Cop’s Wife: Still Hurt
You know what they say about time healing wounds and all that.
My heart is still heavy since last year when I wrote Cop’s Wife.
And I am still pissed.
Last year the law enforcement community lost a family member. Well, it lost a lot of members; one every 61 hours, statistically speaking. But one in particular was closer to home, geographically speaking.
This is not a Blue-Lives-Matter speech. This isn’t intended to be political, but the timing with the upcoming primary may cause folks to consider or reconsider things and ask questions. I hope it does. And as everyone knows, all opinions voiced here are and have always been mine and mine alone, and nobody [Hubs] tells me what to say or not say [and I love him for that] so if there’s any retaliatory nonsense coming out of this, you need to seriously reevaluate your life. I kept my mouth shut for almost a year about this. That’s longer than I kept any of my babies inside my body.
Days after I wrote that post — obviously — came the funeral. I didn’t write about it at the time because 1) the whole thing was gut crushing from the inside out, the kind of sadness for which there are almost no words at all, and 2) I was too angry.
Hubs had been gone to the farthest-flung corner of the state that week and literally paused in the doorway to drop off his bags before heading to the office for a meeting.
Did he WANT to go? No. Funerals suck. I have never understood why the word “funeral” starts with F-U-N. Because they’re not. They also start with F-U. Which is about right. He went because it was on his day off and there was no question about whether he would go. His question was whether or not I could accompany him in his patrol car for the procession. You know, liability issues and whatnot.
I don’t know what his plan would have been if the answer was no. We probably would have taken our personal vehicle.
Whatever the case, he was going. Because that’s what you do. Because there are exactly three places that Leaders were or should have been on May 9, 2015:
- Attending services to honor this fallen officer
- Serving their community by taking calls for their own jurisdiction* or that of the agency of the officer so that others who wanted to attend services could attend services
- In a coma and/or having brain surgery
(*Working security at your side-job for private employer does not count)
I cannot think of a single legitimate excuse for not doing one of these three things that day. Nothing that should have taken priority. That said, I do know of at least one person who could not bring themselves to attend because it was just too triggering and painful. However, this person is not in a position of leadership where others look to them for strength and guidance.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little proud that the rendezvous point for other area agencies to begin the procession was the Hubs’ office parking lot. It was really big of them. Until it wasn’t. Until from the corner of the lot, listening to two slightly less-striped-yet-no-less-authoritative-in-my-eyes individuals lobbing questions about vehicles and driving orders, I stood in my black dress, pearls, and event-appropriate heels and made the stomach-sinking realization that my husband was to be the highest-ranking representative there for his agency.
“Where is the Boss? The BossES? ANY of them?WHAT.THE.FUCKITY.HELL?”
My diaphragm forced the daggers through my clenched teeth, carefully not past the three pairs of eyes zeroed in on me like deer in headlights. Two of them for my sudden eruption, one in hopes that I had gotten it all out and would shut up before anyone else heard me.
I swallowed my remaining rage and took my place beside my man, both determined to do our best to represent those that didn’t deserve it to go honor a man who deserved so much more than our piddly crew had the authority to offer. (No offense to the remainder of our piddly crew — I was incredibly proud of you that day, and you know that.)
That was both the longest and the shortest 116 miles ever. Hubs didn’t hesitate to fall in line third behind two ISP Troopers, the one directly ahead of us mesmerizing me with his rear emergency lights, the new flasher pattern oddly comforting in its predictability, smoothly lulling, strobing red across the solid rear Charger light. It did not say, “you are busted”; it said, “you are safe, please keep me safe”. The one ahead of him leading the pack in that same black and white I meet at the same time, at the same mile marker, on the same road, three days a week as I head home after picking ToddlerBandit up from daycare. Steady. Predictable. Reliable. Behind us, there was no long bend, no straightaway, no upward hill that I could ever catch a glimpse of the tail of our convoy.
As I turned back to face the front, I stopped to consider my husband’s three chevrons. He had worked hard to get there. He had earned them. He was doing right by them. He should be proud of himself for them.
Greg Moore had those same three chevrons.
After the service, we emerged from the same side door the bagpipers had somehow made an all at once stealthy and grand entrance through earlier. The sound from their instruments had permeated the space and still hung in the air, stuck to every surface, pierced us right through to our souls. The intense sun gave us an excuse to hide our eyes away behind the safety of our sunglasses. Making the long trek around the building, I crabbed at the Hubs that his enormous and focused strides were leaving me in the dust. He slowed down and took my hand as the other two giggled over my dressing him down. As we rounded the corner and considered the bumper-to-pushbar patrol cars of varying striping convention, paint color, jurisdictional differentiation, and lightbar configuration, we all noted a singular uniformity about them.
