Choices in Grief

Separating humans from “animals,” choices are the building blocks of society. Our choices are the source of evil and paradoxically they are the source of good. We spend our lives as parents trying to instill thoughtful, strategic, and logical decision making abilities in our children. One choice may have the power to end a life, save a life, alter the perception and belief of millions, or simply choose the menu for dinner that night. Billions upon billions of choices are made daily and never given a second thought.

In preparation to “grow up” we are taught to research, plan, and prepare for many common choices adults are faced with: choosing a life partner, buying a home, planning for a family. We are taught to honor our core values, save money, live within our budget, and selflessly put aside our own desires so that our children may have all they need. There are guide books, how to manuals, and countless online sites devoted to assisting young adults in making the choices which consequently become the cornerstone of their mature adult life.

We are geared toward preparing, planning, and perfecting our adult life; however, often life does not go according to plan, and we are left to make choices we never dreamed of making. Choices we are not prepared to make. Forced choices caused by the choices of others, or caused by an unknown or unplanned force. Whatever the cause may be, these choices suck the air from your lungs, they surge through every neuron in your body, and they leave you gasping for some semblance of your perception of reality. They throw you on the ground, pin you there, and taunt you to try to defy them. Once on the ground, you have the choice to remain there a victim, or to fight, make choices you never dreamed you were strong enough to make, and rise a survivor.

Making the decision to take your husband off life support.

Applying for his death certificate.

Planning your husband’s funeral when you are suddenly a widow at 29.

Debating on the least detrimental way of explaining his daddy’s death to your 4 year old son.

Facing your husband’s murderer as he freely strolls around during his trial, and has the audacity to attempt to hold the door open for you.

Raising your son who is left with 4 years of memories of his daddy which now have to be enough for a lifetime.

Waking up daily to suppress the bitterness, anger, vengeance, and contempt weighing down your heart. Praying, begging, and pleading to be able to have the energy to eradicate the hate you feel, and instead transform it into good.

Realizing for you: hate makes you a continual victim, and honoring by living makes you a survivor is a difficult pill to swallow. Choosing to be a source of good when an evil choice derailed your perceived perfect life isn’t easy. One choice eradicated my ability to make any future choices with Jason, but it didn’t erase my ability to choose to survive.

I’ve spent the past 3 years of my life rising from the ashes of forced widowhood, living as a victim of a murder, and advocating for society to treat the defenders of good as humans and not badges or uniforms. 3 years of choosing to bring about good when evil attempted to ruin our lives.

I’ve survived how catastrophically bad life can be; I’ve experienced hate, but in the midst of the darkest days, the saddest moments, and the endless anxiety and tears, I’ve also experienced the most genuine of good. I’ve met some of the most charismatic, kind, loving, and resilient people. I used to believe phoenixes were beautiful mythological illusions; however, I’ve met countless phoenixes: strong survivors who daily rise from their ashes and create beauty from them.

A few months ago, I began thinking of the way I wanted to honor Jason’s memory on his third EOW. My wedding dress had moved from Arkansas to Texas and back to Arkansas. It hung in several closets as a bittersweet, but unused reminder of the constant struggle of merging the past with the present: the before and after in my grief journey. As I ran my hands over the beautiful embroidery and crystals, I knew that this stunning symbol of mine and Jason’s love could serve a larger purpose: I knew it too could be a phoenix.

That larger purpose came in the form of another phoenix, Regina Binz and her organization, Holy Sews. After losing her beautiful baby boy, Regina sat in the middle of her own crumbling life. Ashes of her “before” life blew around her, constantly reminding her of what life could have been like. Yet, solid constants of everyday life reminded her of the stark reality of what her life truly was. Continual pull and tug between grieving and moving forward, yet, in these ashes, she knew beauty could be formed.

Wedding Gown Donation

She founded Holy Sews, a nonprofit organization who provides handmade burial clothing for families that experience the loss of their baby during gestational weeks 16-25. I knew through their countless hours of dedication, my dress could join the hundreds of others which are given a new purpose.

Photo Credit: Holy Sews Organization

When I met with Regina, I was touched by her statement, “we give families a choice in the clothing in which they bury their child.” Thankfully, I have never buried a child; however, I do know the agony of choosing a burial garment. The micropreemies are too small for infant clothing; yet, Holy Sews provides the families a choice. For parents thrown into the midst of sheer chaos, that choice helps organize even a small area of the chaos. Through donations and volunteers, families are provided the opportunity to honor their precious baby by choosing a garment, and in that moment, in one small way, they begin to heal.

I’m not alone: grief alters the lives of everyone. Loss is the cost of love. While Regina and I have experienced a different type of loss, so many aspects of grief are interconnected. Yet, through loss we’ve made the choice to show compassion, choose joy, and to honor our loved ones by living our lives. We fight daily to continue to rise from our ashes.

In early 2006, I choose my beautiful wedding dress, later that year Jason and I would marry. He’d choose to be an officer, and years later, I’d choose to follow his dream to Texas. He’d choose to protect and serve, but one man’s choice resulted in Jason making the ultimate sacrifice. Almost 3 years to the day later, I still choose happiness. I choose to make a difference, and because of Regina and my choices, grieving parents are able to choose an outfit and begin their healing journey.

Despite the reasons we have to be angry and bitter; love and compassion heal us. “Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, [however,] not always in the way we expect.” Jason’s spirit of service, compassion, and love live on through our decisions to embody his spirit. Today, on his 3rd EOW, I challenge you to do the same. Choose compassion, bring about some good, and honor a man who lived his life to the fullest!

More information about Holy Sews can be found at:

The Trial, Constellations, and Grace

cross with stars

Today marks one month since the trial began for the man convicted of Jason’s death. Throughout the passing of the one month, I have sat down on more than one occasion and attempted to write about my experiences at the trial. I have thought to myself on NUMEROUS occasions, “you wrote so easily and freely concerning Jason’s death, pull it together. Surely a trial can’t be harder to write about than your own husband’s death.” Yes, I know I am a very harsh critic when it comes to myself, and I know you all did not see it this way at all. Yet, I still “punished” myself mentally for my inability to truly capture the essence of how traumatic and life altering the trial was for me and for all those who supported me. I’ve spent countless nights wide awake because of the evidence presented, praying that I could erase it from my mind. Hours spent analyzing my words when I took the stand. Were they good enough, did I accurately portray the gut wrenching death of my husband that in turn caused me to lose who I once was, and causes my son to miss his daddy? Could I have said something more? Should I have cried more?


