I died last night and in one second a thousand thoughts rushed through my mind.
Does my wife know how much I love her? Do my children understand that my world revolves around them? Do my police partners truly understand how much I look up to them?
Simple things: Did I ignore my dog when I came home from work yesterday? When I was cutting my grass, I regret that I didn’t make time to chit-chat with my neighbor of thirty years?
Important stuff: Does my wife know any of my passwords and how to use them? Does she know where to locate our stock portfolios? How about my bank account access? Pension information? How about Insurance?
Can she find my life insurance policy, or does that go unclaimed? Are there on the job benefits available to assist her? Is my auto insurance information accessible for her to cancel seeing that I’m no longer here? Is my home-owner’s insurance going to laps and allow my house to be unprotected?
How about: Does anybody in the house know where the gas or water shutoffs are? Do they know what to do when the sub-pump goes out? Does anybody know where the fuses for the air-conditioner are?
How about passports and warrantees? My safety deposit box? Do they even know I have one?
When they’ll need an electrician or plumber, will they know who’s reliable? How about the auto mechanic or where to buy car tires? Who’s our banker, attorney, tax preparer? Who are the reliable and honest people that we’ve used for years?
Brutal! Brutal! Brutal!
Luckily, I’m still here. The above was a dream. But it could happen to any of us. We’re not invincible. Think of those individuals in your life with that had the irreversible illness. You had ample warning and those precious few minutes to say goodbye. Now think of all the rest that died suddenly without warning, with no time for farewells. It will never happen to me! I certainly hope not but name a person you knew who was younger than you that died unexpectedly.
Take a deep breath and now let’s prepare. Make a list of your: passwords, bank accounts including stock and Penson information, with contact names and numbers. Attorneys, tax preparers, mechanics, painters, plumbers, electricians and handymen. Anybody and everyone you have used for any type of service to your home, finances, automobile, medical or financial wellbeing.
Make a list of those old friends that should be notified upon your demise. Have directions involving funeral and burial. Sounds morbid but your guidance in your final preparations will relieve such an enormous burden from your remaining loved ones.
The whole crux of this writing is that life really is too short. We’re too busy with our second and third jobs to take time out and we don’t show our appreciation or love to those we should.
Make that list. Snatch that hug. Grab that kiss. Say what you feel. Because when the time comes, as it will for all of us, it will be too late, and we don’t get do-overs.
To all my brothers and sisters in blue, lock and load and protect each other. And as always, stay safe.
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Editor Note: Larry’s piece brought to mind something shared with our family at Law Enforcement Today recently that left us speechless. The widow of this fallen police officer did not share her identity with us. She tells us that she’s sharing this letter with us so that people can know the heartache that she felt when her husband was killed in the line of duty… and the heartache he felt before he was.
If you’d like to send her a note, feel free to do so in the comments at the bottom of this article.
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 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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Law Enforcement Today is proud to stand behind C.O.P.S. and encourages those who were touched by this video to support this incredible organization.
Each year, between 140 and 160 officers are killed in the line of duty and their families and co-workers are left to cope with the tragic loss. C.O.P.S. provides resources to help them rebuild their shattered lives. There is no membership fee to join C.O.P.S., for the price paid is already too high.
C.O.P.S. was organized in 1984 with 110 individual members. Today, C.O.P.S. membership is over 48,000 survivors. Survivors include spouses, children, parents, siblings, significant others, and co-workers of officers who have died in the line of duty according to Federal government criteria.
C.O.P.S. is governed by a National Board of law enforcement survivors. All programs and services are administered by the National Office in Camdenton, Missouri. C.O.P.S. has over 50 Chapters nationwide that work with survivors at the grass-roots level.
C.O.P.S. programs for survivors include the National Police Survivors’ Conference held each May during National Police Week, scholarships, peer-support at the national, state, and local levels, “C.O.P.S. Kids” counseling reimbursement program, the “C.O.P.S. Kids” Summer Camp, “C.O.P.S. Teens” Outward Bound experience for young adults, special retreats for spouses, parents, siblings, adult children, extended family, and co-workers, trial and parole support, and other assistance programs.
C.O.P.S. knows that a survivor’s level of distress is directly affected by the agency’s response to the tragedy. C.O.P.S., therefore, offers training and assistance to law enforcement agencies nationwide on how to respond to the tragic loss of a member of the law enforcement profession. C.O.P.S. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. C.O.P.S. programs and services are funded by grants and donations.