Editor Note: We received this submission from a retired officer.  He tells us he was inspired to write it after seeing a recent piece we published on Law Enforcement Today.  That piece was the story of a police wife who was preparing to take her own life… when she found an old letter from her husband and it saved her.  In case you missed that piece, we’ve included it after what this retired officer sent us.

If you’d like to send a note to this officer, feel free to do so in the comments at the bottom of this article.

I was a police officer for 35 years.  That’s an awfully long time to wear blue.  It’s a lot of good days and bad days. It’s a lot of happy stuff I shared with my wife.  It’s a lot of tough stuff that I didn’t.

I became a police officer nearly five years before we got married.  Three decades of marriage with me as a cop.

I’m told I’m in the minority.  They say cops struggle to stay married.  I get it. It’s tough. And I knew that one day, probably long after I retired, there’d be a lot I’d say to my wife about those days.  About how the real hero and the real warrior was her.

I didn’t get to.  Last year, she was taken from me suddenly.  And there’s so much that I should have shared with her and never did.

On this Easter Sunday, I’ll sit alone in mass for the first time in decades.  Our children are all grown and have families of their own in other parts of the country.

I’ll listen to the pastor talk about the Resurrection.  I know I’ll be thinking about the day my wife and I get to meet again.  But today, I want to share with you the words I wish I had said to her. The words I SHOULD have said to my wife so many times.  It’s a letter to her. But really, it’s a letter to every police wife.

We are trained as police officers to be tough.  Put the bad stuff in a box and bury it. Be strong for your family.  That isn’t how they should be training us.

tell

(Courtesy DanSun Photo Art)

 

They should train us in how to unpack that box with our loved ones.  That is what I’ll do today. I hope that every police wife who reads this knows these aren’t just my words.  They are the words of YOUR spouse as well. The words that he wants you to hear, but doesn’t know how to tell you.

Dear Wife,

You have known me long enough by now to know that I struggle with putting feelings into words sometimes. There is so much that I want to say to you and I just do not know how to do it.

Where do I begin? By telling you that I am sorry for being cold? By explaining to you why I have become this way?

I think I need to start by telling you what I wish I did not become.

When I was just a small child, I was always so happy. Even when I was getting beat up, I had this crazy ability to get up and shake it off. I figured there was something wrong with the other people and not with me and I would feel bad for them.

It made me want to become someone who protects others. It didn’t start out great.

I never told you this story but one day my little brother was getting pushed around on the playground. I went to his defense. Want to know what happened? That was the day my nose was broken. Got popped right in the face.

The truth was… it felt good. I didn’t understand that feeling at the time but I came to recognize it later as being righteousness. It was something that felt strong, right and just downright good in a twisted way.

I chased that dragon the rest of my career. I wanted to do good and to save lives and to make people believe that when they got attacked or screwed over that it wasn’t on them – it was on someone else.

I don’t know when it happened, but the bad stuff started eating at my soul. It was like a lobster in a pot of cold water that’s gradually heated up. Or rust on a car that starts slow and before you know it, your engine is about to fall out. That is the only way I can describe that feeling.

I want to tell you the stories. The rust. The pot of boiling water. But I won’t. Because the point of this letter is for you. It’s not for me. I want to unpack this box together but telling you these stories will not accomplish that. It will only make you lose faith in humanity.

(Photo is in public domain from Health.mil)

(Photo is in public domain from Health.mil)

 

Here is what I do want to unpack. I could never tell you those stories because to me they were fiction. They were this horrible movie that happens. They were an alternate reality. And as a protector it was my job to shelter you from them. Knowing what happens out there would not help you understand me more, please know I really believe this. It would harden your heart. And your heart is the most precious gift in this world.

Lynde Johnston

From left to right is New York State Trooper Ryan Johnston, Captain Lynde Johnston of the Rochester Police Dept, Police Officer Adam Johnston of the Rochester Police Dept, and Peace Officer Casey Johnston of the Gates Police Department.

 

It is that tender, sweet and loving heart that gives me grace. I know I would come home and sit on the couch in silence and watch tv. It wasn’t to ignore you. It was for me to process and segregate what had happened in that fictional movie of my work from the reality of the home I returned to.