I’ve spent more of my time replaying evidence over and over in my mind, and analyzing Jason’s last moments. Yes, I sat through that rear dash cam video more than once. I promise you, I still don’t know how I did it. I wonder if the message my presence during the video sent to the jury was worthy enough of the years I’ll spend replaying those last few moments in my head. I find myself washing clothes or cleaning, and thinking, would Jason have wanted me to endure all I chose to endure, just to ensure that honor was given to his sacrifice. I’ve thought over and over again how unfair it is, that I had to sit through 7 days of emotional turmoil in order to be the presence in the courtroom who silently demanded justice to be served. And, it’s usually at that point in my thought process that I enter into my “dark zone.” The place in my mind that I attempt to push back, cover up, in hopes that the repression eventually erases it all together. In reality, I know that in order to heal, I have to enter my dark zone. Yet, in those moments I’m there, and I’m walking through it, I honestly feel the furthest from Jason I could. My “dark zone” is generally a swirling storm of anger. I hate feeling anger, while it’s productive, I feel it blinds me. And so, I avoid it at all costs. Yet, there was no avoiding it. In fact, it’s been on the backburner of my mind up until tonight. Showing its blinding face at every twist and turn in my life. Clouding my judgment, and causing me to dislike who I was.

A considerable amount of my anger doesn’t stem from the sentencing portion of the trial…although at first, it did. Instead, my anger is more often directed at myself. I can try forever to explain to you the paradoxical emotions of praying for justice to be served, but feeling your heart strings slowly ripped as you watch a mother saying good bye to her son before he’s lead away. Or the prayers that the amount of years will in some way equal the loss we endure daily, but also almost feeling sorry when you look into his eyes and see the reality of his choices sink in. I’ve been angry at myself for feeling such paradoxical emotions. I’m angry because these emotions feel as if they are a betrayal to Jason’s sacrifice and to his brothers/sisters in blue. In fact, I have debated sharing such emotions because I was afraid people wouldn’t understand why I felt them. I have feared that this paragraph I’ve written numerous times would alienate me from Jason’s brothers and sisters, and that they would turn their backs on me because of my true feelings.

I have told myself over and over, that a “true officer’s wife wouldn’t feel sorry for the person who took her husband’s life.” That she shouldn’t wish it would become a learning experience for him, and that in the end he will leave prison with the ability to impact others, and with a hard-earned respect for the value of a person’s life. I’ve told myself that a “true officer’s wife would not ‘be okay’ with a sentence that is less than a life for a life.” And, yet, no matter how often I “tell” myself anything, these paradoxical emotions creep up on me, engulf my thought process, and drown me.


For the past week, I have been fighting them off. Forcing myself to stay incredibly busy in the hopes that they will fade, and that I won’t have to truly deal with how I’ve been feeling. That I wouldn’t have to write this blog that I’ve felt weighing on my heart since the verdicts were issued. Realistically, I knew the possibility of such an occurrence was extraordinarily rare. All day today, I found my thoughts elsewhere, and my thought process erratic, and the difficulty level of accomplishing even the simplest of tasks frustrated me. I have felt out of sorts, as if a thousand piece puzzle were thrown to the floor, and its pieces placed hastily placed back together. The general outline of the puzzle is there – a shell, but the inside is all jumbled together with pieces forced together to fill a space. As I prepared for tonight’s Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line meeting, I found myself sporadically “accomplishing” items on my to do list, but never feeling as if I had anything together.


Even as I began the meeting, my frustration levels were high, and I struggled to pull myself together for these ladies who have given so much to me. Yet, when I started that meeting, a few of the pieces of my jumbled together puzzle were placed back into their correct location. The longer the meeting went on, the more pieces were correctly placed. Conversations after the meeting, placed a few more into their permanent homes. Each piece placed was a small weight lifted. Ladies who support me, back me, and understand how an “officer’s wife, could look into the eyes of her husband’s killer and feel immense anger at all he took from us, but also understand how a mother could look into those same eyes and feel in some small way sorry for him as well.” I shared a small portion of how I felt at the trial, and they all supported me. They wrapped their arms around me in support, and the encouraged me to keep going. I promise you they don’t even know they did it, but I felt it.


And so, I left the meeting with more pieces in place, and a certain sense of calm that I hadn’t felt in quite some time. When C and I arrived home, we got out of the car, and as always I looked at the sky. Tonight was beautiful, clear, and peaceful. I commented on the stars to C, and he looked too. And what happened in those moments of arriving home, placed even more pieces in place. He looked at the sky, and he immediately found the big dipper, a skill Jason taught C at an early age. He smiled, and he pointed out a “winking” star in the handle of the dipper. He turned, and he looked at me, and with childlike faith said “ That’s my daddy’s eyes winking at me tonight.” Normally, I would have lost it at that point. I would have mourned Jason’s death, and how C is forced to live without him, but this time I didn’t. Instead, this time, we sat down in the middle of our driveway, and we looked at the stars.


This was the best picture I could get :)

This was the best picture I could get 🙂

C talked on and on about how Jason had taught him how ships used constellations as a GPS, and that he thinks Jason would have chosen the big dipper to build his mansion in heaven. I listened, and I remained quiet as he kept talking. Listening to my baby be so happy that we are “closer to daddy tonight,” calmed me, and it placed more pieces in their place. At one point, he jumped up, and ran inside to get “Jason’s blanket, a pillow, and his DADDY’S flashlight, so that he could hold it and remember his daddy.” I joined him, and we lay down under the stars, and we snuggled. While he sat and watched the stars, I began to think about how angry I’ve been at myself for feeling a little sorry for the man who killed Jason. And just as I allowed myself to begin to process why I felt that way, C pointed out a constellation he felt looked like “the cross Jesus died on.” He asked me why Jesus would want to die for us, and I began to explain grace and mercy to him. He remained quiet for a long time, and I welcomed the silence. In the silence I began to realize how irrational my anger at myself was. All along, I had convinced myself to believe that feeling sorry for my husband’s killer made ME a bad person. That it erased my status as a “good and dutiful officer’s wife.” When in reality, the exact opposite was true. Those moments I spent looking at the man who killed my husband, and telling him exactly how he changed my life, were moments when I kept telling myself, “stop feeling sorry for him. It was his choice. He did this; he created his own consequences.” Yet, instead, those moments standing before him in the courtroom were the first moments when I truly saw a glimpse that forgiveness might be possible. In reading my statement to him, I chose to leave out the last line of the letter. In that line, I told him that if I ever did forgive him, to make no mistake, the forgiveness would be so that I could move with my life, not so he could feel better about his own choices.

