If my husband died in the line of duty tomorrow…
This is a thought that I have successfully pushed to the back of my mind for the past eight years. That is until I woke up on the morning of July 4, 2020 to the news of a fallen officer. Toledo Police Officer Anthony Dia was tragically killed in the line of duty as he unknowingly answered his final call. That morning I woke up to find my husband glued to the TV as our boys played on the floor close by. Once I realized what he was watching I immediately walked to the other room and broke down. As a law enforcement wife, I know the gravity of my husband’s job and the thoughts are daunting. My husband graduated from the police academy eight years ago. Over the past eight years I have successfully forced the thought of losing him deep into the abyss of my mind.
I am not naive
I know it could happen on any given day but that morning the thoughts I have so deeply suppressed came flooding to the forefront of my mind.
How would we pay for a funeral?
Do we have enough life insurance?
How would I raise three children on my own?
How would I explain to our three year old son with Autism that his dad is never coming home?
Did I take enough pictures of my husband and the kids?
Will there be enough memories to fill the picture boards at a funeral home?
As a stay at home mom of a special needs child how would I work and ensure my son’s needs are met?
How would I ever move on with my life?
The list of questions goes on and on…
Behind prison walls
I learned a long time ago that my husband does not go to work to receive a paycheck but rather he receives a paycheck for what could happen to him on the job.
You see, my husband does not work a typical patrol job. He is a certified police officer that works behind the walls of a maximum-security state prison. When most people find out where he works, they immediately say, “Oh like Orange is the New Black?” My husband usually chuckles and says “Yeah, sure”. But the truth is, his job is nothing like the popular Netflix series.
Everyone wants to hear the crazy stories of my husband’s job, so he usually rotates between the same 3-4 stories that appease people’s curious minds and he leaves it at that.
I wish that was the truth.
The truth is that I do not even remotely know half of the stories he could tell. The ones I do know are the ones I force him to tell me. When he comes home at night and I hear all the Velcro being taken off, a duty belt hit the floor, and the shower turn on, I know he is home and safe. When he does not come to bed shortly after I know it was a hard day and by hard day, I mean days that most people could never imagine.
Days that involve bloody knuckles because he stepped in to save his partner’s life.
Days where he is covered in sweat because he had to perform CPR on an inmate that was found hanging in his cell.
Days where he must give doses of Narcan to save a man’s life.
Days where he sits next to an inmate in the ICU on a ventilator because Covid-19 ran rampant through the prison walls.
Days where he cannot open his eyes because of the pepper spray cloud he had to run through.
Days where an inmate confides in him about being sexually assaulted by another inmate.
Days that you and I could NEVER imagine.
Life expectancy of the job
I often think that if the job does not directly kill him, it is most definitely shaving years off of his life. Statistically due to the nature of his profession, my husband’s life expectancy is 59 years of age compared to the national average of 75. That is possibly 16 years of memories that will not happen because of a job.
I have asked him many times why he does what he does. His response, “Someone has to do it.”
He is right.
Working in public service is a calling. It’s a calling because nobody in their right mind works in such a dangerous field for so little pay.
I have always felt that this is what he was meant to do and two years ago an encounter with a former inmate solidified my feelings.
One of the good ones
I was pregnant with our second son, and our then 18-month-old was sitting in the Lowes shopping cart. A man approached us from halfway across the store. He was excited to see my husband as he was shouting our last name to catch his attention.
I was confused as the man approached and I could tell my husband was too.
As the man grew closer, I saw a look on my husband’s face that I have never seen before.
We always talked about situations like this and we have a “code word” for when it does happen. When he uses the word, I am to take the kids and go in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, this time it was too late. The man was very nice and told my husband all about what he was doing now that he was out. At one point he turned to me, pointed at my husband and said, “This guy right here…he’s one of the good ones!”
I kindly smiled because I already knew that.
My husband has always been and always will be one of the good ones no matter how his profession is portrayed in the media. He treats everyone with dignity and respect no matter their life choices because we are all human.
But the fact of the matter remains the same
On any given day his job could take him from me and all I would be left with are the memories that we have created. It has been a few months since I awoke to the news that brought on my fears all over again. And it will be another few months before I can suppress my fears back into the abyss they came from.
It is a constant mental battle. I often find myself wishing he would have chosen a different path. A path that would have him safely sitting behind a desk working hours that would allow him to kiss his children goodnight.
I have come to terms with the fact that this is our reality and for the rest of my life I will hold my breath every time he walks out the door.