Someone had placed K27 decals on their windows during the service. One man’s number uniting them now and later, as they’d scatter back to their own communities, carrying that sticker as they patrolled and protected back home. Some close by, some far far away. Some even firefighters and Forest Service, or as Hubs calls them, “Hose Monkeys” and “Tree Cops”, respectively.
Hunger had struck the masses, and the story of Greg’s favorite taco joint had resonated deeply with some. They thought maybe that was the best way to honor him. Eating there. What should we do? Should we wait? Should we go to the cemetery?
The lowest ranking of the group looked at Hubs.
“What’s the plan, Sarge?”
“What the hell are you asking him for? What do YOU think we should do?”
She stared at me blankly. He rolled his eyes behind his Oakleys.
I squared off with her.
“Listen. I don’t know if you’re asking because he outranks you or because you’re a woman. Your voice counts just as much here today because you know what? YOU showed up and your boss DID NOT. So today YOU are the leader. YOU call the shots. So. What’s the plan?”
So. We went to the cemetery. And it was awful. The short ride through town seemed a hundred miles long through a corridor of stone-still bodies, everyone standing at attention, ball fields of children pausing in the hot sun for the never ending procession to that final resting place. How odd it seemed this teeter totter of support, the cops protecting the community, the community protecting the cops. Finally at the graveyard, I took my place, which was likely not the proper spot, but nobody bothered correcting me. This sea of officers knew just what to do despite being unprepared for such tragedy. Just like every other day, huh? When the rest of us are a puddle and unable to deal, there they are at the ready, sharp in their uniforms, jaws set, ready to face what we cannot.
Ahead of me, the checkerboard band around a Chicago officer’s hat. Ahead of him, a New York officer, his fellow officer with the same last name as Greg having passed the day before Greg. And yet — he was here. The red-coated Mounties seeming to even walk in a different language. And yet — somehow all the same. Different ranks. Different colors. Uniform.
The breeze caught by giant pine branches was a cool and welcome song and only briefly masked the whomp-whomp-whomp of an approaching helicopter. Even the wind seemed to silence itself as a radio transmitted the final call, perfectly clear, perfectly, utterly, shattering.
I shared my tissues. Because my tiny gaggle of heroes are all human, too. And they are my family. And I love them. And I did not want them to have to wipe their noses on their “good” uniforms.
So what’s the big deal? You might wonder why this got me so wound up. When this happens, LEOs need leaders who they can turn to, leaders who will be there to show solidarity with them. It tells them:
“I care about you. You’re my family. I want you to be safe.”
If they can’t be there for the big stuff, then their people won’t trust them to be there for the little stuff. The every day mundane boring bullshit like securing safety equipment, having fair and challenging review and promotion procedures, and budgeting for long term security. And by long term security I also mean things like maintaining those relationships necessary to keep employees around long enough to keep things on an even keel so that the remaining employees are not running on fumes and caffeine and resentment for the situations that the revolving string of rookies puts them in.
I was sad that day (and before that and every day after that) that my husband and others are strapping on vests for people who can’t say, “I cared about Greg Moore, and I care about you, and I’m going to show you that every damn day.”
They weren’t there. They weren’t there when the protectors of this community needed them. And it did not go unnoticed. It didn’t go unnoticed by the people who needed them, nor by the people who need the people who needed the leaders to be there:
The number of employees who gave up on these leaders and took an exit before and after this happened is alarming. Their leaving amounted to their casting a vote of no-confidence. The blame game is longer than Monopoly and ends the same…with one person flipping the board and the pieces tossed on the ground. And there’s no winner. The game’s just over.
This is about inspiring other humans to serve their own community. If you can do that successfully, responsible utilization of tax dollars falls into place naturally.
Please make sure if you have a hand in picking your community’s public leaders, that they are doing more than just saying, “we saved the tax payers money last year”…because chances are if you dug a little, you’d not only find that to be false, but you’d find a whole other money suck in human resource expenditures over a simple lack in leadership. And yeah, sometimes a simple lack in leadership means not showing up for a funeral. Let’s move forward. Our community deserves that. And our public servants deserve leadership that will support them as they serve us. From the heart.
Originally published at dayleefix.blogspot.com on April 13, 2016.