Grief is a terrible and tricky emotion. It doesn’t negotiate. It doesn’t segregate. It does not reason. When it enters your life, it unpacks it’s bags and doesn’t let you in on it’s departure date. It whispers little lies in your ears, telling you that you’ll feel like you’re at the bottom forever. It buys your ticket to every emotional roller coaster it can find. Grief is a journey with an unknown destination.
There was a time in my life where grief conquered me; a time where I was unsure I would ever see the figurative daylight again. For me, my grief revolved around my son and the unknowns of his future. I grieved moments of lost childhood. I grieved every missed milestone and every hospital stay. I was broken and I felt that there was no end in sight. That was until I had my epiphanic moment. My grief was costing me time and that without deep introspect, it was going to devour me. During a night of long work and old country roads, I found myself typing out my feelings concerning grief. I want to share them with you:
“It’s where they prayed for rain. As I was standing out in the middle of a field, under an endless sky with storm clouds forming all around me, I started thinking about how much I wish it would rain. As always, my mind over analyzed the concept of rain and what it actually means. In music and literature, in photography and poetry, rain is usually a word used to illustrate sadness or a time of emotional hardship. When you live in the middle of a major and dangerous drought, you pray for rain. Whether it is literal or figurative, we need rain. We need the sadness and the emotional hardships. We need to struggle and to persevere. It’s the only way we learn. Rain brings life and nourishment. Rain brings fruit. Plain and simple, we need the rain.”
Let’s rewind to my weekend in New Mexico. I drove to Rio Rancho and visited their police department. Just a few short days ago, Officer Benner was 7 minutes from ending his shift until he had one final call; a call that would ultimately cost him his life. As I spoke with his brothers, I listened as they told stories of his kindness, his selflessness, and his compassion for his community. They spoke of his love for his wife, his children, and his brothers and sisters of the Rio Rancho PD. And, even though they told some light hearted jokes to make my presence more comfortable, I knew one thing to be absolutely certain. They were grieving.
There is something about a man or woman who is willing to suit up beside you every single day. There is something about officers who are willing to continue to serve in a nation that is portraying itself as against them. Even though they were grieving, they were not afraid and whether or not they realized it then or even a few weeks from now, they are only getting stronger. They are becoming more united and their bonds of brotherhood are even more solidified than they were before this monumental tragedy.
That’s it. That’s my point. Our police communities have been grieving and the grief just keeps coming. With that being said, we can’t become devoured by that grief. The Officers of New York City, Omaha, Hattiesburg, Rio Rancho, Houston, Johnson County, and Colorado are still suiting up even in grief. For those of us who are the ones that pray for their safety, wait for them to come home, and hope that they are safe….we don’t get to be defeated by grief either. We don’t get the luxury of being afraid. If they are brave enough to support their communities in the current climate of the United States, we have to be brave enough to stand up and say that we are accounted for and in their corners. Now is not the time to retreat in grief. We must only get stronger from here. That is our only option.
Officer Benner died protecting the community of Rio Rancho. He was 7 minutes away from calling it a day, walking in the front door of his home and kissing his wife hello. He was seven minutes away from being able to call one of his children and ask them how their day was going. That seven minutes will change that community forever. And, even though I was only there for a couple of day, it has changed me too. I am forever thankful that they opened up their doors for me and let me shake their hands. It was truly my honor. May you find strength in your grief, courage in your fear, and wisdom in your anger. I won’t let the world forget the sacrifice of Officer Benner. I promise.
God bless Officer Benner and his family. God Bless Rio Rancho and it’s Police Department.
“Silence is Surrender.” – JoAnne Moretti