Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Jacket

I have Tim’s school bag. The strap is torn from the impact and heavy from his school books.  I don’t know exactly what happened to his jacket that he was wearing.  It was my jacket which was my platoon jacket from when I was in the Police Academy – my name and class number and platoon designation of “A”.  Over the years it became a ratty thing that Tim took to wearing.  I offered to buy a replica of it but he refused.  He continued to wear it; he told me he wore it because he was proud of me and it made him feel safe. When I see the pictures of him wearing it, I think how many times I had sewn a hole or two over the years.

I think his mother said her sister took it when it was released from the investigation.  I know it was blood soaked and would be something too painful to keep.  I start crying and then get pissed at myself thinking I should have just bought him a new copy of the jacket…all it had was my last name and my class and platoon number. 

Another grieving father had pointed out that I had bought a copy of the jacket; it would not have been the same because it was not mine.  He continued by pointing out Tim wanted me near him and that I had, in a way, wrapped my arms around my son when he left this world.  I was encouraged to look at it as a gift I bestowed on my son.  I had thought of it.  I thought of how in literature, religion, and mythology clothing was used as a gift to offer some form of protection, conversion, or transition.

J.R.R. Tolkien used clothing as a gift in The Fellowship of the Ring.  On his quest to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo is given, by Bilbo, dwarven  coat of mail of Mithril – metal lighter and stronger than steel.  The mail saved Frodo from a spear and an arrow, while the Fellowship battled Orcs, in the Dwarven mountain kingdom of Moria.  Later Galadriel, the Lady of the Woods, gave Frodo an Elven cloak that camouflaged him as a boulder as he neared the completion of his dangerous quest.

J.K. Rowling uses a cloak of invisibility through her Harry Potter novels.  Harry Potter received a cloak of invisibility which was instrumental in the battle against Lord Voldemort.  Harry’s father James, just before his death at the hands of Voldemort, had lent the cloak to Dumbledore.  During Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore gave it, as a Christmas present, to the young wizard in training.

Saint Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier, in about the year 334, was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens in Gaul (now Amiens, France), and met a scantily clad beggar. He impulsively cut his military cloak in half to share with the man. That night, Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me." When he woke his cloak restored to wholeness.

So looking back, with the input from another grieving father, looking from the outside-in, I can agree that perhaps I was in a sense doing all I could to protect or comfort my son at the time of his death.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Sink Full of Dishes and Planning a Funeral

When I got home that evening, Tuesday, May 17, 2011, about 7:30 PM, I found people assembled at my home.  There were representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police, folks I had worked with and folks that I knew by reputation, and few co-workers.  The FOP set up a table of food, treats, and beverages in the living room.  Tasha, Jun’s wife, went to-and-fro picking after the kids and playing with my daughters.  Condolences were offered with hugs, hand-shakes, man-hugs where the arms are crooked in with the handshake to keep the formality of masculinity.   I stepped into the kitchen and saw my co-worker, Michelle at the kitchen sink.  I watched for a moment as she scrubbed a dish, rinsed, and placed on the dish rack.

 “What are you doing?”  I asked, partly embarrassed my dishes were being washed by a friend – and from thinking how it was Timmy’s one and only chore during the week.  I was about to turn around and call upstairs for him to come down and do the dishes.  I stopped.  Timmy’s not coming home.

“I’m washing the dishes.”  Michelle said as she rinsed her hands and dried them.  Michelle hugged me and said a prayer for Jesus to ease my pain.
“My Timmy is dead, Michelle.”  I cried.  “My son is dead.” 

Michelle comforted me.  I had known her since I got out of the academy.  She was and is a constant friend as well a knowledgeable cop and detective.  There were times we didn’t agree with each other.  There were times I said something to piss her off.  There were times other people caused a rift.  But as with anyone that is a true friend, Michelle was there in my home to help.

“I have a dishwasher you know.”  I said pointing at the dishwasher that stood un-used under the counter.

“I know,” Michelle said wiping either tears or dishwater from her face.  “I don’t mind, and I like knowing the dishes are clean because they were done by hand.”

John McGrody pulled me aside.  I had also known John since I was a rookie.  John was now the Vice-President of the FOP #5; despite his status he was still a cop and advocated strongly for his brothers and sisters in blue.  “I want you to introduce you to someone.  Meet Ronnie Sypherd, or as we call her the Ronnie-ator.”

Ronnie is an older lady who is well spoken, has the face of a Mother Superior, and the grace to match.  “I’m Ronnie.  I am here to help you plan Timmy’s funeral and get you through this week.  This is going to be the hardest week in your life.  I hate to say it, but you will hate me by the end of the week.”

Ronnie is the coordinator with the FOP to help arrange Police Officers funerals.  However, it’s not just coordinating (and this is where Ronnie’s demeanor can match that of a Gunnery Sergeant), but to run interference with well-wishers wearing the skin of a vulture and keep them away from the family.  Ronnie was very fierce, but graceful, from that moment protecting me and my family.  People wanted to help in many ways, and that was appreciated – but Ronnie made sure that the help was genuine and not a sham.  For that I could never once think of hating Ronnie.  If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have gotten through that week.  She pushed me to focus on the task at hand, and that was to lay my son to rest and shooed away the vultures – that meant overzealous reporters, memorial headstone companies that called the FOP or my home offering a monument at a “special discounted rate.”

The owners of Katie O’Donnell’s Irish Pub, Sandy and Dave Greenhalgh along with their friend Phil Consolvo offered to help with a benefit.  Ronnie, along with the Greenhalghs and Phil as well as a few other people, formed a committee to bring the benefit to fruition.  Ronnie had experience with benefits – cops have them all the time to help one another, a charity, or a child in need for an operation, special medical equipment, or to help their parents bring expenses under control.  Although at first it was proposed to have the benefit shortly after school let out, but it was agreed it would be too soon after Timmy’s death.  The only thing I wanted was that I wanted it oriented towards the kids and to be focused on Timmy.  Ronnie negotiated what was proposed between me and Gi.  Even though I appreciated the thought and what was to come a few months later, I wanted it to be like a county fair – clowns, balloons, stuff that kids will eat like hamburgers and cotton candy.  That was something I was told not to worry myself about and to get through the week.

Every morning, Ronnie came to the house – once or twice ordered me to the shower, to get dressed, because we had a meeting with the funeral home, ran interference or negotiated with the cemetery, made suggestions, and kept me focused on the task at hand – from deciding on readings from scripture, who will be a pall bearer (despite my stubbornness, Ronnie was not allowing me to carry my son because it would be have been too much on my psyche; looking back I am glad she won that argument), who would read the Eulogy, and what to wear - the three squads at Southwest, along with Lieutenant Walker  and Captain Naish, bought me a new suit for the viewing and funeral.

Ronnie didn’t push me, but nudged strongly and protected me.  She was right it was the hardest week of my life; she was wrong about hating her.  I am so grateful to her getting me through the week.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Just Breathe...

Just Breathe
Words & Music
Pearl Jam
Great Cover by Willie Nelson and his son Lukas 

Yes, I understand that every life must end, uh-huh
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh
Oh I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they've got none

Stay with me...
Let's just breathe...

Practiced all my sins, never gonna let me win, uh-huh
Under everything, just another human being, uh-huh
I don't wanna hurt, there's so much in this world to make me bleed

Stay with me
You're all I see...

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me

As I come clean...
I wonder everyday, as I look upon your face, uh-huh
Everything you gave
And nothing you would save, oh no

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave...

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
And I come clean, ah...

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Hold me til I die
Meet you on the other side...