You didn’t understand. And yet somehow you did. You never pushed. Prodded. You simply took care of the children. The home. The bills. The parent teacher conferences. The sports games.

You picked up my slack – all of it.  You never let it impact the children. And just as importantly you never let it impact us.

Sure, we had our fights. We had our moments. But it was always because I was being stubborn instead of being loving and compassionate like you. It was never because of a weakness on your part but always because of a failure on mine.

How can you possibly tell that to your spouse? You can not. And so you become cold. Distant. Because you think you are protecting your wife, but you are not.

The holidays were always my favorite time of year but also the hardest. I desperately enjoyed being around the family – even your parents, believe it or not.  

Usually.  Sometimes.

Ok, I could tolerate them. But you get to pick your nose, not your family, as they say.

My point is that I cherished those moments. But I struggled with them as well. Because I knew that in those moments of my happiness there were so many families that I had let down. That were without husbands or wives or children because of my failure to protect.

It was not my fault. I knew that. But when you pledge your life to being a protector, it is still your fault.

pops

Here I am pictured (blue Hawaiian shirt) with those who call me Dad, Pops, and Papa at my son’s wedding in 2017. (Photo courtesy McNeff family)

 

I struggled to find friends. I still do. I always will. I know you love Rocco and Sarah next door. But I had such a hard time dealing with people who just did not get it. Who I had nothing in common with. Who liked to tell “war stories” at every BBQ about how they got pulled over for speeding and would want to know if I “knew a guy”.

I made fun of all of these millennials who need their “trigger warnings” and said they don’t exist. For those kids, I think it is just a cry for help. But here is what we never talked about. Having actually been through some horrible experiences that I never talked about, I had my own things that would trigger me. Most of us did.

Remember how I would absolutely lose my mind, unreasonably so, when I did not hear the click of everyone’s seatbelt in the car? It’s because of what I saw happen to two people who weren’t wearing theirs…

Koch was just a half mile from home when he was struck and killed by a reckless driver. (ABC 7 Chicago)

 

Remember that day I blew up on our oldest for his loud rap music? It reminded me of the time Joey, my old partner, and I got shot at when we kicked in a door and walked into a gang lair that we thought was going to be an empty room.

I am sorry. I am sorry that I never explained this. I did not know how. I was afraid you would not understand, and if I am going to be honest, I did not want you to understand. That was how I could still be your protector.

I did not tell you ‘thank you’ enough. I saw you. I saw your soul. I saw everything about you. You were good and pure and innocent. You stood by my side through the darkness. Through the happiness. You were a gift from our Lord and I never told you that.

involved

(Photo courtesy Jonathan Bransfield)

 

The day we got married was such a happy day. Yet such a scary day. I was no longer just me. We were no longer just two people. We were one person. And I was afraid that I would not always be able to protect you. Show you how much I cherished you. Loved you.

You were a better person than me. A better mother, spouse, friend and Christian. I tried to learn from you and follow in your footsteps, but I never told you that. I hope you saw that.

In the end, I could not be your protector. I tried to be your protector, my angel. And I have to think that your heart gave out unexpectedly not because it was weak, but because it was strong. So, so strong that it had taken all of my burdens and those of the world.

I am sorry. I am so sorry. And I wish I could go back and tell you all of these things. I wish we could have one more day. One more walk by the lake. One more time holding hands. One more time I could kiss your cheek.

That day will come. If I am going to be truthful, I hope it comes soon. My heart died with you that day. For now, I will do my best to help others. I will keep trying to protect in any way that I can. I was able to save my brother on the playground, but I couldn’t save my own wife.

I vow to spend the rest of my days trying to make that up to you.  I love you forever and always.

Your husband

Police Wife Finds Hidden Letter Husband Wrote Before He Was Killed

Dear Law Enforcement Today-

Just over six years ago, my husband was killed in the line of duty.  If he had only been shot twice, he would have survived.  He’d still be here with his kids and me.  But he was shot three times.  And that third bullet took him from us.

We have been grieving ever since.  We have two kids.  When he was killed our children were both under the age of 3.

