I should be preparing for tonight’s board meeting, actually, I really should be cleaning my office. Instead, I am writing you this letter. Who are you? Friends, family, volunteers, board members, advisors, supporters, LinkedIn connections, family members who have lost an officer to suicide and first responders everywhere. All the people we can’t seem to respond to quickly enough; everyone that wants to support us, thank us and need us.
Most of my day wasn’t overly unusual; I worked my eight-hour paying job. During lunch hour, breaks and every spare minute, I responded to calls, texts and e-mails for Blue H.E.L.P (BH). A reporter looking for information, a family in need of support, an officer thanking us for the gifts for a family who lost an officer, passing off tasks to others, an organization wanting to do a fundraiser…a typical day managing BH while I work a full-time job.
Toward the end of the day, my sister called; my mother’s estate was finally closed, and I could get the paperwork on my way home. Immediately afterward, I spoke to one of our advisors and we discussed how difficult it is to run a non-profit. My day ended where it began, worrying about BH, the responsibility we have to all of you and feeling a little bit sad about another holiday season that isn’t the same as it used to be. So how did I end up in the parking lot of the grocery store crying?
At the post office, I dropped off the last of the small gifts we put together for 200 of our families. Will they like them? Is it corny? Do they even want what we sent them? Truly, running a non-profit is a daily worry about what’s next, what’s right and who’s being impacted. The guy behind the counter made fun of me as usual, I always forget something but today I had it all together. As I walked out, he said, “you’ll be back before you get out of the parking lot!” I skeptically checked the P.O. Box, there was no mail on Saturday and it’s only Tuesday. What I found is what brought me to tears.
You see, this daily weight, and I mean weight in a good way, is a constant reminder of death, sadness and despair. We carry it to bring some hope, some comfort and hopefully, to save a life. We didn’t choose this path; it truly chose us, and we are happy to follow it to the end. We aren’t martyrs, we are simply following our hearts and trying to do the right thing the best way we can as fallible human beings.
So, what was in the mailbox? Well, there were a lot of donations, but it wasn’t the amounts that mattered, it was the reason for the donations:
– the mother-in-law of a board member, because she loves her son-in-law;
– the family of an active police officer because our organization is “very special” to the officer and they have “tremendous respect” for what we do;
– a sponsorship for a family to attend our Police Week 2020 dinner from the LA Police Protective League because they want their officer and his family recognized;
– “Your will to help the families of officers who have lost a loved one to suicide, as well as providing training and assistance for those who are currently battling through tough times is nothing short of amazing”, from Beyond the Badge NY;
– a thank you from a Sheriff in Florida for the support we offered after a suicide;
– just because, from the Southeastern MA Law Enforcement Council;
– and, finally, a donation from my Uncle who is a retired firefighter in Texas.
I’ll be honest, I was hanging over the edge holding it together until I opened the donation from my Uncle. I’m sure we all think we drew the short straw when it comes to family at one time or another, while I am not different, I’ve got good reasons to believe it. (insert smirk laughing emoji here). Anyway, the donation came out of the blue and the words inside the card rang true for so many reasons. “All who wander are not lost. Your lost Uncle, Dan.” Uncle Dan was a shadow most of my life, so his card and donation came at a time when I feel the loss of so many at the holidays. Not just my mother and the rest of my family that is now gone, but the losses of the families we support. His donation reminded me that we all have meaning in each other’s lives, we don’t have to be there each day to prove it. He’s still my Uncle and he’s chosen to be here when he can, even though he’s a firefighter.
When I arrived home, I was still crying. My son asked why, and I told him I was incredibly sad now that Grandma Louise’s estate is closed. I said, “It’s all over now. I’m feeling sad over her, Great Grandma and Grandpa Larry. They’re all officially dead now.”
My sweet, sensitive fourteen-year-old boy said, “Mum, no one is completely dead if you still remember and love them.”
His words carry so much meaning. Actually, his words are completely in line with our mission. Let us love and remember everyone. Our personal losses, our childhoods, the families who grieve, the people who take their lives, the people we don’t see as often as we think we should. Love, remember and honor the gift of their place in our lives.
As for the officers we’ve lost to suicide, every one of you keeps them alive through your love and support. You are points of hope around the world that they will never be forgotten. For that, we humbly thank you; you are the heart of the organization.