Another sleepless night, like so many before, trying to make sense of it, trying to bring justice to it, she struggled just as she had for years. Not knowing what to do, how to feel, what to say, she tried to shut the thoughts and visions and memories from her mind. Everything he had told her for years, now seemed to be unavoidably true. For all the times she tried to talk sense to him, for all the nights she tried to calm him, for all the days she tried to convince him he did all he could, she now felt the despair he felt. Hopelessness. Anguish. Failure. She now truly believed she understood what she had tried so desperately to convince him wasn’t real for years. It was real. It would forever be real. There was no more escaping it.
The frozen air and blinding wind of a Chicago morning in January took his breath away. He pulled his stocking cap down over his ears as he reached for his gun and crept around the side of the house. The call had come in as shots fired. Multiple neighbors reporting the same but no one actually seeing anything out of the ordinary. He lingered a bit as he waited for backup but he knew he had to go in without waiting. No cars in the drive, no lights on in the house, yet something screamed at him that it wasn’t right. It was very, very wrong and he felt it. As he approached the door, his flashlight shining in the window, he saw nothing. No signs of foul play, no signs of life at all….and that’s what made his hair stand on end. His gut told him someone was in there, but who? Alive? Dead? Lying in wait? Was this one of those fake 911 calls to entice an officer into an ambush? He didn’t know what to think about that feeling in his gut. Just then another gust of blustery wind rushed up against his back and onto the porch and his eyes moved as the front door inched open with the burst of wind. An invitation to the madness. Now at an ever heightened sense of alert he questioned going in alone. He knew backup was only minutes, possibly seconds away, but the open door proved too powerful as it lured him inside. No one could have ever anticipated what he would find. For the first time in fifteen years of exposure to death and destruction and mayhem he found himself rushing to the closest toilet as he vomited up the vision which was just permanently and forever seared in his mind.
They hadn’t been as close lately. For whatever reason, call it life or stress or hectic schedules. Honestly he knew about the marriage problems. Their wives talked and frankly he was annoyed at the stress it placed on his own wife. They used to be inseparable. They were like brothers, not just in blue, they were like blood brothers. Best friends for years, they knew everything about each other. No secrets, no lies, nothing to hide…or so he believed. They were Godfathers to each others children. They went on family vacations together. They were partners for nine years, but lately there was a distance. Maybe it was just him being annoyed, maybe it was the chaos of everyday life, but he just didn’t pay much attention to the change in his partner. Truth be told, he dismissed him. He had even joked with his wife that it was like a nine year itch, perhaps it was time for a new model.
His partner had called in sick. He had called to check on him, no answer. Par for the course lately he thought. But not now. Everything had changed in a heartbeat and nothing could make any of this real. Nothing could make any sense of it. There had to be more. There had to be a reason. As he was pulled from the bathroom by his colleagues who had arrived on scene it began to hit him. It was real. It was true. This was no dream. His best friend and partner had eaten his service weapon, his head half blown off inside the home of his mistress who lay dead in a pool of blood on the floor. His one eye left, open as if to say "where were you?" He didn’t know whether to feel disgusted or angry or overwhelmed with sadness. His wife…..dear God, his wife and babies. How was he going to tell her? As the reality of what was to come washed over him, thinking of the pain his partner’s wife would endure, he felt more lost than he had ever felt before.
As the years went by he could never shake it. He felt an overwhelming sense of failure. How could he not know? How could he be so out of touch? He felt guilt for being so absorbed with his own family, he felt guilt for dismissing his partner’s conversations about the issues in his marriage. Every Birthday and holiday and anniversary date would leave him physically ill for his partner’s wife and children. He felt guilt for every date he should be celebrating in his own life. He felt anger, he felt lost, he had so many unanswered questions. It took a toll on his marriage. For as much as he loved her, he didn’t feel he deserved happiness. For as much as she tried to comfort him, he pushed her away. For as much as his babies loved him, he couldn’t get past the guilt for those left without their daddy. He turned to the bottle first, but it was too risky. He had to feed his kids. He ended up doctor shopping for prescriptions to numb the pain legally. His dedication to his duty started to wane as did the duty to his family. He ended up on administrative leave for a bit, then scraped his way back to duty. He ended up on the couches of friends, or women for weeks at a time, then managed to inch his way back into her life. Each time she would confront him he would rage with defensiveness in an attempt to avoid his truth. She begged him to seek help. He refused. His anger ever growing, her patience ever fading, he returned home one day to changed locks and a court order taped to the door of the home they built together.
Too much. It was all too much to bear. He had lost the only thing he had left. No one to comfort him. No one to wake him when the nightmares wouldn’t stop. No one to try endlessly to convince him it wasn’t his fault. He had pushed her too far. He had expected too much. He had once again, failed the one who meant so much to him. There was no escaping, in his own eyes he was nothing but a failure.
She sat in the floor of their closet, looking up at the empty hook and hanger, knowing she would never see the uniform he wore when he took his life. She wept as she wondered how they would go on without him. For as much as she could no longer tolerate his behavior, for as much as she couldn't tolerate his indiscretions, she never stopped loving him, he was the love of her life. She just needed him to get help. If she had known… if she had ever thought for one minute….
Her head in her hands as she wept for him, for the times they shared, for the times she dismissed him, for the moments she ignored him, for her own mistakes he had forgiven, for the memories they made, for the children he left behind. Her heart broken knowing the sacrifices he had made all those years for so many in need. All those he helped, all those who had hated him, all those who had mocked him, all those who had turned their back on him simply because of his badge…. And now, because he could take no more he wouldn’t even be honored for the good he did. He would only be remembered for that one moment he couldn’t take the pain any longer. And there she was, in the floor of their closet, left to feel she had failed him, left to carry the pain, left to carry the weight, left to find a way, somehow, to ensure her children knew he was a hero. She vowed that day to teach her children there was always a light after darkness. There was always a better tomorrow. There was always a reason to keep moving forward. And she prayed each night she was strong enough to believe her own words. ©TPWL
If you or someone you know is suffering, contact Safe Call Now or 1st Responder Treatment. There are resources. There is help.