If you looked around my house and took a snapshot of my world, there would be one very apparent thing, I am proud of my life. Someone who didn’t know me would see the medals room 5k’s I’ve run and photos of my kids. They’d see that the Thin Blue Line runs deep in my house. They’d see the police art on my walls, the ammo on my kitchen counter next to my empty off-duty holster, the sign reading “HOME” with the “o” as a police shield with a thin blue line.
What they wouldn’t see at first glance is the humidor that that ammo sits on. A humidor that is filled with cigars collected over the years by a man who loved them. Cigars I purchased for him when I was in El Salvador that sit there, alone and unsmoked. I only open it from time to time to add water and close the lid again until the next time I check it.
Their eyes would probably pass right over the bag of newspapers on top of my cabinets, bags that haven’t been touched since they were placed there. Newspapers that document the worst week of my life and contain photos of my pain, our family’s pain, our entire community’s pain.
They wouldn’t notice the simple black band marked with “1912/1799” in white. A band that I wore over my own badge and mourned the loss of my fellow officers, but also a man I loved and was building a life with.
Now, joining these simple items mourning that loss are others, mourning another loss, another blow to my family and friends and community. A memorial card for a woman who was a mother, a daughter, a sister, and my friend. Someone I could share anything with. We were both single mothers, her youngest daughter was the same age as my middle child. Those two girls are inseparable when they’re together.
More T-Shirts are added to my collection, shirts memorializing fallen officers. I wrap my arms around more family members who now belong to a “club” I would never wish on my worst enemy. They will forever be the surviving family.
What does that even mean since being a survivor can mean so many things?
Some days surviving means waking up, going on a run, showering and facing the day with an indestructible attitude and then going to sleep without so much as a dream to disrupt my slumber.
And then, more days that not, it’s waking up, taking a deep breath and making it through the next 60 seconds, then the 60 seconds after that. Then the next, and the next, until, at the end of the day, I collapse, exhausted, in my bed to face a night full of nightmares.
The nightmares can be something as simple as walking around, lost, searching for my kids, my family, my best friend. Or it might be the infamous misfire nightmare most cops seem to have. Or, it could be reliving the moments when my world imploded on itself and I was forced to learn a new normal.
It’s been almost two years since that moment. When everything I ever thought I’d have in my life was destroyed in a massive atomic mushroom.
Then three weeks ago, the unimaginable happened again. One of the strongest, most amazing women in the world was taken from us. And yet, we have to go on. It’s not fair and doesn’t seem right, but still we have to do it. So we do.
I have good days, and bad ones. Lately the bad seem to be more often than the good, but such is life.
My life now, is different, but I love my life. There is a before and an after. You can’t compare the two. I have three amazing children, who, though they drive me crazy most of the time, are my world. I have family that are my rocks. Their lives were reconfigured during those days too.
My friends have always had my back and I love them. I also have someone who has chosen to share in this crazy life with me. He too has chosen this calling and career and felt the loss of a sister and brother in arms. He doesn’t see me as broken when I break, or as weak when I don’t feel strong. He sees me as a survivor in the BEST sense of the word.
The point is this; when you look at snapshots of someone’s life, yours, your parents, brothers and sisters, friends, or even a perfect stranger, realize that not everything is as it seems. There is more to the story, there always is. They’re trying. Be gentle.
And for those we’ve lost … never forgotten:
- Brad Lancaster #1912 EOW 05/09/2016
- Dave Melton #1799 EOW 07/19/2016
- Brandon Collins #745 EOW 09/11/2016
- Patrick Rohrer #1903 EOW 06/15/2018
- TK King #16898 EOW 06/16/2018
Zeta Bates – I am a patrol officer with the Mission, Kansas Police Department. I am also the surviving significant other of Capt. Robert “Dave” Melton of the KCKPD and mother of his youngest child. I have spent the last number of years working as a police office, five at KCKPD and currently at MSPD. I am also a soldier in the US Army Reserve and have served as a public affairs soldier for the last 15 years. I am a single mother of three who bleeds blue. I am also the president of the Lancaster Melton Peacekeepers Civitan Club that concentrates on helping soldiers and LEO families as well as ensuring the memories of fallen officers are never forgotten.