Cars lined the busy streets, motorcycles blazed in glory down the four lane, flags flown at half-staff. Friends and strangers, blood and blue, came in droves, lining the hall of the church, snaking around chairs and out into the frigid winter eve. The changing of the guard took place with precision, the brotherhood never leaving his side. It was a service fit for a dignitary. For a hero. For Mike.
Then, through the crowds of the broken and bereaved, the images of his life now lost, and the wafting scent of flowers and fragrance, I heard you quietly whisper through tears, “I can’t do this”.
But you are. You ARE doing this. You are doing it each time you brush your teeth and carefully drop your toothbrush back in the holder, and hearing it clink against his. You are doing it every time you open the closet and see his uniforms hanging in a row, crisp and ready to be worn on duty. You are doing it when you open the jar of peanut butter in the cabinet and realize there is a spoonful left and no one to lovingly fight you for the final bite. You are doing it when you find the remote buried in his favorite spot on the couch, discover one of his missing socks under the bed, and continue to make his favorite desserts wishing he was there to enjoy it with you, even for one more moment.
You are doing this. You may not know how you are even taking your next breath some days, but you are doing this. For him and for us. For it was only a faint nightmare before, that when they put on those boots and that badge and kiss us good bye, that they may never come home. But now your indescribable loss has become a reality to all of the wives behind the badge, the ones who fall asleep with a book in our laps because our exhaustion gave out long before his 2am arrival home. The ones whose heart beats a little faster every time sirens wail past our home and blue lights flash before our eyes. The ones who know that a loss of this caliber sends ripples across families, counties, and state lines.
But Jerri? He is everywhere. His joy rests in the memories of all of those who paid their last respects. His care and concern rests in the Christmas presents and winter coats he gave to so many children that would have been without this season. His passion fuels every man and woman that wear the badge with pride. And his love? Why, his love rests in you.
To the wife of the fallen, he is gone but not forgotten. And your bravery, grace and strength are an example to us all.
(This article was originally published in the February 19th edition of the LaFollette Press, in my lifestyles column, Letters from the Nest).