I struggled to understand.  That struggle started with anger.  Then pain.  Then anger.  Then pain again.

I felt heartache.  I felt empty.  I wanted to take my own life with one of his old guns.  The irony of that would have been laughable.  I went so far as to plan it out.  I knew where his guns were.  I had never touched them because I had never needed to.

His parents stayed close to our children.  I had my husband’s parents take the kids for the weekend.  I was going to go out of town for work, I told them.

If they knew what I had planned, they did not let on.

I cooked dinner for myself that night.  It was his favorite meal.

 

I opened a bottle of wine that night.  It was the bottle that was given to us on our wedding night.  We were saving it for our 20th anniversary that would never come.

I finished dinner and I finished the wine.  Then I put on the video from our wedding night.

And I went to get his gun.

I opened the safe.  It was our anniversary date.  The day he bought the safe he told me he was using our anniversary date.  “Not that you should ever need a gun, I pray,” he told me.  “But if you do you’ll know how to get it because we will never forget those numbers.”

Our love wasn’t just any love.  It was warming.  Holding.  Encompassing.  It was everything.  It was the kind of love you have that when you think about it sometimes you can’t breathe.  It was my lifeblood.  It was my spirit.  It was my soul.

I opened the safe for the first time.

And on top of the gun was an envelope.

There was only one word on it.  It was my name.

I couldn’t breathe.  It was my husband’s handwriting.  It was a plain white security envelope.  It was sealed.

A bill?  A birth certificate?  I had no idea what to expect.

It wasn’t.  It was a letter.  My legs collapsed.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.  

I couldn’t.

I knew he wasn’t alive.  But in that moment, just that moment, he was.  He was there with me.

I could feel his love.  I could feel his warmth.  I could feel his embrace.

This is how my dead husband saved my life.

My Love,

If you are reading this letter, it is because something went horribly wrong.  You have never gone in this safe before.  I know how you feel about guns.  If you had just gone into the safe to get a gun to protect yourself because I wasn’t home and something bad had happened, you’d be dealing with a problem and not a letter.

But no, my love, you are reading this letter because I am gone.

And I am so, so sorry.  I am sorry that you have to read these words.  I am sorry for the pain you and our children are experiencing.  I am sorry that I will not be there for our holidays.  Our anniversary.  The birthdays.  The graduations.

My heart aches as I write you this letter.

I pray you will never read it.  I pray that one day, after I’m retired and we’re moving to Maui I will find this and laugh at it and throw it out while we are packing.

But you are reading it.  And that means that for as hard as I tried to protect our family, I failed.  And I am so sorry.

citizen outcry

Police Honor Guard. (Photo courtesy Paula Fitzsimmons)

 

Do you remember our first anniversary?  When we stopped at that ice cream shack on the side of the road because you had to pee so bad?  And then you insisted we get ice cream after, only to spill it all over the ground when went to get in the car?  

“Shit happens” you told me.  “Sometimes it’s just ice cream and sometimes it’s really bad shit but no matter what we just have to smile and make the best of it.”

You changed me, love.  You took the anger out of me.  The frustration.  The darkness.

You know I swore I’d never get married.  You broke me.  But you broke me in a way that a man needs to be broken, in a way that opens his heart like surgery to make it stronger, in a way that a soldier is broken to become a better man.  You did not do a damn thing but you did everything at the same time and the way you looked at me broke me and built me and made me the man I am today.  Or should I say the man you came to know.

I can not take away your pain right now.  I can not take away the emptiness you must feel.  I know that if you are reading this I am looking down on you.  I am holding you.  I am protecting you.  I hope that I will be able to I believe that I will be able to I know that I will be allowed to.  If there is a God like I think there is a God than He is merciful and will not totally take me from you and the kids.

 

Do you remember that night on the ranch? When you said the kids were too little to camp under the stars?  Six months old he was a little man he’d be fine I knew it.

You held (our child) and I held (our other child) and we all looked up under the stars.  The kids slept.  The crickets and the frogs and the animals and our breathing were all we heard and it was US.  Just US.  Just our family.  I might have been taken from you and our kids but nobody can take that from us.  I will always be there in that moment with you and our kids.  When you go outside and it’s too cold and you all should really be inside because you think the kids shouldn’t be camping under the stars, I will be out there with you.

