I have to believe I’m not the only police officer that feels this way. I have to imagine there are countless spouses of cops who understand as well.
What I see in front of me on Christmas Eve isn’t always what’s there.
I’m surrounded by blessings. I’m beyond grateful for them. My wife. My children. My home. But what I see is so much more. What WE as police officers see is so much more.
We are sitting in the living room next to a roaring fire. I feel the heat on my face… and the cool of the rest of the home on my back. It’s tough to pay the oil bill on a cop’s salary. And that contrast of heat and cool transports me back to the night I responded to the fire.
I’m At The Fire
The home was already mostly engulfed in flames. Outside of the home, a young family was huddled together. They had just bought the home to renovate. Inside of it… the puppy they had gotten for Christmas the day before. Their photographs. Their lives. Everything.
I’m In The Church
I see the glow of Christmas magic on the faces of my kids. The church is lit with candles. Silent Night is being played by a violinist.
My parents are to the left of my family. My wife’s parents are to the right.
My body is there. But my mind is on the night outside that very church.
I’m In The Parking Lot
It was two years before. Edna, 78-years-old, was running late for the 7pm services. She had just stopped by her kid’s house. Her 5-year-old granddaughter was sick… so she dropped off chicken soup.
Edna, not wanting to be seen sneaking in late by Father, shuffled quickly across the street to get into mass.
Edna never saw the car flying down the road. Its driver was drunk. The headlights are off. We later put the speed at about 60 miles per hour in a 25.
Edna never made it to mass. She also never saw her granddaughter again.
I’m Driving Home
It was a beautiful service. I think.
The kids are singing Rudolph with my wife while I drive. It’s snowing. It’ll be a beautiful, white Christmas. The flakes are the giant, fluffy kind like you see in the movies. It hasn’t started sticking yet, but it soon will.
My knuckles are white as I grip the steering wheel tightly.
“Why aren’t you singing, daddy?”
Because I’m not really here.
I’m At The Scene Of An Accident
It was two years ago. It was a week before Christmas. It was snowing. The flakes were the giant, fluffy kind like you see in the movies. It had started sticking hours before.
Everything was quiet. Eerily quiet. You could almost hear sounds of the snow piling up.
About 20 minutes before that, it was eerie. But it wasn’t quiet.
All I could hear was wailing. The wailing of a mother who had just arrived at the scene of the accident.
I failed that mother. I was trying to direct my guys. I didn’t see her coming… and she was FAST.
The accident had happened just moments before. A block away from their home. I couldn’t stop the mother from getting to the vehicle wrapped around the tree.
I couldn’t stop her from seeing the mangled bodies of her twin boys who were coming home from college for Christmas.
“Daddy – Where Are You Tonight?”
I can’t tell my kid where I am… so I tell her I’m right here. Because I AM right here. But I’m also not. I’m not here at all.
My wife gives me a knowing glance. Not one of anger. Not one of pity. Just the look of a woman who understands that she’ll never understand.
“Come on, kids,” she says. “Daddy is thinking about all of the cooking he has to do for dinner tomorrow night. Let’s get the cookies and milk ready for Santa.”
I’ll be there tomorrow night. I swear it.
But I know I’ll also be somewhere else. Because even on Christmas – this most blessed of nights – I’m never really off duty.
God bless you all. Merry Christmas. This year… let’s try to truly be there.
Sgt. A. Merica