I didn’t tell him that, instead, I just went and sat down. Up until tonight, I’ve regretting not reading that last line to him. Tonight, when C and I talked about the cross, salvation, grace, and mercy, a number of more pieces fell into place. I realized that feeling sorry for his decision to drive away that night, didn’t make me a bad person. I thought, if I truly believe in salvation and the grace Jesus must extend to us in order to be willing to die on the cross, then forgiveness on my part should come at some point. Forgiving him or forever living in anger affects the remainder of my life, and I thought for a while it would never affect his. I was wrong.

Extending grace is modeled time and time again throughout the Bible for Christians, but it’s rarely practiced in today’s world. We are taught to feel anger for others who hurt us and to look out for ourselves. This belief is what caused me to be angry at myself for “becoming a soft officer’s wife.” I’ve always felt that people who say “ they have forgiven their loved one’s killer,” are lying. That there’s no possible way it could occur. And, I won’t say that I’m there yet, but a lot more pieces came together tonight as we sat beneath the stars.


When we were getting ready to go to bed, C turned around, and he blew a kiss to heaven. He then came and kissed me as well. He told me “ daddy’s bed is now in the big dipper, and that’s okay. It means he gets to watch everything I do, and be proud of all I do.” We carried our items inside, and we laid down for bed. I listened as C told Jason all about our day. How the he remembered all the lessons Jason had taught him about constellations, and how he hoped his daddy would visit him in his dreams tonight. And then, we told daddy we love him to heaven and back. C turned over, and he held my hand as he drifted to sleep with a smile upon his face. Tears streamed down my face as I marveled in his ability to never feel anger at Jason’s death.


I laid in bed, and cried. In those moments I realized, C isn’t angry because I’ve always made it a point to never inflict my anger at the situation upon him. He gets to live in a world of child-like faith, and I get to wish I could go back to that. Tonight, I realized, if I would have listened to my heart all along, God was trying to push me back there. If C can go his entire life and never feel anger at the man who killed his daddy, this mommy has done something right. The conversation we had tonight where I explained grace wasn’t for C, he already readily extends it. I was the one who was being reminded of the true meaning of grace.


If you’re reading this today and you think “I’ll never be able to forgive him. He took too much. He took my brother, a daddy, a husband, and son.” I want you to know I understand. I felt that too. In fact, a part of me still feels that way…and maybe it always will? Please know that I’m not writing about my steps towards forgiveness in a judgmental manner of those who aren’t ready to forgive. I’m in no way telling you how to think, feel, or act. Instead, I’m reminding us all, of where we would be today without grace.


Think back on a situation where you didn’t deserve grace, but were granted it anyway. A time in your life when you should have been allowed to fall flat on your face, without any help from a hand to lift you up, yet they extended their hand anyway. We’ve all made choices where grace should have never been extended, but it was there waiting for you, lifting you up, and pushing you forward. Where you a different person afterward? Did you allow that experience to change you for the better? If I can cultivate C’s ability to extend grace, and allow it to become a part of who he is, then I know with certainty that I’ve raised him to be a person that Jason would be proud of.


I pray my honesty hasn’t changed your opinion of me as an officer’s wife, and that in the end you sincerely know that I respect wherever you are in the grieving process. I just know I can’t continue to live in anger, if I want to raise a son who is free from it. Tonight, while gazing at the stars, Jason wrapped his arms around us both, he winked at us through the stars, and for the first time in a while, we were at peace…my prayer is that this moment is coming for you as well. Jason would want peace for all of us…I pray that you find your own path to peace.

Re-opened Wounds…

broken heart

I’ve prayed for this time to hurry up and get here.  The time in which I could finally start to “heal,” and my life could somewhat return to “normal.” I’ve attended numerous pre-trials, to the point, for lack of a better description, the courtroom almost seems like a “normal” aspect of my life. Yet, the closer I come to Tuesday, the more terrified I become.

I’ve spent the past week worrying about how in the world I was going to survive days of sitting and listening to HOURS of testimony, pieces of evidence, and arguments from both sides.  After Jason’s death, I was able to escape for a moment if needed. I could change the topic, walk out of the room, or simply “zone out” into my own thoughts and feelings.  However, 9 months later, as I prepare to walk into a courtroom where I will be bombarded for hours a day with information about Jason’s death.  I simply can’t say that I am ever going to be ready for that.  Who could ever be?  How can I prepare myself for the evidence we will see, the testimony we will hear, the act of witnessing Jason’s family and friends have their wounds re-opened and all of their emotions exposed all over again.

In the last 9 months, I’ve worked very hard to “heal” those wounds as best as possible. Although, rationally I know there will be no time in which they are completely healed.  There will always be tender spots, or small cuts that never heal.  The wounds that do close, are scared over and jagged.  They aren’t small perfect little incisions.  I envision my body, my heart, to be covered with wounds of all sizes- small little jagged ones from each time my heart jumps when I unexpectedly see a picture of him, huge ones that with raw spots all in them from every night when I hear, “I miss my daddy,” or “daddy used to play with me like this…you’re doing it wrong.”  I know my body will always metaphorically be covered in wounds. And the more I’ve prayed for this day to get here, the more I thought with certainty I’d be ready- that the wounds would be healed enough where I could handle the trial. My thought process was that once some of the wounds have healed a little, and they aren’t quite so open and exposed, that maybe it would be easier.

Let me tell you, I was wrong. Actually, it’s tremendously worse to have these wounds ripped back open, and the worst part is each time it’s unexpected.  I had psyched myself up to believe that I could somehow make it through trial without re-opening wounds.  I guess, maybe it was my way of coping until I could no longer ignore the facts any longer, and I had to face the realization that trial will tear open all those wounds, and expose my emotions, feelings, and darkest thoughts in ways that I could never prepare for.  For those of you who know me well, you know I can’t stand to spill my emotions everywhere- yet, there’s no escaping from it occurring in trial.  And, at the start of this week, I was beyond angry that here we all were once again, wounds exposed, desperately missing our: husband, son, daddy, brother, uncle, brother in blue.  And as my thoughts continued to sink further down into the deep abyss of negativity trial has brought upon my thought process, something remarkable was happening outside of the “deep dark abyss.”

Every tear shed, or ill-spoken word that tumbles out of my mouth before I can remind myself the true source of my anger, are exemplifications of more wounds opened, and more raw emotions being exposed.  And, it’s come to a point where I simply feel that there really isn’t a place on my body: both inside and out, that isn’t covered in a wound from Jason’s death.  Yet, as I was sinking into my dark abyss, God was trying to open my eyes to the love that surrounds me: supports me, and lifts me up even when I have no idea it’s really being done.  For each wound that has been re-opened in the past few weeks, God has placed a blessing, both small and large, in my life.  And, as I began to open my eyes more to each blessing, the more I realized how God was choosing to answer my prayers.  I had prayed for the strength to handle this trial with dignity and grace, and the ability to walk out feeling we had completed everything possible to ensure justice was served. I guess I wasn’t sure how I expected God to provide me the amount of strength I needed, but if you asked me to envision it and describe how I felt God would answer my prayers, I could never in a million years come close to describing to you all of the blessings of the past few weeks.

