I posted this picture on Facebook back in May of 2014. We were in Washington DC for Police Week and this was Zachary minutes before leaving the hotel for the Police Memorial Ceremony at the Capitol. I was waiting for the elevator with both boys, and then I panicked because I couldn't find Zach - I turned around and he was back by our hotel room door. It was early in the morning, too early, and it was a hot and humid and we had to dress up. Zach was acting how we all were feeling, and let's face it, this picture is adorable!
Police Week was a pretty intense experience for all of us. The NY State Police made it possible for Dave's family, my parents and the boys and I to go to Washington D.C. to attend the annual C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) Conference. There was something comforting about being around other families that experienced the same type of loss we had, but at the same time, it ripped open scabs that had barely begun to heal.
As hard as it was to lose Dave, I realized that I was very blessed. There were so many people who were grieving without hope. I have hope. Since Dave's death, I've often been comforted by
1 Thessalonians 4:13, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." Dave had placed his faith in Jesus Christ. It was not good works that got him into Heaven, but Jesus' grace and forgiveness. I know that the boys and I will see Daddy again!
But in the meantime, this precious picture of Zachary reminds me that grief comes in all shapes and sizes. While all our friends and family miss Dave, it is our boys who have lost the most. They had an awesome dad, and they were too little to remember. Caleb remembers much more than Zach, but he still only had six short years with his dad. Zach barely had five.
Shortly after Dave died I found Zachary alone in his bedroom, punching a picture of Dave. He was throwing his whole body and effort into punching and he was angry. I pulled him onto my lap and hugged him while the tears silently slid down my cheeks. After a couple of minutes I asked Zach why he was angry, and his reply, "Daddy left without taking me."
Zach remembers his Daddy loving to travel and go on "adventures". The boys and I had talked a lot about heaven when my aunt had passed away, and they knew that it was wonderful place with no pain, tears, darkness or goodbyes. Why would Daddy go away to such a wonderful place and not bring him?
Shortly before this episode, Caleb very seriously told me that he wanted to go to Heaven when he was ten. His reasoning was that he could spend more time with Zach and me, but he didn't want Daddy to be alone for too long. And besides, Daddy explained to him there was no SMA in Heaven and they would be able to run and play football. He wanted to go play football with Daddy.
I had to explain to two broken hearted boys that only Jesus decides when you get to go to Heaven and you don't get to go until your special assignment on earth was done. Daddy's special assignment was done, but if Daddy had had the choice he would not have left us. I assured the boys he was certainly waiting to see us again but he would want us to live life to the fullest until our work here was done. I don't think the boys understand that concept completely, but thankfully they believed me.
I don't know when the boys will be reunited with their dad, but this painful journey has taught me that grief comes in all shapes and sizes, and never completely goes away. I've also learned that no matter how horrific the circumstance, God is good. He loves me and my boys more then I could possibly fathom, and He has a plan for our good. As I flip through my scrapbooks and memories, I see smiles and joy before and after December 17, 2013, and that alone is a testament to God's goodness and faithfulness, and I'm determined to live life with joy until my special assignment is completed.