I haven't written anything here in over six months. I have written here a lot in my mind, but never had the chance to get those posts actually out of my mind and typed here. I have mostly had two "outlets" in life, sports and writing. Since jogging down the road would leave me breathless, I will turn to writing to help me find my way through my current questions, anguish, fear, sadness, and thoughts.
When we signed up for this, being a LEO (law enforcement officer) household, we knew the risks. God laughed at me the day I said I would never, ever marry an officer, firefighter, or soldier. As the child of the officer, I felt I had served my time living with the fear of the officer not coming home. God saw a way around that declaration: fill my heart with love for my husband and wait until after we are married to put the call in his heart to become an officer. When he approached me about the idea, I don't know if I was more shocked by my willingness to say yes or the concept of him becoming an officer. As children of officers, we knew the risks and danger and awareness that comes with being an officer household.
A couple of weeks ago, the risks slapped us both square in the face. I can't speak about my husband's thoughts and feelings. He is still processing, as we all are. I won't share them here without his consent and we are still mostly in the stage of processing by him talking about it when he desires and me trying not to otherwise ask questions. The few questions I have asked, he answered for me.
It was 3:30am when the phone rang. For most people when the phone rings that late, it is never good news. In our house, sometimes it just means a deer has met an untimely death by a vehicle, fence, etc or some other wildlife event. I've learned to tell the importance of the call by the swiftness of my husband's efforts to get out the door. Sometimes he comes back to bed (not important), sometimes he takes a shower and gets dressed (more important), and sometimes it seems he literally jumps into his clothes (even more important). Usually, even if I don't know why he is heading to wherever he is going, he does tell me the general direction he is headed.
Looking back, that was my first signal something was very wrong. He didn't take a shower, but he shaved. He NEVER shaves without first taking a shower. In my grogginess, this stood out but I didn't know the enormity of it. He told me it was related to a swift water rescue and the location. Then he told me something that didn't make sense in the moment, yet made sense later. I will keep that between us. Let's just say he was looking out for me and warning me at the same time.
I called him on my way to work, somewhere around 7:45am to check in on him. I hadn't really seen anything in the news about the situation so my curiosity was getting to me. I called his personal phone and it went to voice mail. I called his work phone and he thankfully answered. He basically let me know he was busy and we hung up. I will be forever thankful to God for that moment of him answering the phone. It was about 5 minutes later when my phone started making all kinds of noises for breaking news that a sheriff and wildlife officer were missing. I was in a parking lot when I saw the information and just had to sit there for a minute to regain my composure. There was shaking, tears, and the feeling that my stomach had somehow entirely left my body and any remnants were trying to creep up my throat. Then I just kind of felt numb for a bit and worked on autopilot.
From that point forward, I tried to call my husband every few hours. Sometimes he answered, sometimes I just got his voice mail. I pretty much just wanted to hear his voice, which would mean he was still alive. I knew he was down there in/around the same situation that had already caused several to go missing. My phone started to ring with calls, text messages, and facebook alerts from people worried about him. I had nothing to share, other than the last time I talked to him. I knew nothing. I got my info from the news agencies just like everyone else. I kept hope all day that they would find the wildlife officer alive, even after they found the sheriff deceased and also found the boat they had been in at the time they disappeared.
I'm ok dealing with this, until I think of the wives of these two officers. I don't want to make light of the other people who have been affected and the other lives lost. However, those wives are living one of my worst nightmares. They both have had to face the fact that their husbands left on a call for help, just like they had done many times before, only this time they didn't come home. Both have to explain this to their children. It is when I think of these wives and their children that I lose my composure and the tears rush to my eyes. It is when I think of those officers who will be riddled with questions, survivor guilt, and the enormous loss that will be forever present...that is when my heart breaks.
We attended the funeral of both officers. At the funeral for Joel (game/fish officer), the officers and wives from two districts sat towards the front across from Joel's family. As Joel was brought into the funeral (it was held in an outdoor stadium), all of the officer's stood at once and left us wives sitting there. They were going to do their duty, to stand at attention while Joel's casket was brought in. I immediately realized how symbolic, yet probably unintended this was. At some point, all of us would return to the reality of our officer's jumping up and leaving, just as these two officers had done. During the funeral, they rejoined us. During the funeral, two districts of officers individually said their goodbyes. There was a gun salute. There was a last radio call. There was the presentation of the flag to his wife and daughters. His partner drove him into and out of the stadium. I hope we don't experience that ever again.
There hasn't been a day that has gone by that I haven't spend time thinking about and praying for the wives and children of these two officers. Prior to their deaths, I always tried to make sure that my husband and our children say goodbye to one another, for this exact reason.
Never take one day for granted. Never leave without saying goodbye, hugging, kissing, whatever it is you do to show your affection. Don't forget to say "I love you" and mean it when you say it. You don't know when that phone call will come or a uniformed officer will show up at your door.