I will not be able to cover each of them, but I’d like to list some of these blessings for you.  In hopes that maybe they will prompt you to look for your own blessings, and that they will serve as reminders when I am re-reading blogs next week as I reflect on the last 9 months of my life.

  1. Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line was okayed from Officers Down 5K Foundation to host the first ever Texas Officers Down 5K.  And not only that, we met with the city officials, and they are beyond excited.  The amount of recognition this event will bring to fallen officers and their family’s sacrifice still humbles me and brings tears to my eyes.  Within a matter of 2 days, our event was shared on MAJOR law enforcement organizations who service the entire state of Texas.  Each share, like, comment, and click that said “I’m going to this event,” broadened my smile, and helped me focus on a blessing for a moment instead of another wound that had just been opened.  We are so blessed to have Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line grow so quickly, and to receive such support in a short amount of time.  I asked God for affirmations a while back that this organization was my calling, and let me tell you, He hasn’t let me down yet.  Affirmation, after affirmation.
  2. As we continued through the week, more and more businesses volunteered to somehow help raise money for the scholarship fund.  This fund is a vital key to my goal of bettering our community.  It’s an investment in the lives of future peace officers, parole officers, crime scene investigators etc.  Which each investment we make, we are slowly instilling in these young people a belief that their community backs them, and hopefully when the time comes, these students will chose to start their careers here. Then they will raise families, and create an established career.  Those veteran officers will then become the training officers for our rookies.  And the cycle of community pride and service will continue.  And with each business who offered to support, I began to believe again that there was a greater purpose to be served through Jason’s death.  I begin to be reminded that the justice we pray will be served won’t be the “end” of remembering Jason and other fallen officers. Instead, it will be the beginning.  And I have been blessed with the means to ensure that this is just the beginning.
  3. I ended this week with the first ever fundraiser Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line held for the scholarship fund.  We had a pancake breakfast this morning, and I walked around to as many tables as possible, thanking them for their support.  My goal was to remind them how they were all blessings in my life, and all examples of affirmation of my calling.  As I talked to each person, I heard story after story about how Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, or an officer, me, or one of my ladies had somehow touched their lives.  I heard how what WE are doing is exactly what our community needs.  And, while I was walking around today, speaking to people, I can tell you for the first time in a while it seemed like those wounds were gone- if only for a few hours.  In those few hours, I was surrounded by a tremendous group of ladies who would do anything in the world to help me remember Jason and other fallen officers.  I was lifted up by community members who took time out of their days to come by and remind me of their support.  And even better, we raised over 1,200 dollars for the scholarship fund today. And while when I left the wounds came back, I’m armed with more blessings to combat them.
  4. There are almost 50 new likes today alone for the Facebook page: The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, and I can’t even begin to describe the love I feel when I see pink behind the thin blue line as so many people’s profile pictures.  I can tell you that my ladies in my group have surrounded me, lifted me up, and shared my story with so many already. I look forward to ending each stressful day at trial with scrolling through the Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line Facebook page and seeing all of my supporters wearing their ribbons!  I am still in awe at the love I feel.  I know so many of you can’t be there in person, but I assure you, God is allowing me to feel your love and your prayers!  Jason’s memory is alive and EACH of you are honoring it as we walk this line to justice!

I know these don’t even begin to describe all the blessings from just the past week, but I want you to know I couldn’t have asked for my prayers to be answered in a more perfect way. For 9 months I have walked through a daily storm, and each day this week, something happened, and for just a moment or for a few hours, it felt like I was in the calm.  After 9 months of walking though a storm, the breaks were beyond needed.

I know the weeks of the trial ahead are the hardest parts of Jason’s death I will probably have to endure. They will require more strength, faith, and grace than even the act of burying him did- but I serve a God who has placed so many people and blessings in my life that there is no doubt in my mind that even though I will be walking through the tornado in my storm, I will be surrounded and uplifted by thousands who are praying for me.  And, when I walk into the courtroom on Tuesday morning, I will have the most amazing friends and family who have dropped their entire lives to sit through those hours of agony with me.  And, they will have their lives forever changed, but they aren’t even blinking an eye, because they love me that much! And it is through them, and all of you that Jason’s memory will be alive and well during this trial!  And while we are in trial, all of you will be praying, and hoping, and supporting me in ways I might never know about, but I promise you I will feel.  Your support provides me strength.

As we enter trial week, I ask that you go and like the Facebook page: The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, and that you copy why we have changed our profile pictures, and that you will do the same.  I pray that you will help us spread the love and support for all fallen officer’s families.  And know, even though I won’t be able to post, my gratitude for each picture changed, prayer said, or messaged sent will never be expressible to you, but it’s appreciated beyond measure.  Thank you all for believing in Jason’s memory enough to support our cause, and for supporting me throughout the weeks of trial.

Thank you all for loving my scared body: but know that you are a large part of the reason the wounds are slowly healing!

pbttbl logo with words

Erasing The Guilt…

Isaiah 57 1-2

Guilt implies that a person has committed a sin or an act of transgression. But, we also tend to use the word to imply a state in which we wish we could have done more.  It’s a word I’ve heard frequently since Jason’s death, and one that I never really can provide a solution for.  Each person I spoke with after Jason’s death seemed to have some form of guilt: “if only I would have talked to him one more time,” “maybe I should have forgave him,” “what if I had been here instead.”  In living through 8 months of grieving and watching others grieve around me, one thing I am familiar with is guilt.

And the people around me aren’t the only ones wrestling with their own guilt.  The night Jason was hit, my cell phone wasn’t working properly, and I was anxious to get to the store to have it fixed before too much of Jason’s shift had passed.  As an officer’s wife, I hated being without a form of communication, especially on the nights he worked.  And, in my rush, I decided to leave for the store before Jason left for work.  In my mind, I would have the phone fixed before he started his shift, and all would be well in the world of an officer and his wife. I hugged him, kissed him, told him to come back to me. Instead of his normal “always,” I heard, “I’ll try.”  I hated that answer, but I didn’t really press it. Instead I left for the store to get my phone fixed.

The last message I remember sending Jason was something to the extent of,” yay, my phone is finally fixed. Hope to ACTUALLY get to hear from you at some point tonight. Love you and stay safe.”  Of course, no reply – I didn’t really expect one.  It was the first week of summer vacation, and they were already busy.  That night, I laid down to bed and forgot to turn my phone on loud, and because of that, I slept through 22 straight phone calls, and was awoken by a knock on the door.

