I have a very good education and a world of experience at dealing with death and dying... but nothing prepared me for what happened in this one year period. On Christmas Eve, a few years ago, I lost the great love of my life to a drunk driver. Her name was Sheila, and she was 5'7", with beautiful brown eyes, a sultry voice, and wonderfully intellectual. She met me when I worked for a major computer company, and married me after I became a cop. What she ever saw in me, I will never know, but she said I was the only man she ever met with honor. Who could resist that? It was a storybook relationship...too beautiful to last... and we both knew it. We both had premonitions about her untimely death.
She was a high fashion model and an actress. She would take me to the Country Club, and people would draw in their breath when they saw her. She loved to introduce me as 'Vito,' her bodyguard, and I loved it too.
On the night she was killed, she was out of the state, visiting her mother. I knew it the minute it happened, and called some friends. The confirming call came within a couple of hours from the Medical Examiner's office. That lovely creature, killed by a drunk driver, could not be shown at her own funeral. On her casket, there was a display of her that appeared on the cover of a national magazine. Everyone said she was prettier than Cindy Crawford.
The only other male she liked was my lifelong friend and partner. He and I grew up together and always knew we would be cops some day. We went through the academy together and worked at the same department. I was number one graduate, and he was at the bottom of the class, but only because he spent all his time chasing women. The three of us hung out together, and were a foursome whenever he found another female who would tolerate his strange sense of humor.
Sadly, the gift of second sight that I inherited from my mother, came again to me. I always knew he would die as a police officer. On a cold November 15th night, I became extremely fearful for my life. I was so afraid that I called some of my friends and asked them to pray for me, as I felt like I might be killed the next day, on duty. At 10 PM, the feeling went away and I went to sleep. Shortly after that, I received a call that he was dead. He was killed stopping a vehicle that was weaving in the roadway. A paroled ex-murderer stepped out of his car and put a bullet through his heart.
The local newspapers, hearing that I was his best friend, pressured me for a statement, but I could not talk to them. Our communications people suggested that I write something and they would read it to the press. It read something like:
'Jerry was closer to me than a brother. He was a decent, honorable man who loved children and old people. Our state has lost an outstanding police officer, and I have lost my best friend.'
I went to a memorial service, a year after his death. It was too crowded for me, so I just drove on out to the cemetery to sit and cry. And when I cry, it sounds like something from another planet. As I sat there, I looked at the marker. Something inside me said, 'What are you doing?' 'He's not here.' That put it into perspective for me, and I realized that everything I loved about Jerry and Sheila was with the Lord, and not in a grave.
At times, I think I am doing well and making it OK. At times, I am blindsided by something ... seeing someone in a store or on the street that looks like them... finding an old picture, or remembering something that happened...usually, it is something that was funny.
At times, I am so lonely and sad that I think that I will surely die from it. Yet, I always do the best I can to get back up and try again. It terrifies me to even think about starting over again, and I avoid pretty women and my fellow officer's altogether. If a woman is married, I will tend to communicate with her, as there is a safety factor there. I will never have another friend, who is an officer, and I may not be capable of trying again, but I just don't know. I am a survivor. I know that God loves me, and that He doesn't want me to feel this way.
Sometimes, I dream about them and wake up crying. At times, I reach for a phone to call one of them, and then I cry again. I can go almost 30 days at a time without feeling too badly.... sometimes.
I look very big, strong, and tough, but that is not what is inside me. Inside, there is sometimes a very bewildered little boy, who hugs his pillow when he sleeps. I am a realist, and know that most of the good women are taken, or married to friends of mine. It would be difficult to have a relationship with a woman that is not sisterly in nature.
I have never even considered suicide, and I don't drown myself in alcohol... the remedy of many police officers. I love my work, and know I can't change the world... but I love making part of it better at times.
My only vice, I think, is playing my guitar, and it gives me comfort when night comes. I live on a small farm and love the solitude ... most of the time.
If I could describe the pain that sometimes hits me, I would. I don't have the words to articulate it, and can only say that it is worse than I hope you can imagine. I know that time makes things better, and that I will never give in to despair, and I will never quit getting back up off the ground and trying again.
Thanks for reading this and letting me express myself. It is a luxury I seldom allow myself. I am ordinarily a low-maintenance person, and do not need a lot of attention, but tonight I am making an exception.
You can send email to Thomas at: [email protected]
date of post 07-02-97