“Never go to bed angry.” “Always kiss goodbye.” “Think before you speak.” “Live in the present.”
Everyone has heard all that. So had I. I thought I was living by those words, and maybe I more or less was. It wasn’t until shortly after I was married, though, that I came to fully understand how important it all is.
The truth is, for any one of us, each moment could be our last, but in a police family, that possibility is never abstract. It is starkly, sometimes painfully in the forefront of our lives, every minute of every day. On the one hand, it can and usually does create an emotional divide between those who “get it” and those who don’t. On the other hand, despite the challenges, this life has brought with it so many blessings to our family.
It took us a little while to fully embrace what it meant to live this life together.
It means sometimes saying no, even to people we love, because it is more important to say yes to each other.
It means focusing on the present, and letting go of the past.
It means fewer words, and more understanding.
It means less debate and more faith.
It means fewer grudges and more forgiveness.
I was afraid our children would feel his absence, and they do, more often now as they get older… but they also feel his presence, because he always makes it count.
Our Saturday is your Monday, and our nights are your days. Thanksgiving is whenever he gets here, and date nights are go with the flow.
When summer comes, we go to the beach on Monday evenings instead of weekends; we have brunch on the 4th of July instead of a bbq and see fireworks the week before; we go camping in the living room instead of in the mountains, but our family is making memories full of love, and our children are learning every day to be proud of their father and the sacrifices he makes.
For me, I would be lying if I said that my role as police wife has not shaken me to my core. It is so much more than what I expected – more in every way. It is more challenging, more stressful, more terrifying, more lonely. But it is also more loving, more generous, more precious.
Living this life has inspired me to step outside my comfort zone, over and over, only to find that my comfort zone is apparently much bigger than I’d thought. My heart is not as strong as his, but in his heart, I have found my strength.
Even in his absence, my husband is here. Knowing I am loved by him, and knowing that he feels my love for him – it makes this life much easier, not just to bear, but to treasure. I am learning, slowly but surely, to make every moment count, because this moment – right here, right now – is the only one that matters.
Too often, the night hours have been shaken with news of gunshots, death – the ultimate price paid for wearing that uniform and shield. Too many times, that silent worry that I push deep inside me, comes bubbling to the surface. Hours with no contact… he had a search warrant, he was supposed to be home – did he get a collar, stop for coffee, have to fill out reports? Or… – I always push that worry back down. I will not let it take over my heart.
But it never goes away.
Each time a report comes in of an officer down, my heart is filled with fear – fear that turns to relief when I know it’s not him, and then guilt that I feel relief. My own love is safe – but hers is not. My love will come home to me tonight – hers never will again.
It’s a bond that unites us all. How to explain why my heart is broken with each officer down; why hot, aching tears are shed for people I have never met, and why each time they hand that folded flag, I feel like I am burying my own family? I see that wife standing there with arms outstretched to take the flag, and I want to tell her: You are not alone! You will never be alone! But words are empty now – she and I both know it. She wants the man she loves, and he is gone.
Who will it be tomorrow?
I pray for the days they call “slow,” even though those days are still more than I could ever do. I hate the warm summers, when death and brutal violence come with certainty each night.
We go out in crowds and I feel his body tense, his eyes focused, quietly alert for the details he is trained to see – the details that often mean the difference between life and death. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be inside his head – always watching, always protecting, always ready.
Every night I will keep my quiet vigil, listening for the sounds that comfort my waiting heart – his key in the lock, his boots on the stairs, the weight of his gun coming off his belt. His lips will press against mine and he will say the words he knows I need to hear: “I’m home.”
Tomorrow we will begin again – but tonight he is home, he safe, he is loved.
We are a police family, and this is our life.