And while logically, I know there is no reason to feel any guilt associated with my early departure, or my decision to let the, “I’ll try,” comment go, it didn’t matter.  The guilt was still present, and it ate away at me in the hours when I attempted to sleep at night.  I know that staying longer, never leaving, forcing him to reply with, “always,” wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but as humans when tragedy results in the loss of life, we always associate the feeling of wishing we could have done more with guilt.

In reality, I guess it’s the closest word we can find to describe how we truly feel.  The feeling that had we known the events of the night, we would have done everything possible to change them, to alter them, and to never have to live through a sleepless night of “what ifs.”  Yet, we know all of the impossibilities associated with that wish, and so, we describe how we feel as guilt.

And with guilt comes confession: the need for someone else to “forgive you.”  However, in Jason’s situation there isn’t anything to forgive.  We feel this “guilt” because we struggle with outcomes outside of our own control.  The events of June 14th and 15th were outside of our control the moment Jason checked in route to the call.  Even so, I spent a considerable time replaying the last conversation we had, wishing I wouldn’t have left so early, and begging for forgiveness, although in reality none was actually needed.

In one of my 3 am wide awake moments, I was debating in my mind of starting this blog, following what I felt was my calling, and I was providing God with many reasons I was undeserving of this calling, and why all of these thoughts and feelings should remain in my own mind.  I admitted how scared I was to share them, and how vulnerable I felt I would be.  I’ve written before about the dreams I had concerning starting the blog and the organization.  And, I struggled because I allowed my guilt to cause me to feel unworthy of my calling.   Actually, I still do that.  I still struggle with the unworthy feeling, and the admission that Jason’s death caused me to be a better person.

And, so when people admit their “guilt” to me, I often times clam up.  I provide generic answers, and I  don’t really know how to tell them to erase their “guilt.” I tell them it’s not merited; I remind them I’m not angry; I tell them I understand nothing I say will erase it, because I do understand that.  I understand it on a level few actually can.  I understand that no human can take away that guilt, and they can’t provide you a feeling of peace.  And every time I walk away from one of those conversations I’m secretly grateful that I’m not alone, but I’m upset with myself for my inability to say more.  I want to scream my feelings of guilt to them, and I want my feelings to erase their feelings; yet, it never happens that way.

Nothing anyone says to me erases mine; it’s still here, although it’s smaller and a little easier to manage.  It has less of a hold on my daily life, but it still haunts me each time I blog.  Blogging is therapy, but it’s also my reminder that my calling in life changed when my husband died…and then there’s that guilt again.  Yet, it’s lessened, and here’s why:

“Good people pass away;
the godly often die before their time.

No one seems to understand that

God is protecting them from the evil to come.

For those who follow godly paths

Will rest in peace when they die.”

Isaiah 57:1-2

Jason’s death had nothing to do with anything any of us could have done or actually did that night.  It wasn’t because of our actions; it was because of God’s.  And while at first that might make a person angry at God – it did me.  In the end, I have to trust that Jason’s death was part of God’s bigger picture for my life and all those who were present at the scene, the hospital, the funeral home, and even now in our lives.

Jason’s death has brought with it so many supportive, understanding, and caring brothers and sisters in my life.  And experiencing his death is part of God’s plan for their lives as well.  As difficult as that is to accept, just as accepting Jason’s death has allowed for me to finally get the chance to follow my own calling, I firmly believe we all have a choice after Jason’s.  A choice of how it is going to impact the remainder of our lives.  For some, maybe that means their calling changed – just like mine.  For others maybe it means they change for the better.  And still others, maybe it means they start actually living life.  But the point remains, Jason’s death was part of the plan in our lives, and how will we use that to change our lives for the better? Or better yet, how will we use it to change another’s life for the better?

And while I would love to erase that “self- imposed guilt” from your mind, the reality is, I can’t.  But, God can.  Jason’s death caused many to evaluate their lives, and I pray it is causing many to somehow better their own.  And, maybe the guilt will still be a battle we all fight in our own ways, but you can’t allow it to rob you of your happiness, your calling, and your contribution to other’s lives.  Allowing it to win, means we are yet another victim.

So, while I may not be able to tell you these things in person. While I can’t look you in the eye and admit my own guilt, or tell you how to erase yours.  I can use my calling, my talent, and my words here to hopefully reach into your heart, and remind you that you aren’t alone in your “guilt,” and that together, we need to make sure we use Jason’s death to somehow better our own lives and those around us.

As I continue to follow my calling, create a support group for officer’s wives, and hopefully find the courage to fulfill a few more portions of my calling, I pray that my words resonate in the hearts of my brothers and sisters who have stood by me from day one.  I pray that they too pray for me – that they pray I won’t allow my guilt to win, and that I will continue to follow my calling.  Please know, that whichever way you chose to allow Jason’s death to change your life, I’ll support, but I pray that you find the courage to follow whatever calling it has set in motion in your life.

And in the end, please know:

“The heart of the man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.

While your path towards your calling my cause you to wander, I think it is safe to say that “all who wonder are not lost.”  Don’t allow your guilt to cause you to lose your way.  Fight it, and instead as you wander, make sure you impact the lives of others around you.  I assure you, that you’ve already impacted mine.

A few months ago I asked a friend of mine, Katherine, to write a blog on forgiveness.  Katherine is the creator of the blog Proverbs and Pacifiers (    I asked her to write on a topic that frustrated me.  You see, if you were able to browse through all of my draft blog posts, you would notice a trend: forgiveness.  You might also notice that each of them were still in draft status.  I never could write exactly how I wanted to feel.  I wanted to write about forgiveness because it is something I am striving for, no matter how unrealistic and impossible it generally feels.  God used Katherine to deliver in a way that my heart needed at that moment.

As I made the trip last weekend to Officer Deckard’s funeral, I optimistically thought how much the trip was going to help me bring about more closure, as well as demonstrate support for a family who was forced to feel a hurt that no one should ever feel.  I attended visitation, the funeral, and instead of closure I felt a heavier heart.  I witnessed once more the outpouring of support, the beauty and honor that could only describe an officer’s funeral.  All around me was support and gratitude for our sacrifices; yet, in my heart, I felt burden and heaviness.  And it angered me because I should be feeling gratitude for the support and prayers.  Throughout the entire experience I kept feeling resentment towards the fact that God would allow our loved ones to be taken by such senseless actions.  And, all of the feelings I worked so hard to eradicate in the past months bombarded me.  I retreated, as I generally do when I feel overwhelmed, and I slept for over 14 hours in my hotel room.