Our children.  I cannot wait for their little personalities to explode.  They are already so much like you.  They feel my stress but they fix my stress and they are my loves.  They are sensitive oh so sensitive but they pull that from you.  That is something that is in the DNA of a person.  Cherish that.  Grow that.  Help them know the power that is in their love and their empathy.

hope

(Courtesy Heidi Hogan)

 

I want our children to not be afraid to be protectors like I tried to be.  If you are reading this then there is a good chance that I’m not here because of work.  Do not let that break you or them.  We have to be good.  We have to be helping.  We have to be loving.  If we are not all of those things like our family is then we can’t teach others around us to have those qualities.  If we aren’t willing to see the good in people then who will be?

Whatever happened to me, do not let it harden your heart or their hearts.  I know that will be tough because I didn’t talk to you about so much at work.  It was difficult.  It was painful.  I didn’t want you all to see the bad that was out there but the truth is that in that bad was good.  There was so much good.  So much love.

abortion, baby

 

I never told you this, but I had to give mouth to mouth to little kids more times than I could count.  At the writing of this letter to you my love I’ve brought back 9.  I will never forget those faces.  Their parents’ faces.  I got to do good.  And that makes all of that bad and evil worth having fought.  Because I have to believe that those nine lives and their families and one day their children will make the world a good and beautiful and happy place for people.

Love, when you can, please find a way to help other wives.  When the time is right.  When the kids are ok.  This is important to me.  It’s important to me because I know it will help you heal because I know your heart and I know your love.

Please, explain to our children I never wanted to leave them.  Tell them how proud of them I am.  Tell them how much I love them.  Tell them that when they look up to the stars on that cold and clear night, they can see me winking at them.  Please tell them that the greatest thing to ever happen to a salty old guy like me was that I had you.  And we had them.  And that made my life perfect.

I will never stop loving you. We will be together again one day. Be strong because now you have work to do.  You have lives to save.  I can’t be the protector I was anymore but maybe you and the kids can do it for me.

You are my everything.  You are my heart.  You are my love.

Now fight for others.  Because that is what this family does.

Love eternal,

Your husband.

Editor Note: This was our OWN message last year to the families of fallen officers… produced last year by our National Spokesman, Kyle Reyes, and Graham Allen of Rant Nation.  We leave you their words and this tribute…
 
This is a message to the families of fallen police officers… 
 
From the America they fought for.
 
We can’t begin to imagine the pain your family has experienced 
 
The loss you’ve felt 
 
Or the heartache you suffered
 
We can only imagine the feelings you get
 
When you see people protesting police
 
And you know your loved one died to protect people like that
 
But those people don’t represent the Americans your loved one lived for
 
Died for 
 
WE are their America
 
We are wives
 
Husbands 
 
Teachers
 
Students
 
Sons
 
Daughters
 
Brothers
 
Sisters
 
We are the silent majority of America.
 
The people that support you
 
Stand beside you in church
 
And mourn the loss of your loved one with you.
 
Your loved one didn’t choose between black or white
 
Gay or straight
 
Republican or democrat
 
Christian or Jew or Muslim
 
They chose between good and evil
 
They stood for the American flag 
 
For one nation, under God
 
For love
 
For law and order 
 
For faith
 
For America 
 
Your loved one made the ultimate sacrifice
 
As did your family
 
Because they were a protector 
 
They didn’t do it because they wanted to leave you
 
They did it because of such a deep love for you – 
 
for the community
 
for those they never knew the names of
 
For US
 
Some of your loved ones were killed in the line of duty
 
Some by their own hand 
 
because society didn’t support their battle against pTSD
 
Please know their legacy lives on
 
In your family 
 
In your children
 
In our children 
 
And in true Americans 
 
Their love is in our hearts now
 
Their spirit in our souls
 
And now WE will fight to honor them 
 
And to honor you
 
God bless you
 
God bless America
 
Please share this along with a prayer 
 
For the safety of all first responders