The Blessings we almost miss...
February 4th 1999 was the day my daughter (second child of four) came into his world. As one would expect, when the wife informed me, “it’s time”, we frantically begun to throw all of our pre-discussed plans into motion. We called Oma (my mother in law) to take the first born, Brandon (only a year and half old) for the next few nights so we could get though this crazy process of having another baby. She wanted to come up to the hospital with Brandon that night to be there in the waiting room, but we all agreed that it would be better for Brandon to wait until after the baby was born. We didn’t want him to freak out over the tense situation going on that he would not understand. We were very adamant. Being a 20-something (combined with the typical attitude toward “in-laws” that men sometimes have) I was very insensitive to the fact that this was my wife’s mother who probably had feelings about wanting to be there with her youngest as she gave birth. But admittedly, I was pretty rigid and black and white back then and felt that we were the only ones entitled to the final ruling on such things, since it was our stressful moment.
Time went by into the evening, and eventually the baby was born. Shortly after, my younger brother Richard (a young Detroit police officer) showed up. It was always fun catching up with him and being eased by his crazy sense of humor during any intense situation. He came in to see the new addition, baby “Sarah". We shared some laughs, and at one point my wife offered him to hold the new baby, to which he declined; “there’ll be plenty of time for that.”
Suddenly- and to all of our surprise- the mother in law walked in with little Brandon. I was livid as she had pretty much ignored our plea to keep Brandon away for this first day. She tried to bring Brandon over to see his mom and the new baby, and Brandon did not want to go anywhere near her. He was very scared of what was going on and wouldn’t even communicate to his mom. This only exacerbated my anger…
She eventually took him out to the waiting room where my brother was also hanging out. After a short bit of time, I heard Brandon crying extremely loud and ran to see what was happening. Richard walked out of the waiting room into the hall with Brandon clutching him tightly not wanting to let go. Richard explained that Brandon had been running across all of the waiting room chairs back and forth and eventually fell down into the arm of one of them completely splitting his bottom lip open and bloodily injuring his chin. I was outraged. As Brandon finally quieted down, I stood in the hall with my brother as I vented and complained about the mother in law, ranting on and on about this being her fault, etc. . But as I went on complaining, Richard seemed to not be listening or even acknowledging my situational point of view. He was just happily beaming, talking about how tightly Brandon was holding him, and seemed to be super proud of the fact that Brandon came to him for comfort, and wanted no one else.
He bragged on a bit longer very proud that his little nephew was so drawn to him as
I calmed down a bit. We chit-chatted a bit more about his job on the police force… He loved talking about the dangers and close brushes with gunshots, and so on. Then he turned to leave. “See you later”. We would catch up tomorrow…. Then, maybe he’d come hold the new baby, and life would go on.
The next day, February 5th — I was at home when my wife called frantically from the hospital. She told me to sit down. Something had happened and she had heard on the news that 2 police officers were shot. She heard Richard’s name was mentioned. She did not know more, but thought that maybe she heard that one of them survived and that it might be him. I don’t remember much of anything after that, except driving I’m my car trying to go somewhere-- I don’t even know where. Eventually, I somehow ended up at the church Pastor's house where the news was broken to me.
"Richard is gone.”
He was shot and killed in a routine bust in the rougher side of Detroit. Something about the bullet entering the arm hole of his bullet proof vest at just the right angle and going though his heart.
The following days and weeks were the most surreal and horrific time of all of our lives-- Not to mention the years of grieving that still continue this day (when remembered, it will always feel as if it happened just yesterday, and hurt just as much).
But there was one visual that always comes to my head — and that is seeing him for the last time hugging my son as he embraced him tightly one last time, not wanting to let go. That is a blessing that I could never have imagined would come out of a situation like that. What I selfishly thought was an annoying inconvenience by my mother-in-law going against my wishes, ended up being a wonderful gift that (still) helps with the healing even all these years later.
Baby Sarah had come a few weeks earlier than the projected date. If not for that, I might not have seen Richard one last time before he was taken from this world. And if my mother-in-law had not acted against my wishes, I would never have had that final moment to say goodbye to him, with the added bonus of the wonderful image/memory in my head of my son holding onto him tightly.