The upcoming holidays are many things to many people. For many, the holidays are a joyful time. For others, the holidays are filled with pain and loss. And for reasons that maybe only they know. Whether you are hurting or celebrating, the holidays provide a lot of time for reflection.
The week leading up to Christmas in particular, is a time of reflection for me.
You see, it was during this week 5 years ago I could have become a widow.
It wasn't the first, last or only close call while working that my husband has had, but it will forever be etched in my mind and tattooed on my heart. Because that night wasn't just about him.
That Unforgettable Phone Call
Rewind to 12/18/12. It was early evening. John was at work. He had only been assigned to patrol just a few short months and was fresh out of his training by a couple of weeks. I was at home with our son, who was a couple days shy of his second birthday. I was also 35 weeks pregnant with our second son. My phone rang. It was John and his words were tumbling out so fast it took me a minute to understand him. It’s difficult to describe, but I could actually hear the adrenaline in his voice.
Do you know what that sounds like?
It’s a sweet mixture of relief, heart thumping fear, exhilaration, gratitude and a tiny bit of disbelief. It took me a minute to understand his words.
He was ok
The first thing he said was, “I’m okay now.” I know that hearing those words should provide immediate relief because that would mean that 1) not only is he alive to speak them and 2) he’s conscious and coherent. I’ve heard those words before and they have ALWAYS preceded the telling of a scary, dangerous encounter on the job that could have easily ended in a visit to our door by a couple of uniformed sergeants.
Responding to the call of a suicidal girl
This time, those words were followed by his retelling of responding to a 911 call where a young girl was perched on the edge of an overpass, ready to jump into traffic on Highway 62. Several motorists called 911 and he just happened to be nearby. So he hit the lights and sirens and got there as fast as he could. About the same time, an officer from another agency arrived. The girl was scared and didn’t understand my husband. He knows probably 3 phrases in Spanish – none of which were any help that night. As a true miracle would it, the other officer was bilingual and spoke Spanish. I have no idea what he said to her. Whatever it was, it made a difference.
Hanging off a freeway overpass with no safety net
Together, they lowered themselves to her. Barely hanging on themselves, they bear hugged her to the overpass. They had no harnesses. There was nothing to keep them and the girl from falling to the freeway below. They stayed there like that on that dark and icy December night until a fire truck with a ladder arrived and got into position below them. They helped her safely down and then got themselves to safety.
She left in an ambulance. And my husband came home safely to us that night. We would still have lots of chances to play, laugh and make memories together.
Tears and Prayers
I cried so many tears that night after that phone call. Tears of relief that he was ok. Tears for the family who almost lost a daughter that night. Tears especially for her mama who almost lost her baby. Tears for the girl herself. What was so wrong in her life that the only solution she saw would be to end it?
I prayed harder that night than I can remember. I prayed first for the girl. I prayed that she would get the help she needed so much. I prayed that she felt the love of those big strong arms that kept her safe on the overpass. I prayed that she would continue to feel love as her journey on this earth continues. I prayed that God would continue to keep my husband safe in the future. I prayed that God would continue working through my husband to be a source of service, protection and sacrifice to others. I prayed the same for the other officer. I prayed he wouldn’t make me a widow. I prayed for that other officer’s wife, knowing that she was likely feeling many of same things I was feeling.
I thanked God for not letting the holidays be forever changed for the girl’s family or ours.
Every year on this day, I say a special prayer for the girl and wonder about her. I never learned any specifics about her. All I know is that she was a teenager and didn’t speak English.
This week, as I pray for her again, I pray that wherever she is, that she is loved, knows that she is loved and that she is thriving in life.
As a result of the efforts, a few months later my husband and the other officer were given recognition for their heroism and quick thinking that night.
Whenever he can’t be with us because of work, I am reminded that there are others he is serving who need him just a tiny bit more than we do at that moment. And I’m happy to share him if that means another family doesn’t lose a loved one or he can provide comfort to those who need it.
Keeping that perspective helps me keep the home fires burning while he’s at work.
Our boys are growing up knowing their daddy is a police officer. They are too young to really understand what that means. We choose to focus on the fact that daddy helps people. And in the last few weeks, our four year old keeps saying when he grows up, he wants to be a police officer. Not only that, he also says that he “…wants to be on Daddy’s team with him.”
When I first wrote this essay on my personal blog, it was to record a page in our family's history. Having the opportunity to share it here, I realize that this story is so much bigger than our little family. This is really about reaching out when someone is hurting.
Help us at Backing the Blue Line help others
The holidays are a time of hurt and pain for so many people. People who feel so desperate for a way to end their suffering. People who need someone there to listen. People who need to know that they are not alone in this world and not alone in how they are feeling. Police officers come across these hurting souls while on the job. And all of the rest of us may be walking among them too and not even know it. Pay attention to those around you. Listen to what they are saying. Offer a hand to lift them up. Be a light in the darkness.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please reach out and get help.
Help is literally only a phone call, text message or Facebook post away.
Backing the Blue Line offiers several ways for law enforcement officers and their wives/partners/significant others to get help and support:
-Resources specific to law enforcement officers
-Private Facebook group for law enforcement wives to seek and give support
-Separate private Facebook Prayer group for law enforcement wives to seek and give prayers
-Family Support Services to provide support on many different levels to MN law enforcement families who need it.
-If you know a MN law enforcement family who needs a little support, please fill out a support request. If the need is urgent, urgent please feel free to contact us, this email is monitored closely.
Resources suggested by Backing the Blue Line members for anyone in Minnesota:
-Mobile Crises Resources
-Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
-United Way 211 or call 211
-University of Minnesota MHealth.org
These are just a few available resources. Other places to seek information and other community resources: your health insurance provider's website, city and/or county of residence website, your employer's employee assistance program, your faith community and your school community.
Did we miss including a valuable resource you know about? Please comment below and share a resource you know about. It could save a life.
About the writer: Jamie is married to a deputy and together they have three young sons for her husband to return home safely to at the end of every shift. Jamie is a writer, professional photographer and working mama. She currently serves as a Regional Blue Angel and as managing editor of the Backing the Blue Line blog. This piece has been adapted from an essay on her site, jamiecramble.com, and is shared here with permission.
Photography Credit: Thank you to Melissa Soto Photography for the beautiful and much loved family photos featured here. Melissa is a law enforcement family supporter and generously donated to an upcoming Backing the Blue Line event.