Throughout the duration of the incredibly long waiting time in the airport, I found myself focusing on the “nevers” in my life.  The reality that my future is littered with “nevers.”  Never hugging him again, never hearing his laughter, never seeking his advice or affirmation, never knowing with absolute certainty  that I’m raising C the way J and I decided together we would, and never getting to watch him smile in pride as C grew into a man.  And the thoughts of never weighted me down.  Throughout my stay at the airport, and my flight home, I frequently found my thoughts gravitating towards forgiveness. In my mind, I was writing a letter to the person, whomever that may be, who is responsible for J’s death.  I was always writing the end of the letter,   and it always ended in statements such as, “the forgiveness I feel is for me.  It’s so I can move on, eradicating the anger and bitterness I feel.” And, I got angry with myself for even thinking about forgiveness.  Forgiveness has always come easy to me, yet, this time I couldn’t fathom how to begin. I knew I needed to, but I didn’t want to actually forgive.  To put it simply, in my mind forgiveness excused the actions, it smoothed it over, brushed it under the rug, and in a sense, it felt like dishonoring J’s memory.  And, almost in the same breath, I feel an urge to forgive, to understand that people make mistakes, and to live my life as happily as possible. There’s never a balance: never a day when I can just feel indifferent about forgiveness.  On the last flight home, I stared at the horizon, and once again the nevers overtook my mind. And I prayed that something in my heart would change, and that I could eventually be positive without a constant reminder and battle within my own heart.

Below you find the post Katherine wrote.  Thank you for your prayed over words Katherine.  I now pray that they touch others lives as much as they have my own.  I also pray that in some ways I can start the forgiveness process, however long it may take.

Rusty textured metal

“…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Forgive as you’ve been forgiven.

It sounds easy. In fact, many of us are probably guilty of making it seem a little too easy.

The Bible is clear that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). He promises to remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). He forgets our sins and remember our iniquities no more (Is 43:25). He makes us white as snow (Is 1:18).

God then tells us to forgive others, just as we have been forgiven. Brothers, friends, enemies, no matter how many times they hurt us we are supposed to forgive…

…to let it go.

…to forget it.

…to move on.

…to wipe the slate clean.

We often paint a picture of forgiveness that’s all smiles and love and happiness. Someone apologizes, someone forgives, and then we walk off into the sunset holding hands. Now, this method might work when someone steals your pencil or cuts in line at the water fountain, but honestly, it feels painfully inadequate when it comes to the real struggles in life.

What about those times when we are cut to the core and our hearts are broken, when someone else’s actions, their words, their attitude, changes the course of our lives forever, when someone else’s sin robs us of joy and security and leaves us spinning out of control? Sometimes people apologize and sometimes they don’t, but in either case, the pain doesn’t just go away because the damage can’t always be undone.

It’s then that we learn the truth. Forgiveness is anything but neat and clean and easy.

The Cost of Our Forgiveness

The forgiveness and grace offered to us by God came at a great price. God sent his only Son to the cross of Calvary, to be beaten, mocked, and tortured. Jesus died a painful, messy, bloody death. But more than that, he allowed himself to feel the full weight of our sin and punishment. He who knew no sin became sin for us.

So we could be forgiven.

Let that sink in for a minute. The grace offered freely to us, was anything but free. It wasn’t easy. God didn’t wake up one morning and just decide to “let it go”. He didn’t just take a big magic eraser and pretend that none of it every happened.

Instead, God chose to sacrifice, to suffer and die, so that you and I could know what true love is all about. God paid a price that we will never be able to truly comprehend. The forgiveness we enjoy came at great cost to him.

So when God tells us to forgive others, it’s not a commandment he takes lightly. He knows what’s it like to be hurt by sin. The perfect people he created disobeyed him and turned their backs on him. And he knows what it’s like to forgive. He had the choice of throwing us all in hell, giving us exactly what we deserved with no hope for redemption, but instead he decided to sacrifice so that we could live in freedom and grace.

The Cost of Forgiving Others

When people hurt us our natural inclination is to be angry and bitter. We struggle with hatred and malice while our hearts cry for out for justice. Forgiveness is unnatural for our sin nature.

And choosing to walk in forgiveness is going to cost us, just like it cost Jesus. When we choose to to set aside our anger and bitterness, we are choosing a very difficult road.

Except we aren’t bearing the weight of other people’s sins. We are dealing with our own.

When you and I choose to forgive others we are humbly acknowledging that their life, their actions, their sin is no worse than our own. It’s a hard truth to stomach but we all deserve to bear the full weight of our disobedience. Not one of us is righteous. We are all bad people. (Romans 3:23)

In order for us to really forgive others, we first have to understand just how merciful God has been to us. And when our hearts are focused on the love God has given us, then we will be equipped to love and forgive others.

The love of God empowers us to daily die to ourselves. Die to our anger, our bitterness, and hatred. The Holy Spirit will slowly and often painfully cleanse us of our self-pity and our selfishness. As we daily turn our hearts toward God, we will learn to control our thoughts, to dwell on those things which are good rather than allowing ourselves to dwell on hurt and anger.

Becoming Like Christ

This is our sacrifice. We turn from our sin nature, die to ourselves, and let God daily make us more like him, full of love and forgiveness.

It’s far from easy, and it’s far from immediate.

The process of sanctification, becoming more like Christ, is a life long process that starts when we willingly confess that God’s way is better than our own. When we are hurting, it’s easy for us to focus on our pain and frustration. We cast blame on others and demand payment for their wrong doing.

But God’s way is better.

“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Luke 23:33-34

At the height of his pain and sacrifice on the cross, Jesus looks upon the crowds of those who scorned him and prayed for them. He was hurting. He was heartbroken. And yet, he extended forgiveness.

My prayer for you today is that you know first hand the forgiveness that Jesus offered on the cross. I pray that you have been set free from sin and been made alive in Christ.

But I also pray that no matter where your heart is, no matter how deeply it’s been broken, that you understand the joy and peace that comes by forgiving others.

It is joy, not because it is easy, but because it is right.

It is peace, not because it is simple, but because it allows us to live free from the bondage of hatred and sin.

The truth is the deeper we’ve been hurt the harder it is to forgive, and the longer it takes for that joy and peace to make themselves at home in our hearts. However, we serve a God who understands our struggle. Jesus knows very well the pain and anguish we experience from other’s sin, and he also knows just how difficult forgiveness can be.

