I am in a familiar place tonight – sitting in the dark, a bit drained and sad, but comfortable in my own home, with the silence of my own space, and the peace of knowing that my family is here with me. I recall many nights spent like this, sitting in front of the computer, allowing the emotion, stress, and thoughts of the day to leak out of my brain onto paper (figuratively of course, because not many of us actually write with pen and paper these days) so that I could find some peace during my sleeping hours.
These days, I spend less of my time writing, although I know full well that I should be doing that more – using that solace to organize myself, let the emotions settle into place, and to reconnect with the deeper peace that I found in those hours in the dark, talking to myself, but allowing others to see those thoughts.
Tonight I find myself drawn back to my computer, in the dark, seeking some of that peace. The moments right now are clicking into place for me, and my head is actually writing faster than I can type – a funny phenomenon if you have ever been here. As I was looking for my computer (don’t ask, we have four kids) I actually had to tell myself “stop writing” because I was already speaking in my head what I wanted to say, and I wasn’t ready yet.
I find myself here tonight following a retirement party for a law enforcement officer that I have had the pleasure of meeting over the last year. She, along with so many like her, is retiring due to an injury sustained in the line of duty. And like us, her brain injury has changed her life forever.
As I think of her, I cannot tell you where she grew up, what she was like as a kid, where she went to school, who her friends are, or even what her favorite sport is – yet when I see her, I am bonded to her deeper and harder to people that I can answer those questions for. It is the bonding of a common trauma – both injury and law enforcement.
As I watched her law enforcement family honor her years of dedication to some of the hardest areas of police work, I was pulled back into the deeper memories and feelings of the harder parts of this journey – these were not painful memories, although they do elicit strong emotional reactions, even to this day. It is that thread of strength and honor that I recognize in so many of the officers that I meet; that understanding that partners fight for partners, and departments can and should honor their heroes.
I choked up watching her partner talk about his feelings of pride while working with her – her Chief presenting award after award, and another local Chief sing her praises. To know that there exists such greatness brings peace to my heart, even as the feelings of fear and worry for our future were brought back up tonight.
At one point her brother stood up, and before he could say two words, he was caught up in the emotion of the moment, knowing that his sister, injured in the line of duty, was really leaving law enforcement. The moment was real, and became too much for him. When he took a deep breath, he spoke with such flawless emotion and steadfast strength that I grabbed my phone to paraphrase what he said. It went something like this:
It doesn’t matter what color uniform we wear, we don’t walk behind each other or ahead of each other, we walk the line together because family is most important.”
Together. One simple word with so much emotional strength.
As I glanced over at Frank, he was listening intently to this speech. I felt waves of emotion flowing through me as I felt so much of the last 29 months settle in my heart. It made me remember that we are not alone, even in the hardest of times, because we walk with a family that is there for us, just like we are there for all them.
I took a deep breath, hoping that I could stop the tears (crying is still just a painful experience for me) and settle back to myself.
But this was not the case. As this officer’s partner stood back up to the podium, with his phone to his ear, he briefly stated “this is the hardest part of the night for me” and he placed the phone down. I hear the crackle of a radio, and my heart hit the floor.
Last call. A high honor and amazing tradition for law enforcement – dispatch called out her 20 years of remarkable service, serving her community and helping others, and thanked her for all she has done in her career. A last call out to her radio number was done, and the radio went silent.
A tradition that never seems to take me down.
Other speeches, tributes from so many that want to honor this brave soul, and then it was her turn to greet all of us. With emotion and love, she thanked those that have brought her this far, and those that she knows will be there for her in the future. Her bravery was palpable.
I am honored to be able to call this woman a friend, and I hope that someday soon I will be able to know where she went to school and what her favorite sports team is – but until then, I know that the bond we share is a strong one, brought together by injury and tragedy, kept together by sheer determination of will to never give up,
Una Stamus my friend.

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