At what age do you have this conversation? No, I’m not talking about the birds and the bees, but the ones where you talk about bad guys. How do you explain it to a precocious four year old so that he understands, that he empathizes, but that he’s not terrified of every person who is lurking around the corner? How much is too much to tell?
Davey has always understood the level of respect that goes with a uniform. When he was two, he saluted and shook the hands of two Army privates as we all waited to board a flight in Baltimore. He thanked them for their service and was excited to have met two heroes. My cousin and her husband are both retired Navy Corpsmen. When Davey met them he was just as excited to know that he has family who are heroes, like Captain America. He sees heroes on t.v. and we read about them in books, but in those stories, the heroes don’t die. They may get hurt, but they always come home. How do you rationalize the difference between the make believe heroes and the real ones who are literally sacrificing their lives to protect ours? It’s hard, but you find a way.
Friday afternoon, we lost one of our finest in Greenville, SC. A police officer was looking to ask questions of a 17 year old self admitted gang member. When he and his partner found the gang member, he ran from them. Both officers took off on foot to pursue the young man. Without speculation as to what happened or how it happened, Officer Allen Jacobs lost his life when he was shot multiple times by the juvenile. He was gunned down without ever unholstering his gun.
We didn’t discuss Friday’s events with Davey. He caught the occasional tidbit of news here and there, but for the most part stayed oblivious until today. Today, our neighborhood decided to find a way to join together in solidarity, love, and support. What we came to learn is that the parents of the officer who lost his life, live in our neighborhood. While we don’t know them personally, this put more of a reality and close to home factor in it for us. When you know the family of someone who is senselessly killed, it hurts more, you don’t just sympathize, but you feel as if you can almost have a sense of empathy with the family. So, tonight at sunset, the neighborhood place luminaries along sidewalks, driveways and walkways.
We decided that with the impending luminaries of love, we should perhaps discuss what happened with Davey. We told him about a police officer who died, how his mom and dad are our neighbors, and how he was a hero. Davey’s questions mostly loomed around these…”Did a bad guy get him?” Yes, a bad guy got him. “Does my daddy need to go get the bad guy?” No, the bad guy killed himself. “You mean he took the gun and pointed it at himself?” And Davey said this with a little bit of concern, his lower lip trembling slightly. At this point, I wondered if perhaps I had gone too far, but decided to plow through. Yes, Davey, he pointed the gun at himself. “At least the bad guy is gone now,” was the response he had.
Later, at the start of sunset, we made a family affair of lining our walkway with paper bags, full of rocks, and votive candles. Both boys helped, but whenever a police officer would drive by, they both stopped and stood in the front yard to wave.
It’s a horribly senseless tragedy. My heart breaks every day. I’ve found myself shedding tears daily as I’ve tried to put myself into the shoes of his widow, who is pregnant with their third child. I feel inundated with waves of nausea as I “see” her lying down at night, after she’s tucked her two boys into bed, kissing their foreheads and reminding them of how much they were their daddy’s world. I feel my heart breaking when she lies in the dark caressing her daughter, still in the womb, as she tries to find ways to stay strong and tell her unborn daughter of how wonderful of a man her daddy was. Tears stream down my face when I “see” her waking the next morning, from a fitful night of sleep, as she prays that she was just in the midst of a terrible dream and that the love of her life, her best friend, and soul mate, is really just coming home from work. He did indeed come home, just not to his temporary one here. Officer Jacobs went home to his Father, and while we all know he is in a better place and this was God’s will, we still hurt for those who lost him and for those of us who didn’t know him other than as a police officer and army veteran.
Heroes don’t always win and heroes don’t always live, but God’s will be done.
Rest in peace, Officer Jacobs. Your brothers and sister will
take over from here.