And he promises to give us the strength we need to walk daily in his footsteps. Forgiving others just as we have been forgiven.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

The Cost of Forgiveness

Merging “before” with “after”: A New Meaning of “O Holy Night”

Before and after- prepositional phrases usually utilized to indicate when an event took place. Useful in indicating passage of time.
Words that find themselves frequently used in the English language, small and seemingly insignificant, lost among the eloquent and more grandiose words; yet, vital just the same.
Words that have never had a profound effect upon my life until six months ago. In the world of traumatic loss and grieving, life is seemingly defined as “before,” “the event/loss,” and “after.” When writing those three categories, it seems fairly easy. Each part of your life becomes neatly tucked into one of those three categories. If all the events of your life become tucked into categories, and there are no loose ends, everything will be okay. Well, that’s just simply wrong. Yes, chronologically, I can place events into the one of the three categories: “before J’s death,” “the time spent in the hospital,” and “after J’s death.” Chronological is simple. Every event in our lives will chronologically fit into one of these categories, and because each event will fit, we sometimes give the impression that we are continuing on with our lives in a normal fashion.
Chronologically placing the events into a category is what I like to call “head knowledge.” When we can attach a date to an event, our brain automatically places the events into chronological order. Before J’s death, my memories seemed to be organized chronologically. Meaning, memories before a certain milestone in our lives didn’t really hold more significance emotionally, than a memory after a specific milestone. Maybe you are different, but in the grand scheme of things, I relived my memories chronologically. After J passed, everything changed. Instead of each event fitting neatly into a category, lines began to blur.
As I sit and reflect on last Christmas- the traditions, the memories, and the love, I can logically tell you “those were before J passed.” Traditions of J putting together toys while he and I drank hot chocolate out of the snowman and penguin mugs we bought our first Christmas together. J eating the cookies, and writing C a special note from Santa. J griping about the coordinating pajama bottoms and shirts that I forced us each to wear. Opening our gifts together Christmas Eve, just the two of us, so that Christmas morning could be about C. J letting the dog onto the front porch so that he could have a special treat of all the reindeer food. Opening one sentimental “mushy” card and one funny one from J. If it were left to J, I would have only received the funny one. That’s the man he was, but after the first Christmas, it became established that both were necessary.  Traditions that chronologically fit into the “before J passed” category.
The problem is our “heart knowledge” blurs the chronological lines, and it causes us to have difficulty placing a tradition or a favorite memory into the “before J passed” category. I don’t want to place an event there. I don’t want to even believe that category exists some days. I want to erase it, hide it, banish it into oblivion. And because I want to obliterate the category altogether, reliving the memories that fit into the “before” category are extremely bittersweet. Placing a much loved Christmas tradition into the “before” category feels like re-living “the event” all over again. The fears, anger, resentment, sadness, anxiety all flood back in. And this happens when I least expect it. It can be caused by a song, a random Christmas sack you begin to wrap a present in, only to realize someone has written J’s name in marker on the outside. It can be caused by wrapping a gift, and thinking, “wow J would have had ‘fun’ putting that one together.” And, I find myself not ready for those moments. My mind isn’t guarded, and sadness comes flooding in. And so, when trying to place memories and traditions into categories, I find myself torn. Placing a tradition into the “before” category feels as if I’m burying it too….
If I force a tradition into the “before” category, it is more than likely because the tradition is impossible to continue because of “the event.” People offer all kinds of advice. “Continue on with all of your traditions, make J a part of Christmas still.” Well, that creates a problem. You see, in a 5 year old’s mind, daddy is in heaven, and he can’t physically be a part of our traditions. “Create brand new traditions, and leave the old ones.” Well, that feels like a betrayal all together! And, so I find myself wondering what in the world will we do for traditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? How will I find a balance of the before and after? How will I ensure J’s memory and his personality ring through into C’s world?
The “afters” often feel like betrayals. They feel “too soon,” “cold” and “uninviting.” They lack J’s physical presence- his laugh, his smile, his crazy hats he would make out of wrapping paper. J made Christmas fun. There is no J to help create the “afters.” There’s my memory of him, my stories I share, and my attempts to incorporate him, but there is no him. And so, creating the “afters” is hard work. It is something that I’ve been working on for well over a month. I have no way of knowing how C will react without his daddy on Christmas. In fact, I have no way of knowing how I will even react. In therapy they say, “create new memories while incorporating old traditions.” How does one do that when every single tradition had J all wrapped neatly into it? Tearing apart a tradition is almost like tearing apart a neatly wrapped gift. Try as you might, the wrapping paper never goes back together the same way again. How do I continue to honor the traditions, when a vital part of them is missing?
And, again, people have advice, and all mean well, but the reality is a tradition from “before,” rarely fits into “the after” in the same way. When a tradition from “before” merges with a tradition formed in the “after,” it brings with it a void. It never appears or feels the same, and by bringing along its void, it in some way seems to tarnish the traditions of “after.” The difference is, I control how much it tarnishes the after.
And so, as I sit writing, when I should be cleaning my house in preparation for Christmas, I am stuck. I’m rarely one to just “wing it,” but it seems as if this might be the case this Christmas. Creating “afters” is a necessity. One I wish I never had to contemplate more less experience. Creating new traditions, requires me to continually remind myself that I’m not betraying J. (Yes, I still suffer from self-imposed guilt). But, ultimately, creating “afters” is the only way to continue to move forward. To continue to walk, even at a slow pace in this marathon I’m running. Right now, it feels like a marathon ran during a hurricane, but the reality is, the “afters” are in my control. And, so we will begin the process of merging “befores” with “afters.” And in the end, we will make it through. We’ll keep walking, and new beautiful memories will be made. I’ll never escape how the “befores” tarnish the “afters.” The bitter sweetness of “before” memories are treasured in my mind, but as we approach Christmas, it becomes even more clear that in the end, the traditions we celebrate are important, and serve their place. But the celebration of Christmas is more than just about family traditions.
In the end, celebrating the birth of our Savior and His choice to walk among the flesh has no tie to “before,” or “after.” It is a welcomed event that thankfully fits into neither category. And because of its continual presence and its inability to fit into a “before” or “after,” I am blessed. Because our Savior chose to walk among the flesh, I am able to be comforted by him “before losing J,” and “after losing him.” Christ is my one and only constant that doesn’t need to fit into either category. His choice to walk among us and to be born into the flesh and to be crucified and risen again is what allows me to have peace. As new traditions are made, He calms my heart and reminds me that I’m not betraying J. As I merge old traditions into the new, He creates in me an ability to remember, cherish, but still move forward. He is why I am able to keep walking.
At the end of the day, it is comforting to know that Jesus understands the human feelings of loss, as He was once human, but that because of His resurrection, He is able to provide us comfort no human ever could. I am thankful for that “O Holy Night,” when He chose to become flesh. That night is my affirmation that I can live through this first Christmas “after” we lost J.

o holy night

Tonight I am thankful for that “O Holy Night,” and for the “younder [that] breaks [and brings with it] a new and glorious morn!”

