Life’s Gift:: A Simple Summer Evening
Every once in a while, when my husband comes home from work, I find myself especially relieved to see him.
I don’t write about this part of my reality much— this constant wondering whether or not my husband will come home safe and sound from work— but because last week was fraught with danger on a whole new level than our typical “normal,” I’ve decided to share a sliver of this part of our lives with you.
You see, my husband is one of those rare few who, when they see a criminal, or hear gunfire, or find out that an armed and dangerous man is on the loose, they run TO it instead of away from it. He is one of those extraordinary handful of courageous folks who, when given a command to do something that he knows full well might result in his own loss of life, he takes a few deep breaths, straps on his courage, prays a silent prayer, and then marches forward to do what needs to be done— because he genuinely wants to make this world a safer, less scary place for the innocent.
He is a Police Officer, a Special Weapons and Tactics operator, and a true, noble-hearted warrior to his core.
He is also one of the most verbally affirming, sweetly affectionate, pure-hearted, honest, loyal humans I have ever known.
He is quite remarkable, to tell you the truth.
* * *
Last Thursday evening, as the sun was making its descent for the day, my husband and my three-year-old son played catch in our front yard.
Ben, my little toddler-man, was wearing shorts, a white T-shirt, and one of his dad’s baseball hats. He was barefoot and full of delight as his hero, Daddy, also in shorts and a T-shirt, tossed a baseball back-and-forth with him on the scratchy grass. As they threw the ball around, I kept hearing my husband say things like “Good job, Buddy!” and “Wow, you’re so strong!” and “I’m so proud of you.” Ben beamed with pleasure at the onslaught of Daddy’s praise. Ellie, who was in the corner of the yard cleaning out her bunny hutch, pointed delightedly at an airplane overhead that was making a long cloud-stripe in the orange and pink sky. Abby was on the couch inside, reading a borrowed copy of the first Percy Jackson book. I had to convince her to come outside and get some fresh air.
At one point, we all got on the lawn and recorded a little video of us singing “Happy Birthday” to send to my 6-year old nephew.
As I stood there, watching my sweet family live this simple summer evening together, I was struck with how different that evening might have been if things had gone a different way for my husband’s SWAT team during the previous night’s events.
Because the fact of the matter is that my husband very likely might not have made it home that night. The shift he had just come home from was one of those SWAT callouts wherein it could have gone either way in terms of close calls between life and death for him and his teammates. It was the scariest and most stressful callout he has yet been involved in over the course of his ten year career.
Depending on how that operation panned out, my life could have gone in a totally different direction that day.
Instead of watching a simple game of catch on the lawn, I might have been answering the phone and hearing the Chief of Police on the other line.
Instead of listening to my girls giggle about the silly antics their friends had done that day, I might have been forced to hear the sound of their relentless sobbing.
Instead of praying fervently for other officers and their families who had been wounded the previous day, I might have been the one receiving the widespread prayer and offers for meals.
But instead of death and sorrow, this is what I was gifted with: a warm embrace from my weary warrior, a rainbow sherbet colored sunset, two giggling girls with their fuzzy bunnies, and a simple game of father-son catch on the front lawn.
Right then, I felt a lump in my throat, took a deep breath and fought back the tears.
This is what life is about, I reminded myself.
It’s about being present in my life. It’s about engaging with my loved ones. It’s about noticing and appreciating the simple things: breath in lungs, our dopey dog cavorting around with his well-loved ball, giggles from children, the pastel-painted sky with airplane-stripes, sounds of fatherly affirmation, and the delighted pride on a little boy’s countenance when a ball actually makes it into his baseball glove.
“Thank You, Lord, that this is how we are spending our evening together. Thank You that I was not visited by a member of the police force informing me of my own personal tragic news today. Though I grieve for those who are grieving tonight, I can’t help but thank You, Lord, that I got to hug my warrior-man when he got home from work today. Thank You that we all have one more night with each other. Thank You that I get to snuggle up with this extraordinary man in bed again tonight. Thank You, Lord… Thank You…”