotherhood looked and felt like. I watched as J’s brothers and sisters in blue surrounded me, lifted me up, and most importantly cried with me. I watched a support system form like no other I have ever seen. It was in that first week, that my definition of an officer’s wife changed. Before J died, I could have stopped being an officer’s wife any time I wanted. I could walked away from our marriage, or he could have walked away from his calling. Now, 6 months after his line of duty death, I can never walk away from being an officer’s wife, and I never would want to. Now, instead of ironing his uniforms, I hold his class A shirt next to me, and I think about how handsome he always looked in it. I look at it and reflect on the honor, courage, and morality it took to wear that shirt. Many people refer to me as an officer’s widow, I’ll let you continue to do that because it is the proper and legal name for my status, but my heart says otherwise. My heart says that I’m not an officer’s widow, that I’m still his wife. In 6 months, I’ve learned that being a “police wife isn’t a status; it’s my lifelong promise to him.” MY life LONG promise that doesn’t end with his death. So much of the Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line is about me continuing to be an officer’s WIFE and by walking that line daily. Being an officer’s wife is how I continue to honor my fallen hero. And choosing to stay an officer’s wife after his death has also helped me learn how to become a mommy to a little boy who lost his daddy. Because the mommy I was before isn’t sufficient for his needs now…
If you would have asked me how I felt I was doing as a mommy on June 13, 2013, I would have told you that I finally felt like I was figuring this parenting thing out. And just as I was figuring out and feeling comfortable in my mommy skin, my world gets turned upside down, and now I have to figure out how to compensate for a missing daddy. You see, J was an AMAZING daddy to C. There is no replacing him. On June 15th, I not only lost my husband, but I lost my son’s daddy. And that alone hurts more than I could ever even describe to you. I can make decisions; I can fight for justice; I can run a household without J because I am grown. NOT BECAUSE I WANT TO. But my baby, he shouldn’t have to do any of that. He should still be sitting in the floor planning out “strategic tank battles” with his “daddio.” And so, not only do I have to change every part of who I am…I have now compensate for the loss of his daddy as well. And while most days C doesn’t seem to feel upset, there are weeks like this past one where daily he feels the absence of J. Just 2 nights ago, I turned my house upside down looking for J’s childhood stuffed animal, “Ozzy,” while C sat in the middle of his bedroom floor screaming at me, the walls, the guinea pig in his room, and anyone else who would listen because he was angry that I lost Ozzy. There was no calming him down, rectifying his behavior, or explaining why we shouldn’t scream at mommy. He wasn’t really angry at me; he was angry because his daddy wasn’t there. And nothing in my “mommy bag of tricks” will EVER fix that. Losing J is a part of C’s life that as a mommy I can never fix, and some days the sheer knowledge of that is almost defeating.
I spent hours searching to no avail. Finally, we begrudgingly substituted J’s baby blanket, and he eventually fell asleep still angry at his mommy. The next morning, I rushed him to school, and came home to search for another whole hour before finally locating Ozzy. At that point, I was so emotionally drained that I sat in the floor and cried. When C got home, Ozzy never left his arms. He clung to him in every task he did last night, and before going to sleep, I hear him whisper, “thank you God for letting my mommy find Ozzy. He was my daddy’s and he’s beyond special.” Those moments change you forever. They require you to possess strength you never prayed for, and level-headiness to be able to comfort your child while you are falling apart inside. And I comfort him because he deserves to have a normal world. His life has changed enough, and he deserves to just be a kid.
Every characteristic of the woman I am today is because of two choices. One of those choices occurred between the hours of 12:00 am and 12:40 am on June 14th, 2013. That’s the choice that I find the hardest to accept. It’s the one I had absolutely no control over, yet the waves of its repercussions continually rock my boat. Sometimes they are so strong, as when I’m looking for a stuffed animal while my son screams angrily at me in his room, that I simply don’t think I can push forward. I simply think just letting it be would be enough. That it would suffice…but those moments are when the other choice comes into play. The choice I have complete control over. The choice to push forward and to try to be a part of the good in the world. And that choice, is mine. It is where my control lies in this situation. I have no control over the justice that hopefully will be served, over the future events of my life, over other people’s reactions to my decisions, over the people who hurt me unintentionally, but I have control over being a part of the good in the world. And so today 6 months from the anniversary of the last normal day I spent with J, I am writing this not to make you cry, although, I’m unsure how it couldn’t have. I’m writing you this because C and I are a testament of how our choices affect our lives and others as well. Both of these choices that occurred on June 14th, I can never change. I can’t change the choice to be in a park that night nor can I change my choice I made when opening the door after the “dreaded knock in the middle of the night.” One I wish with all my might I could change, and the other I thank God daily that I made it.
My strength comes in waves, just as yours does. I try to share the ebbs and the flows with you. I try to be honest with you because in my honesty I am affirming to you how important our choices are in our lives. The choice to be in that park that night, no matter who it was that hit J, is a choice that forever changed mine and C’s lives. At first I thought, how unfair of God to allow another’s choice to so substantially alter my life, and then as the days went on, I began to think, no, I’m the one who chooses how this alters my life. I don’t always choose correctly, and I have far more moments of weakness than I could ever write about…but at the end of the day, my fulfillment comes from giving back to the world.
As I write this, I still stand in awe that exactly 6 months ago today, I spent the last normal day with my husband. I stand in awe at the ways in which our lives have changed, and how God continues to bless us daily. I look back at the storm I have walked through, and I realize it’s not always about how brave or confident you are while walking through your storm, it’s just important that you simply keep walking. Some days walking means dragging one foot behind me while carrying a hundred pound weight on my shoulders, and sometimes I simply just walk. The storm C and I are in has no end. It can’t have an end because when we signed up to be an officer’s family, we signed up for life. Our choice to continue that calling, doesn’t end today, and it is what carries us through to tomorrow.
Today, I encourage you, whatever storm you find yourself walking through to simply keep walking. Some days the wind is blowing the rain sideways and pulling me in a thousand different directions, and some days there is only a mist and a gentle breeze Who cares what you look like while walking. Remember sometimes I have on leopard print rain boots and a purple and yellow polka dotted rain jacket. Some days I wear my Wonder Woman outfit…and other days I’m walking with clothes I had on days ago…but we just keep walking.