After reading this, I ask that you say a special prayer tonight. This year would have been the first year in over 60 years that line of duty deaths were kept under 100. Sadly, the number 100 was reached today. Pray not only for these 100 families who are stuck in the limbo of before and after, but for all families who are spending their first Christmas without a loved one. Above all, pray that they too will realize that the birth and resurrection of our Savior fits into neither the “before” or “after,” and that they will allow Him to bring them comfort and reassurance in this difficult time. Please pray that they too recognize the significance of that “Holy Night”.

Humanity exists in the paradoxes

When teaching AP language each year, my students always seem to struggle with truly grasping the definition of a paradox. And, to be completely honest, I generally quote them the definition, two ideas that seem contradicting at first but when further examined make sense. I give them an example, for instance, beautiful mistakes. We discuss, and we move on. And, even though I’m a die hard analysis nerd, I really never gave the idea of a paradox much thought.

That is until one of the three am conversations I so frequently have with friends. Quite often in my blogs, I refer to my paradoxical emotions. My battles between what my intellect says and what my heart feels. My existence in the gray areas of life, and my desire for more black and white. The desire for my feelings to make sense, be justified, at least in my own mind. But then, other times, I take pleasure in the gray, the emotions that seem contradictory but actually make sense. To feel anger which leads me to want to forgive. To grieve but instantaneously feel joy at a forgotten memory. To be blinded by the bad in the world, which leads to the amplification of the good. To want to forget the bad memories, but to need to remember them because they are a measurement of how far I’ve come. Constant tug and pull. Never traveling in a straight line, but zigzaging my way through a maze; backtracking down paths that I thought I’d conquered, only to relive then again. Feeling an emotion, and then immediately its opposite. Which one is real? Which is fake? How do you distinguish?

I struggle with my inability to distinguish because it, at least in my mind, is labeled as failure. Again, intellectually it’s silly, emotionally, it’s real. Surprise-paradox number five thousand and three, all within the last four and a half months. The back and forth, up and down, crying, happy, livid, forgiving – it’s exhausting. Often times it’s debilitating.

But as exhausting and debilitating it often times is, it’s how I know I’m making progress. Thankfully, few people in my life truly understand how I feel. And as alone as that often times makes me feel, it makes me happy too. I’d never wish this upon anyone.

Humanity, progress, reflection, exist in paradoxes. Recently I watched a movie, and it began with this quote:

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.”

You can imagine why this paradox bothered me so much. And, I began to reflect on the most difficult paradoxical emotion I’ve encountered. One I’ve failed to conquer, but frequently revisit. Losing J in such a violent way, shook my belief in humanity. Actually, it erased it for a short period of time. It actually made me seriously consider giving up teaching all together. What could I possibly do to change humanity, if hundreds of people drove off that night to save themselves -not my husband? I created a lot of enemies in my mind during the days I spent despising most humans. And, I thought of countless ways I could inflict as much pain on my enemies, as they did on me. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about the pleasure I might feel if they could just feel an ounce of the pain I feel daily. I wanted, needed to, had to find a way to defeat them.

But, I couldn’t. They didn’t give me any means by which to defeat them. In order to defeat someone, you have to be in their head, understand them, predict their moves. And, even at my worst, I just couldn’t bring myself to go there. So at least I thought…

Despite what I wanted to feel, I felt remorse for even thinking of vindication. And, over the past months I’ve tried to come to terms with never receiving an apology, and at the same time not wanting one as well. Sometimes I want to think humanity has lost all hope because it’s easier than accepting an apology I’ll never get. It’s easier than forcing myself to become a better person. But in that lies the ultimate paradox of it all…. I am defeating the enemy because I get the motive. I understand why I haven’t received an apology. Reflecting and becoming a better person isn’t for the faint at heart. It’s why so many people remain stagnant. And, I feel in some ways for the enemy, even at the same time I’m experiencing anger. I feel for the stagnant… And while this pull and tug drives me insane, it motivates me as well. It’s what keeps me walking the line J walked daily. It’s what keeps me from only thinking about sticking my toes into the black, but never crossing over. It’s what makes me empathetic….an emotion that requires humility and reflection.

I know you all probably think I’m insane for admitting to feeling for the enemy, especially when my last post didn’t reflect that at all. I debated on sharing this feeling at all because I thought you’d think I was crazy. But, my paradoxes are what make me human, and they are what cause me to grow. They are what keep me from vindication because they are my vindication. They are what encourage me to continue to teach because they are how I’ll make a difference in the world. More young people need to be taught to embrace the paradoxes in our lives, and to use them to come out on the good side.

Paradoxes are a representation of the good and the bad-how each are reliant upon one another for existence. How could we praise our Savior if we didn’t have a firm grasp of the evils He is saving us from? Not saying one must intentionally experience sin in order to appreciate His glory. But, when we do slip up, it makes us all the more glad that He understands and is merciful. He is why I can even begin to entertain the idea of understanding my enemy’s motives…

So, while my paradoxical emotions drive me insane, they are also my reminder of the person God is preparing me to become. And my reminder of the importance of recognizing them so that I can continue to walk the line with my head held high. They are what allow me to bless others in the midst of my storm….

And while I am far from able to forgive, our even truly understand, I’ll just embrace my paradoxes. I’ll ride out the conflicting emotions, and I’ll pray that each time I gain strength and more mercy and grace, so that I’ll slowly become the person He has destined for me to be.

Maybe you disagree with my feelings. Maybe you think I should be angry, our that in some way I’m betraying J by attempting to understand my enemy, or attempting to start the process of forgiveness. If so, please know you are entitled to your opinions, but you don’t live my life. I can’t continue to be angry; it eats away my being, and it causes me to never grow as a person. Being angry at him requires me to take off my teaching hat, and agree there’s bad in the world and there is nothing I can do about it. In my opinion in doing so I would not only be betraying the cause for which my husband sacrificed his life, but I would be betraying the person God created me to be. You can’t truly be a teacher and agree to give into the bad in the world. Those two can’t exist with in the same person. So, despite being robbed of the love of my life, an amazing daddy to my child, and so much more, I’m choosing to at least entertain the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness is about me-my emotional well-being, not his. Forgiveness doesn’t justify his actions; it just allows me to be freed of SOME of the burdens he’s placed upon me. So, while you may disagree, please don’t think I’m in any way betraying J, instead, I’m attempting to be a better person, so that I can raise our child to be the man his daddy was, and so that I can become the woman who can continue to bring honor to my husband’s sacrifice, my family’s, and the families of so many others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

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?

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.