From day one of my husband’s law enforcement career, which started as an MP in the Army 27 years ago, we were both prepared for the ultimate call of duty. You talk about it around the dinner table, you talk about it before shift, before bed, and on family vacation. You mentally prepare yourself (as much as you possibly can) for the fact that one day you may be the wife who gets the car pulling up to her driveway. I informed my husband a couple years ago who I would want to deliver the news should it happen. We talk about the fact that he wants bagpipes, that I want it at our home church, that i want a special time set aside for law enforcement to come and have their personal time with each other. It’s just…normal conversation.
What isn’t normal and what LEOS (law enforcement officers) and their wives don’t prepare themselves for is when a LEO dies in some other way. This week my husband’s fellow LEO died of a heart attack in his sleep. 44 years old. Found by his teenage son. What do you do with that? I don’t think they know. Over the past several days I have seen this family I belong to change. It has made every officer do some self examination. It has made every officer hug their kids tighter and more often. It has made every wife hug her husband tighter and more often.
Our evening and morning were somber. There are generally two reasons to pull out your Class A uniform, a parade or a funeral. My husband was up late rubbing, polishing, shining. I slept on the couch because the lights were on in our room late into the night and the smell of brass polish and boot polish permeated the room. It still does as I sit here. We didn’t talk. And that’s okay.
This morning was a rush of last minute polishing and preparation. He was so concerned that everything on that uniform not be a mm out of place. It’s their way. I get it. It’s the highest respect you pay to a LEO brother. Having it all together. And the last thing my husband added to his uniform? His brother Ray’s handcuffs.
See, twelve years ago we went through this, only from a different perspective. My LEO was in TX training his new K-9. I got an early morning call from the Sheriff himself (never a good sign). He kindly and officially informed me that my husband’s brother, a correction officer, had a heart attack before leaving his shift and had died. Ray was 37 years old. I was stunned. As soon as I hung up the phone my husband called from TX. Not much talking, just a lot of weeping. ”I can’t get a flight out for eight hours, I’m driving back.” ”What? You can’t! I said.” You don’t tell a LEO “you can’t.” By the grace of God he made it home safe and sound.
The day of that funeral we were in the limo with my sister-in-law and her family. And at that time (as now) I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Or her children (ages 14-1). Or my father-in-law. My mother-in-law had passed away 30 days earlier. Yeah, it was a rough year. I do remember seeing the line of patrol vehicles and fellow officers and how much it meant to every one of us to see that family.
So, you may not understand that officer who pulled you over and gave you a ticket, and you might think he’s a real jerk. But they are like anyone else. They have wives, kids, they coach Little League, they sing in the choir, their friends and relatives die…
One day, could be sooner, could be later, but one day we will all come to our end of watch. The question is: Where will you be then? Because…
Life is short. Eternity’s forever.